What is Public Health?

We Made It!

Now that we are past the inaugural post I would just like to acknowledge…We made it to 2021! I think we can all agree that 2020 was a dumpster fire – from the advent of COVID19 and subsequent measures to slow its spread, then rapid increase in cases among vulnerable populations, the socially non-distanced protests, to the pandemic non-believers. Nonetheless, we witnessed much in those 365 days, coming away with a shared experience and varying perspectives. The hard truth is, like an unwelcomed visitor, COVID 19 is still hanging around. Yet, through it all the concept of Public Health was (and still remains) at the forefront. But what is Public Health?  

Public Health…The Definition

First, let’s break down the phrase to the basic words, “public” and “health”. Now of course, we all know that “Public” means “of the people.” Pretty easy, right? It is defining “health” that gets tricky because there is no one size fits all when it comes to deciding the health of an individual. Officially, “Health” is defined as “a state of being free from illness or injury.”  In truth, health is a dynamic and complex concept and is not merely the absence of disease. It encompasses several dimensions of well-being – physical, spiritual, cultural, emotional, environmental, and many more.  

Based on the individual word definitions, at a very basic level public health concerns the complete state of well-being of the people. One widely accepted definition which has been around since the late 1980s describes public health as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society”. So basically, promoting and protecting the health of people in their communities”. How does that happen? By promoting education and implementing interventions that aim to reduce disease.  

An Approach To Understand Health

The public health approach focuses on disease prevalence and prevention. It is also just one type of approach employed to understand health and all its different concepts. In the same way that health encompasses various states of well-being, there are various approaches to understand health (i.e, behavioral, spiritual, biological/biomedical, and educational). In the end, the comprehensive and complimentary application of the right approach(es) can create the most positive impact in reducing high rates of preventable death and disease. 

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