America is a country built on democracy, equality, and basic care for all citizens. The Department of Health and Human and local departments under its direction, work to protect, and care for the public. By preventing epidemics, protecting against environmental hazards, promoting healthy behaviors, collecting statistical data, and many other resources, public health ensures that the government upholds the needs of its citizens. Public health has a longstanding history that has evolved over time to meet the ever changing environment, the advance of technology and the growing population. Whereas public health maintains the needs of the population at large, community health concentrates on the vulnerabilities and demands of particular community.
The local public health departments in this authors’ rural area includes seven counties. Services include clinical assistance, community health, educational events, early childhood programs, epidemiology surveillance, home health, planning and disaster preparedness, and school health (Lincoln Trial District Health Department, 2014). More specifically, by offering services such as cancer screening, WIC programs, grief counseling, and many others, the public health department supports the goal of maintaining the well-being of the public.
The Department of Health and Human resources is the national public health regulatory division that maintains public health. “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014, para. 1). The HHS works with local and state health departments to locate funding, provide services, collect data, and advance science through research to ensure that constituents of America possess the social, mental, and physical medical needs regardless of their social standing.
History of Public Health
“The mission of public health has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century, when physicians, housing reformers, advocates for the poor, and scientists trained in new techniques of chemistry and civil engineering came together to fight problems growing out of urbanization, industrialization, and large-scale immigration. This coalition transformed the nation’s economy and environment, and, in turn, its health. High death rates and pestilence had long affected rich and poor communities alike” (Fairchild, Rosner, Colgrove, Bayer, & Fried, 2010, p. 54). The article describes America’s health deterioration by the mid-nineteenth century from outbreaks such as smallpox, cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, and various intestinal illnesses. The poor were often blamed for these epidemics, therefore the split between social classes grew.
In 1940, the American Public Health Association rectified a code of services that public health departments were to provide. They were: “collecting data on vital statistics; controlling communicable diseases via methods such as outbreak investigations; contact tracing; partner notifications, and (rarely) isolation and quarantine; ensuring environmental sanitation; providing laboratory services for the diagnosis of illnesses by private doctors, hospitals, and other clinicians; offering maternal, infant, and child health services; and providing education” (Fairchild, Rosner, Colgrove, Bayer, & Fried, 2010, p. 57). Following this era, public health has experienced change and reform that continues to this day.
From social medicine to current dismal economic circumstances, public health, although deeply rooted in well-being and practices that support it, still struggles between social demands, political opposition, and corporate stipulations. Public health persists in maintaining its core values. No matter what modifications public health may undergo, assessment, policy development and assurance continue to serve the underprivileged or those in need.
Difference Between Public and Community Health
According to Stanhope & Lancaster (2012), “Public health has been defined and describes as a system and social enterprise; a profession; a collection of methods, knowledge, and techniques; governmental health services, especially medical care for the poor and underserved; and the health status of the public” (p. 243). As such, public health involves the public on a national or global level by protecting the mental, physical, and social well-being of human beings. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) was introduced on April 7, 1948. “The core functions of WHO are as follows:
•providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed; •shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge; •setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation; •articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options;
•providing technical support, catalyzing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and •monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends” (World Health Organization, 2014, para. 1)
Community health under the umbrella of public health concentrates on a population in a particular area. According to Stanhope & Lancaster (2008), the WHO defines community as, “A community is a social group determined by geographic boundaries, common values and interests” (p. 342). Community health concentrates its efforts of assessment, policy development, and assurance on local population, of which have varied needs and vulnerabilities. Resources for a specific community may be different from resources for another community, so the core functions of community health must be tailored to fit each individual area.
In conclusion, public health ensures the mental, physical, and social welfare of which human beings are entitled. Community health concentrates its efforts on the people of a geographical area. As the needs of the county and a community change, public health must maintain their services to meet demands. Americans have the opportunity through public health to use the resources at their disposal to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Fairchild, A., Rosner, D., Colgrove, J., Bayer, R., & Fried, L. (2010). The EXODUS of public health. What history can tell us about the future? American Journal of Public Health, 100(1), 54-63. Lincoln Trial District Health Department. (2014). Our services. Retrieved from http://www.ltdhd.ky.gov Stanhope, M., & Lancaster, J. (2012). Public health nursing; Population-centered health care in the community (8th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). About HHS. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov World Health Organization. (2014). The role of WHO in public health. Retrieved from http://www.who.int
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