Public Health: A Very Short Introduction | Virginia Berridge


1: Public health is a very broad
concept it can mean in the health of the whole population and freedom from
disease, but it can also mean the prevention of sickness and poor health,
the removal or the mitigation of risks to the population, so it means the
promotion of good health rather than just treating sickness. Two: Many different
terms have been used for public health and these have changed over time.
It’s been called social medicine, community medicine, new public health
health promotion, social hygiene and in more recent times multidisciplinary
public health. Three: Excavations of the civilization of Mohenjo-Daro in northern
India which existed 4000 years ago have shown that there they were providing
clean water and drains in order to improve the health of the population. Four:
Sanitation and a clean environment was what public health meant when it began
its modern history in the nineteenth century, then public health activists
campaigned for clean water for better housing for the provision of proper
sanitation at a time when the Industrial Revolution was having a very bad effect
on the health of the population. Five: the coming of germ theory meant that
public health changed its focus and germs were something that affected the
individual body and they could be understood through laboratory science.
Six: In the UK public health doctors ran services in local
government in the 1920s and the 1930s and it was confidently expected at the
time that the Public Health Service would be the formation of the new
National Health Service however that didn’t happen. Seven: after the Second
World War both in the UK and elsewhere public health changed its focus to look
at lifestyle issues and chronic disease and the long term risk of particular
issues of lifestyle this is when issues such as smoking and lung cancer heart
disease and diet came onto the public health agenda. Eight: now public health
has taken up again in the early 21st century some of the issues which it was
concerned with in the past among them air pollution and also
epidemic disease has come back onto the agenda. Nine: public health is now and
historically an international or global enterprise with the spread of disease
internationally through travel and by other means and also with issues such as
antibiotic resistance affecting both countries in the north and in the south.
Ten: public health is a controversial area and it’s also beset by dilemmas
and it has been criticized for promoting the nanny state it’s also been
criticized for promoting interventions such as vaccination which might not
always be beneficial to the individual but which promote the good health of the
whole population

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