Lesson 3: The Role for Public Health

Lesson 3: The Role for Public Health

If life expectancy is a measure of health, then the last century has witnessed a tremendous
improvement in health. Much of this success is due not to medical advances but
to the practice of public health concepts. Once we realize that the communicable diseases
of the early 1900s in the United States have been replaced as the leading cause
of morbidity and mortality by the chronic diseases of today, we may then be able to
employ a different model of health care, one that emphasizes prevention and control.

Unfortunately, the United States is currently proceeding in this direction only very slowly. And the problem is not only in this country. The World Health Organization ’ s 2005 report Preventing Chronic Disease: A Vital Investment predicts that the global epidemic of chronic disease will claim 350 million lives in the next ten years and cost
the global community enormous sums of money and lost worker productivity. The
report goes on to say that the price to be paid by inaction on this growing epidemic is
clear and unacceptable.

However, educating the consumer about personal health is a mammoth task because
the current system of health care has no incentives for the individual to be knowledgeable
about his or her health. Good health is generally taken for granted in that we are
usually healthy when born and remain that way as we grow older. Our mentality regarding
illness has developed around our experience with communicable disease occurrences,
where we see a doctor, take some medication, and rest until we get better.
Moreover, the quest for good health seems to be surrounded by temptations to
practice bad health behaviors, thanks in part to the overwhelming presence of the
media in daily life. Television, radio, the Internet, and other media have tremendous
influence over the individual ’ s wellness or illness because they influence lifestyle
choices through shows and advertising. Billions of dollars each year are spent on
exposing audiences to high – fat foods, alcohol, and anything else that brings companies
a large profit. These advertisers would not spend all this money on a marketing strategy
that was not working. In addition, watching television or any other form of passive
entertainment usually replaces physical activity, and while people are watching
television or listening to the radio they may be more susceptible to the appeal of garbage
snack foods and beverages. Advertisers and networks enjoy increased profits while
our nation gets heavier and sicker.

 

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