Public health is an effort to promote, maintain, preserve and improve the health of large populations that constitute a society. This general term includes numerous wide-ranging initiatives to ensure public health, including disease prevention, life prolongation and citizen education. While traditional medical care treats individuals, the entire population of a community or a society is considered to be the patient of public health professionals and their activities.
While much of medicine is concerned with cures, public health concentrates on education and prevention, such as vaccination programs. Delivering a cure only becomes the aim in times of widespread outbreak of an infectious disease. Worldwide, the greatest current concerns in the field of public health include smoking, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.
Most positions in the field of public health typically require a minimum of a master’s degree to qualify. The most common degree in this field is the MPH (Master of Public Health), which is currently offered by 37 accredited colleges.
As an umbrella category, public health contains numerous subdisciplines and career opportunities. These typically include epidemiology, biostatistics and various health services, including environmental and occupational health.
Biostatisticians apply the science of statistics to topics which directly affect the health and safety of populations.
This position deals with the interaction of populations and their environment, including the potential health risks of pollution, pesticides and other health-threatening hazards.
These scientists perform fieldwork to determine the cause and origin of epidemics and infectious diseases, and to assist in controlling their spread.
This administrative position combines science, a background in health education and strong business skills to oversee budgets, policies and services for health care related organizations.
This field takes a global view toward public health care, combining aspects of all public health care disciplines to address the prevention of pandemics, the maintenance of health in developed countries, and the improvement of health and of the quality of life in undeveloped areas.
These health care professionals specialize in ensuring the health and welfare of mothers during pregnancy and of their children, before and following birth. This can include vaccinations as well as providing information.
Similar to epidemiology, professionals in this field screen, test, diagnose, and assist in the development of treatments and control for diseases which threaten communities and populations, whether transmitted via air, water or food.
These advocates interact with legal and legislative officials at all levels of government, as well as with political action groups, to enact laws beneficial to the public health and safety, such as seatbelt laws and anti-smoking regulations.
Bioethics consultants analyze issues and assist physicians to resolve ethical dilemmas in patient cases.
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Public health workers are concerned with how environmental variables affect the health of a general population. They study how to contain the spread of disease or manage a natural disaster. They work in hospitals, law enforcement and government agencies, striving to improve the general health and quality of life for the communities they serve.
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