The World Health Organisation defined public health in 2011 as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society.” Public health involves many different disciplines that all contribute to the health of people within a community.
Public health focuses on the health of entire populations and has the community as its patient rather than individuals.
During the 20th century (1901-2006) public health has made significant improvements in the health of Australians in the following areas:
- Control of infectious diseases such as polio, measles and HIV/AIDS;
- Maintaining a safe environment such as reducing the health effects of passive smoking and reducing exposure to environmental asbestos;
- Improved maternal, infant and child health such as preventing infant deaths from SIDS and the promotion of breast feeding;
- Better food and nutrition;
- Preventing injury including provision and mandatory wearing of seat belts in cars, preventing suicide and preventing injuries in the home;
- Reducing risk factors and chronic diseases such as use of sun safety measures, organised screening for certain cancers and reduced tobacco smoking;
- Improving health and safety at work;
- Universal access to health care, pharmaceuticals and technology and
- Improving public health practice such as training for the public health workforce and Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services.
The information above is from the report: Gruszin S, Hetzel D & Glover J. Advocacy and action in public health: lessons from Australia over the 20th century. Canberra: Australian National Preventive Health Agency, 2012.
Links to information about public health
PublicHealthOnline.org creates public health-related career and educational resources for the community www.publichealthonline.org