What do Public Health professionals do?

My interest in public health generally centres around the contribution that healthy food can make to the health of the population. It is important for us all to have access to good food or know how to make best use of the resources we have to maximise our intake of good food (full of nutrients).

However, I appreciate that the public health (PH) arena encompasses so much more than discussions about the food we eat, which makes the task of improving the health of the population a complex one.

Our health is influenced by income, gender, ethnic group, relationships with family and friends, and our environment. PH researchers look at the way people live and how healthy they are by gathering information about people and places and using the collected data to learn what might help us to live healthier, happier lives.

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PH researchers also investigate the factors that may help people to live their lives free from the burden of ill health. There are a number of inter-linked relationships between how and where people live and their health – for example, there is a gap between the health of rich people and poor people. PH researchers try to identify these factors and possible solutions.

PH professionals might design and test ways to improve health and reduce inequality, then share their work with politicians, policy makers and health professionals to try to influence health policy and practice. Then PH researchers might investigate various programmes and policies to see if they are actually improving public health. For example, some community programmes might be developed to help people get fit, lose weight, stop smoking, or enjoy more of life. We all want to feel better and might want to participate, but these programmes must be assessed to determine if they are effective and achieve the desired results.

Media reports can influence what people understand about health issues. PH professionals look at how people use information provided by the media to make decisions about issues such as vaccinations and flu.

The relationships people have, who they communicate with and how they communicate can all have important effects on their health. PH professionals talk to people about their lifestyles to learn how to develop ways to improve their emotional well-being and physical health.

Where we live can affect our health. Green-space, like parks, can be important – for example, as a healthy environment for children. Where we live can influence when we die. People from the poorest communities experience more ill-health and die at a younger age than those who live in the wealthiest parts of towns and cities. PH professionals work to understand the patterns of, and reasons for, such inequalities.

Will the children of today experience more or less health inequality as they get older? The shape of a child’s life and their health can be influenced by social factors such as family relationships, poverty, peers, schools and the media. PH researchers look for ways to help people live full and healthy lives, wherever they live.  

Social circumstances, including where people live and what they do, can influence how successfully a person ages and can influence a person’s health and well-being in older age. Most people have little control over the many things that create health inequalities throughout their lives, like the conditions they live in or whether there are sports facilities nearby. Inequalities are difficult to change at an individual level. PH researchers work with various stakeholders to identify the most effective ways to solve health problems at every stage of life.

The different settings and organisations that we are part of, including where we live, work and interact, can affect our health – from schools to workplaces, hospitals and prisons – public health professionals examine what impact these have on how people behave, their health and their well-being.

Information from http://www.imagesofpublichealth.co.uk

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