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Saturday, October 31, 2020

What is Public Health?

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Over the millennia, public health and safety have been an increasing concern for world governments and civilizations.

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When the Black Death – the most destructive pandemic in the history of humankind – swept through Europe, Asia, and parts the Middle East from the 12th to 17th century, and killing over have its population, it became evident that public health safety is paramount for the continuation of humanity.

Since then, through societal intervention, diseases such as cholera, HIV, and polio have been managed, and the quality of human life promoted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines public health as “the art and science of preventing diseases, prolonging life, and promoting health through organized efforts of society.”

It is the science of improving the well-being of the members of a community or society through education and policy making. The public may involve just a handful of people, a small community, and an entire city or could span continents as with the case of pandemics such as HIV.

Public health seeks to protect the life of individuals, families, communities, and entire populations through its multidisciplinary approach.

Through disciplines like epidemiology, statistics, and environmental health, the protection of human health and safety can be achieved. Other disciplines include mental health, sexual and reproductive health, legislation and policy making, economics, and community health.

In an ideal world, public health means the eradication of epidemics, safe food and potable water for everyone, safe health habits, and immunization for children everyone.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in our society today. AIDS has claimed the lives of about 35 million people worldwide, and this statistic seems to be increasing every year.

According to UNAIDS, 37. 9 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS as of 2018. 36.3 million are adults, and 1.7million are children below 15 years of age.

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Furthermore, with the high rates of poverty, especially in the global south, diseases such as ebola, cholera, and malaria are pervasive.

Increasing rates of air and water pollution have led to the increased incidence of diseases such as bronchitis, typhoid, and dysentery.

For example, the oil-rich Niger Delta region in Southern Nigeria is plagued with gas flares and extreme water pollution, causing a threat to human health and safety.

However, all hope is not lost. Through public health and intervention from individuals and governments, significant progress has been made in alleviating caused by the challenges of public health.

Although there is still much work to be done, public health officials from local to global levels are working tirelessly to ensure safe and affordable healthcare is available to all members of society.

Disciplines in Public Health


This is the study of the relationship between the living and non-living things. It the branch of biology that studies the interactions among organisms and their environment. The environment includes the biotic and abiotic factors necessary for the survival of life.

The critical area of ecology that concerns public health is human ecology. Human ecology deals with the interdisciplinary study of humans and their environment within the context of the existing culture and social norms.


This is the systematic investigation of a subject matter to increase knowledge, acquire new facts, and use this newly gain information to devise new applications. Research establishes or confirms facts, supports new or existing data, backs up theorems, and develop theories.


This is the science and study of food, its nutrients, substances, their action on the body, its interaction with other substances within the body, and its relationship with health and diseases.

Environmental Health

This is a branch of public health that deals with the natural and physical environment and its relationship with human health.

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Its approach is to identify key social, biological, and chemical factors that may become hazards and compromise human health as well as that of the environment.

The principal components of environmental health include appropriate waste management, control of air pollution, implementation of proper land use acts, and water sanitation.

Health Education

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Health Education as “any combination of learning experiences designed to help individuals and communities improve their health by increasing their knowledge and influencing their attitudes.


This deals with the study and analysis of the frequency, distribution, and factors that cause diseases in specific populations, the application of this study to the promotion of health and the prevention and control of health problems is evident.

Reproductive Health

According to the World Health Organization, reproductive health is the state of complete physical, emotional and mental well-being and not merely the absence of diseases in relation to the reproductive system and its functions.

It refers to the disorders and diseases affecting the male and female reproductive systems at all life stages. The disorders include congenital disorders, infertility, and menstrual disorders.


Biostatistics is the application of statistical procedures and methods to solve biological and medical problems.

It includes the design of biological experiments and the collation and collection of data from these experiments to solve problems.

Health Service Management

This is the planning and overseeing of different healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and other medical organizations.

It is the efficient and sustainable use of healthcare facilities, materials, human resources, and financial resources.

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Health Economics

This is a branch of economics that is concerned with the efficient utilization of healthcare resources.

Aims and Objectives of Public Health

Since public health is a science aimed at protecting and improving the health and life of people from local to global levels, it goes without saying that there must be specific guidelines in achieving this objective.

Public health professionals work to prevent health problems from occurring and reoccurring and mitigating the effects of these health problems, despite the population size or density.

In other to accomplish this task, specific measures must be taken. Educational programs and awareness, administration of healthcare services, the initiation and implementation of policies are different steps that should be taken to achieve optimum public health services.

Hence, the primary objective of public health is to promote the quality of healthcare and making it possible or all members of society despite class or background to access it.

The objectives of public health may be carried out through public and private entities. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the goal of public health to be the prevention of diseases, promotion of health, and prolonging lifespan of populations.

It also acknowledges the objectives of public health initiatives to be the;

  • Assessment and monitoring of the health of communities and people at risk to identify health problems.
  • Formulation of public policies designed to solve local and national health crises.
  • Assurance of the accessibility of cost-effective and appropriate care by all members of a specific population. This includes health promotion and disease prevention services.

In short, the goals and objectives of public health are to save money, improve the quality of life, help children thrive, and reduce human suffering by:

  • Assuring the quality and accessibility of healthcare services
  • Preventing epidemics and the spread of disease
  • Preventing injuries
  • Promoting and encouraging healthy behaviors
  • Protecting against environmental hazards
  • Responding in time to disasters and assisting communities in recovery

Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Victor Anunobi
Victor Anunobi is an environmentalist, writer and movie enthusiast living in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. He enjoys long walks, food and alternative music.
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