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What is public health?

What is public health? Watch Katherine's daily routine to consider examples of public health advancements that can often be overlooked.
Katherine woke up this morning in her apartment in Liverpool. She walked to the bathroom, used the toilet, washed her hands with soap, brushed her teeth with fluoride toothpaste, and put on her running outfit to go for her daily 3 miles run in her local park, Everton Park. Coming back she drank some water from the tap before getting in the shower. Katherine got ready for work and dressed into her clean clothes, she then went to the kitchen where her husband had made breakfast, porridge in the microwave and a selection of fruit.
Katherine left the house, strapped in the children into their car seats, stepped into her car and put on her seatbelt before driving off, careful not to exceed the 30 mile per hour speed limit on the road. She dropped the children at school, with their schoolbags containing their vaccination booklets as her young children were receiving their second MMR vaccination today. At work, she sanitised her hands and put on her face covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and walked past the smoke alarm to the refrigerator to put her chicken salad in for lunch. She then walked to her office, which she shared with one colleague at a safe 2 meter social distance, and turned on her computer.
She would have to leave the office early today as she had received an invitation and appointment letter for her 3-yearly cervical cancer screening at her local GP practice. After that she would go and visit her mum who had recently been diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes and as part of her mum’s management of the disease, they would attend a cooking class together at the community centre specifically organised for Type 2 diabetes sufferers by the local public health team. In the case study we see a rather normal day for Katherine, however her life is touched by an awful lot of public health advancements or achievements that have improved our health and the public’s health immensely.
These achievements are often taken for granted in higher income countries. This may be different for some of you but in the UK we often take for granted that we have clear running water and that sanitation and indoor plumbing have eliminated many communicable or common bacterial diseases. Think about how the refrigerator is key to food safety, not only in our homes but also in industry and hospitals, for example vaccines to protect the public’s health need to be stored at specific temperatures. Vaccination programmes are of course one of medicine’s and public health’s most successful achievements, saving millions of lives.
Consider road safety: without thinking in the UK most people step into their car and put on their seatbelts. In fact, I cannot move my car without my seatbelt fastened, which is a safety precaution designed by car manufacturers. Speeding, or driving too fast, or in fact drink driving do occasionally still happen however these have become largely socially unacceptable in many high income countries. Preventative public health interventions such as organised national cancer screening programmes that proactively invite a specific target group of the population to attend cancer screening, rather than opportunistic screening where the screening is available to those who are referred or who actively seek this, has saved many lives by finding cancer early.
Organised cancer screening programmes continue to develop throughout the world as a secondary preventative measure of cancer, a key non-communicable disease in the world as we know it. These are only a few of the many, many public health advancements that have become part of our daily lives

In this first video, we meet Katharine. By seeing Katherine’s daily routine, we consider examples of public health advancements that can often be overlooked.

So what is public health? These days I am sure many people will have heard more about what public health is than they care for.

One unavoidable and ongoing public health issue, coronavirus, impacts us all. Public health professionals are working incredibly hard to protect the health of the public by trying to control this infectious disease. But public health is not only that. Public health is much much more, and is an ongoing part of everyone’s daily lives. Watch the video to find out more.

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Tackling Public Health Issues: Concepts and Evidence

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