The World Health Organization (WHO) states; ‘Public health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole’ (World Health Organisation, 2014) Public health is about helping every individual to stay healthy, and to try and protect people from threats to their health. GOV.uk states that; ‘The government wants everyone to be able to make healthier choices, regardless of their circumstances, and to minimise the risk and impact of illness.’ (GOV.UK, 2014) The UK’s faculty of Public health has a certain approach to public health which includes, making sure that is population based, emphasises collective responsibility for health, its protection and disease prevention, recognises the key role of the state, linked to a concern for the underlying socio-economic and wider determinants of health, as well as disease and emphasises partnerships with all those who contribute to the health of the population. (The UK’s Faculty of Public Health, 2014)
There are key roles within public health practice which involve organisations such as The World Health Organisation and the government.
One key role is monitoring the health status of the population. This is a key role in public health which involves monitoring changes in the health of the whole population, and also making sure people are being alerted about any potential problems that may occur. An example of this is the increasing number of people developing asthma within the population. For asthma this key role can include organisations such as The World Health Organisation (WHO), who play a role in coordinating international efforts against the disease. WHO have put in a strategy with an aim reduce the disability and premature death related to asthma.
This includes things such as; surveillance to map the magnitude of asthma, analyse its determinants and monitor trends, with emphasis on poor and disadvantaged populations, primary prevention to reduce the level of exposure to common risk factors, particularly cigarette smoke, frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood, and air pollution and also improving access to cost-effective interventions including medicines, upgrading standards and accessibility of care at different levels within the health care system. (WHO, 2013)
Another key role is identifying the health needs of the population. Once information and data has been collated from the monitoring and the public health problems are identified, this is when the need for services and research can be identified. In the case of asthma, this can include putting into place more things such as asthma support services and also asthma education programmes for school staff and parents of sufferers.
Developing programmes to reduce risk and screen for disease early on is another key role in public health. Once the risk of certain problems and diseases are identified, the public health services will then need to put in services and programmes to screen for the diseases early on so that levels of ill health can be identified and then strategies put in place to reduce the damage done to lives. In the example of asthma this can include a GP identifying risks of developing asthma in individuals because of certain factors such as smoking, and living in city centres where there is a lot of pollution. The GP could then refer them to asthma support services or smoking services for advice if needed. Public health would also put out awareness and advertising about these problems to try and educate the public on the potential risk factors which can influence the certain diseases.
Another public health key role is controlling communicable disease. This is about aiming to control the impact of infectious diseases though certain control measures. For example immunisations for measles, mumps and rubella.
Promoting the health of the population is an ongoing important key role for the public health which can help to reduce the risk of ill health. This role can include having activities and things such as advertising and campaigns to promote health to the public. An example of this in the case to asthma can include some campaigns encouraging people to notice the risk factors for asthma, this can include things such as stopping smoking campaigns, which will benefit the public health relating to lots of other problems too not just asthma.