Four Common Public Health Issues Prevalent Today
Public health involves protecting and improving communities’ health through education, promoting healthy lifestyles, and disease and injury prevention research. It aims to prevent health problems from occurring or reoccurring by implementing educational programs, developing policies, and providing services that support individuals and their communities. Public health also works to reduce health disparities among different populations. There are many public health issues prevalent today. Some major issues include access to quality healthcare, outbreaks of infectious diseases, environmental health, and chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. These health issues can have a significant impact on lives and can cause premature deaths.
What makes something a public health issue?
Several factors can contribute to something being considered a public health issue. One factor is the prevalence or incidence of the issue within a significant number of people. For example, if a particular disease or health condition affects a large percentage of the population, it may be considered a public health problem. Another factor is the issue’s potential impact on the population’s health. For example, an infectious disease that is highly contagious and has the potential to spread quickly could be considered a public health problem, even if it is only affecting a small percentage of the population. Other factors include the severity of the issue, the potential for the issue to cause long-term or permanent health problems, and the availability of resources for addressing the issue.
Public health professionals and healthcare teams usually address these issues because they have developed expertise after years of education and research. There are several options for earning a degree in public health, including traditional on-campus programs and more flexible Online DrPH programs that offer the flexibility and convenience of completing coursework and clinical experience remotely, making it an excellent option for busy professionals.
Public health issues continue to be a major concern around the world. According to the World Health Organization, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the major causes of death globally, accounting for over 74% of all deaths. In addition, infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, and Ebola continue to pose a significant threat to global health. Here are the top 4 public health issues that are affecting hundreds and thousands of individuals around the globe:
1. Diabetes is a serious public health issue affecting a large percentage of the global population. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 422 million people worldwide had diabetes in 2014, which is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years. Diabetes is a chronic disorder that occurs when the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels properly. The symptoms include increased thirst, hunger, frequent urination, and fatigue.
Diabetes can lead to several health complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and nerve damage. It is also a leading cause of amputations. The economic burden of diabetes is significant, with direct and indirect costs related to the treatment and management of the disease amounting to billions of dollars each year.
Effective prevention and management of diabetes are critical to addressing this issue. This includes promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing obesity (risk for type-2 diabetes), and providing access to high-quality diabetes care and treatment.
It is also important to exercise regularly. Studies have shown that physically active people are less likely to develop diabetes (especially type-2) than those who do not exercise. This is because being active can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels.
2. Heart diseases and stroke are the leading cause of death and disabilities worldwide and are considered major public health issues. Heart disease refers to conditions that affect the cardiovascular system (blood vessels and heart), leading to coronary artery disease, heart failure, and hypertension (high blood pressure). A stroke happens due to ischemia (lack of blood supply) in the brain, leading to brain cell death and potential disability. According to the World Health Organization, heart disease and stroke lead to over 17 million deaths yearly.
Risk factors that can increase the chances of heart disease and stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet.
These two conditions disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries, where access to prevention and treatment is often limited. Preventing and managing heart disease and stroke requires a multifaceted approach. It includes promoting healthy lifestyles, providing access to high-quality medical care, and implementing policies and programs that address risk factors such as smoking and unhealthy diet.
3. AIDS: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a significant global health concern affecting millions worldwide. It is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which attacks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to infections and diseases. The HIV epidemic began in the 1980s and has continued to this day, with significant progress in developing treatments and prevention strategies. However, HIV and AIDS remain a significant public health challenge, particularly in developing countries with limited treatment services.
Some facts about AIDS/HIV are:
- HIV is primarily spread through sexual contact. Still, it can also be transmitted through sharing needles, blood transfusions, and from an infected mother to her child during childbirth or breastfeeding.
- HIV can be treated with ARVs (Antiretroviral therapies), which can reduce the viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood) to an undetectable level and prevent transmission to others.
- HIV and AIDS also have significant social and economic impacts, including stigma and discrimination, loss of productivity, and increased healthcare costs.
Efforts to address HIV and AIDS as a public health issue include prevention education and campaigns, provision of prevention services and treatments, and support for people living with HIV.
4. Food Safety: Food safety is a critical public health issue because the food you eat can directly impact your health and well-being. Contaminated food can cause foodborne illnesses ranging from mild and self-limiting to severe and even fatal ones. In 1993, 700 people got sick after eating hamburgers infected with E.coli. Certain groups are more at risk of developing serious complications from foodborne illnesses, including young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems.
Implementing food safety regulations and standards, improving food handling practices, and increasing awareness and education about safe food handling practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and ensure food is safe for consumption.
Conclusion: In conclusion, public health issues are complex and multifaceted challenges affecting the health and well-being of populations worldwide. In order to address these, it is important to have a comprehensive and coordinated approach that involves multiple stakeholders, including governments, healthcare providers, communities, and individuals. We can progress by working together and implementing effective prevention and control measures.