2015 is the 20th anniversary of National Public Health Week! What exactly is public health you might ask? The World Health Organization (2015) defines public health as "all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole". The activities of public health aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and focus on entire populations, not on individual patients or diseases.
You might be aware of the work of public health professionals where you live in areas such as vaccination and control of infectious diseases, motor-vehicle safety, safe and healthier foods, healthier moms and babies programs, healthy heart promotions, and tobacco awareness campaigns.
Some of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century include:
- Immunizations – U.S. vaccination coverage is at record high levels. Smallpox has been eradicated, and the number of cases of Polio and Measles has greatly decreased.
- Tobacco Awareness – From 1964-1992, approximately 1.6 million deaths caused by smoking were prevented.
- Healthier Mothers and Babies – Infant and maternal mortality rates have decreased in the U.S through environmental interventions, improved nutrition, as well as improved access to health care.
- Family Planning – Americans face fewer unintended pregnancies and are more likely to achieve desired birth spacing and family size due to increased contraception use and public health education.
- Decline in Deaths from Heart Attack & Stroke – Since 1950, deaths from cardiovascular disease have declined 60 percent and stroke rates have declined 70 percent.
To check out the "daily themes" of National Public Health Week go to: http://www.nphw.org/tools-and-tips/themes
American Public Health Association. (2015). Healthiest Nation 2030. http://www.nphw.org/World Health Organization. (2015). Public Health. http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story076/en/