An effective public health system will improve the overall health of the community, prevent diseases from occurring and ultimately, save lives. It will succeed by accomplishing the following:
Public health science involves a broad range of professionals including nurses, environmental specialists, health educators, administrators, nutritionists, epidemiologists, physicians and laboratory workers, to name a few. Each of these positions brings a unique set of skills to the organizations that employ them, which typically include federal, state, local and private laboratories and hospitals. Together, they create a public health system which is able to protect citizens from diseases and other potential health threats. Public health workers monitor and track illness to discover the source of the disease or environmental threat, identify and treat those that have been exposed, and implement procedures to stop the spread of the disease.
Public health is often confused with health care. Health care is a system that is focused on treating an individual patient. Health care workers make a single diagnosis and develop a treatment plan for the individual. Public health systems work with illness in communities rather than individuals, and develop a plan of action to improve the health status of the entire population.
The 21st century has created new challenges for public health. There is a consistent emergence of new diseases and health conditions that must be identified and addressed. There is looming concern of bioterrorism events to contend with. The world has become a mobile society and threats that were once a world away can now reach our communities in a matter of hours. A well established public health system and professionals willing to meet these challenges are absolutely essential to ensuring the health and well being of the overall population.