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Author: Kimberly M. Williams, MSPH
Board Member At Large, Making An Impact

As the nation continues to recover from the most influential public health crisis many of us will experience, it has been a time to reflect on what we have experienced and the five reasons for the continued need for Public Health.

 We can detect public health issues early to respond appropriately to reduce/eliminate the development of disease.

The goal of public health is to improve the health outcomes of populations. To achieve this, it is important to consistently track the incidence of disease and minimize any risk factors associated with it. Without this constant monitoring, communities would miss out on necessary resources to improve the health of their residents.

Most public health strategies utilize a population approach, which benefits everyone at risk.

This approach allows for the grouping of populations based on their risk level to develop an appropriate strategy. Let’s take the COVID-19 response for example. Families living in multigenerational households in large urban areas are considered high risk due to close contact and easy transmission of the virus. Because of this, education, screenings, and vaccine availability were made a priority and available to these groups to lower the incidence rates of the virus.

Public health requires cooperation and collaboration between all types of health care providers to ensure access to safe and quality care.

Private practices, community health centers, and even large hospital systems respond to the needs of their communities by following the directives of local public health officials. Preventative and emergency care facilities, mobile clinics, health resources, and access to other wrap-around services work together to make sure they are providing them to everyone that needs it. Each of these entities also has a responsibility to follow necessary protocols and procedures in the event of a public health emergency.

Public health Identifies and addresses social determinants of health to build healthier communities.

Examples of social determinants of health (SDOH) include safe housing, education, structural racism, economic status, access to healthy foods, and polluted air. These all have a key impact on the health, well-being, and quality of life of people. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of recognizing SDOH as the leading factor in the health of communities and it has proven that improving the conditions of people’s environments will ultimately have a positive effect on their health and well-being.

Public health brings communities together

Despite the astronomical numbers of those that contracted the COVID-19 virus and the unfortunate loss of life that occurred, it can also be said that this past year displayed some examples of true human spirit and compassion. Masks were worn to protect the vulnerable, local businesses were supported, essential workers were provided with safety modifications, and we navigated alternate ways to work and “keep in touch.” These illustrate just a few examples of how these necessary sacrifices saved (and continue to save) so many lives.