What is Public Health

April 07, 2015

The week of April 6-12, 2015 is National Public Health Week. What exactly is public health and what does it mean for you? Public health is described by the American Public Health Association website as follows: Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. While a doctor treats people who are sick, those of us working in public health try to prevent people from getting sick or injured. We also promote wellness by encouraging healthy lifestyles. From conducting scientific research to educating, people in the field of public health work to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. That can mean vaccinating children and adults to prevent the spread of disease. Or educating people about the risks of alcohol and tobacco. Public health sets safety standards to protect workers and develops school nutrition programs to ensure kids have access to healthy food. Public health works to track disease outbreaks, prevent injuries and shed light on why some of us are more likely to suffer from poor health than others. The many facets of public health include speaking out for laws that promote smoke-free indoor air and seatbelts, spreading the word about ways to stay healthy and giving science-based solutions to problems. Public health saves money, improves our quality of life, helps children thrive and reduces human suffering.

Perhaps the following vignette will illustrate better what public health is and does for you and your family.  You wake up and jump into the shower, taking for granted the safety of the water.  As you flush the toilet, public health is working there to provide proper sewage disposal. You enter the kitchen.  You reach for the milk with confidence that is a safe, healthy food for your healthy children, all of whom have been immunized against diseases, which were deadly in days gone-by.  You pack the kids in the car, remembering to buckle up seat belts and safety seats.  It’s a habit now, thanks to public health messages.  One child is dropped off at the day care center, and the other at school.  You know that their environment is safe and healthy, thanks to public health inspections and training. You go to work in a smoke-free environment, now commonly occurring thanks to those committed to public health.  For lunch break, you eat at a near-by restaurant.  You see their license on the wall, thanks to public health inspections of the facility.  At the end of the day, your family decides to go for a swim at the community pool.  Did you know that public health is working there too, to protect you by inspecting pools? 

Public health campaigns are intended to promote and encourage healthy behaviors and policies to reduce illness, and prevent injury and premature death within our communities. Public health begins with you! Public health professionals can provide information on healthier choices, how to live in healthier conditions, and how to protect  health and live longer, healthier lives! 

To learn more about Public Health visit www.whatispublichealth.org.  Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call 203 248-4528 or request by email, dculligan@qvhd.org if you do not have internet access and would like written information. You are welcome to stop by our office, 1151 Hartford Turnpike, North Haven CT.