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Public Health Defined

Winslow (1920) defined public health as “the science and the art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting physical health and efficiency through organized community efforts for the sanitation of the environment, the control of community infections, the education of the individual in principles of personal hygiene, the organization of medical and nursing service for the early diagnosis and preventive treatment of disease, and the development of social machinery which will ensure to every individual in the community a standard of living adequate for the maintenance of health.” It focuses on prevention and involves the efforts of society as a whole. Finally, public health is intended to protect lives and improve the health of populations around the globe.
Whereas healthcare is intended to treat, influence, and care for individuals, public health operates on a larger scale. The field is defined by the American Public Health Association (APHA n.d.) as (1) “the practice of preventing disease and promoting good health within groups of people” and (2) the research and surveillance conducted to better understand the health issues facing a group and, in turn, to craft good health policy.
Public health has broad implications for a population. Successful public health activities and initiatives can save money by promoting healthy living and prevention, thus reducing healthcare costs and disease burden. In addition, these activities can improve quality of life and reduce suffering caused by ill health in a population (APHA n.d.). The practice of public health leads to direct (e.g., healthier children, less chronic disease, less need for acute care) and indirect (e.g., fewer days missed from school and work; increased funding available for other initiatives, such as education) benefits for a society.
It is important to remember that public health, healthcare, and health policy are interconnected areas of study and of practice. All three have great influence on health.

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Dr. Arthur

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