The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines public health as “the art and science of safeguarding and improving community health through organized community effort involving prevention of disease, control of communicable disease, application of sanitary measures, health education and monitoring of environmental hazards.”
However, an exact one-size-fits-all definition of public health continues to be elusive as health practices shift from a medical model to one of prevention and wellness. Public health is considered by some to be relatively new in the field of science, but it actually is rooted in antiquity.
The use of aqueducts to supply fresh water to communities and to remove wastewater is most often associated with the early Romans. There are ruins of aqueducts in other ancient civilizations prior to the Roman system. However, the Romans perfected the system that remained unchanged for 1,000 years.
Providing clean drinking water and sanitary waste removal is still considered one of the top two public health achievements. At the turn of the century, water-borne illnesses and diseases such as cholera were the leading causes of illness and death in the United States.
The last cholera outbreak in the U.S. occurred in 1911. Unfortunately, the lack of safe, clean water and inadequate sanitation in under-developed countries remains the greatest threat to survival, especially for children.
Beginning in 1995, communities across the nation began celebrating Public Health Week. In April, time is set aside to review public health achievements while raising awareness about the importance of improving public health. This year, the theme addresses the importance of prevention and wellness in making America the healthiest nation in one generation.
The 2012 APHA theme is “A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement.”
Charles Daughdrill, executive director of the Mississippi Public Health Association, addressed the issue of funding public health. According to Daughdrill, “As you eat your meals in an inspected restaurant or visit a family member in a licensed hospital or nursing home, public health is the reason. Each day that you and your family live without fear of polio or other illness capable of disabling healthy children, public health is the reason.
“When a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina or the Gulf oil spill occurs and emergency providers quickly respond to you, public health is the reason. All of these actions and many more are in place to protect you, your family and your community. Every day, public health touches your life and is an under-appreciated component of our health care system.”
The Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) is one component of Public Health in our community. Most often recognized for flu shots and rabies clinics, FCHD offers a wide variety of programs and services from inspecting restaurants, providing school nursing services to home health services.
In addition, one of the 10 Essential Services of Public Health is to mobilize community partnerships to identify and solve health problems. FCHD provided leadership in establishing a Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships coalition or MAPP. For more information concerning MAPP, visit the website fchd.org.