Public health is the leading field for addressing health challenges in our country and ultimately the world. Nurses, doctors, midwives, medical assistants, activists, advocates, researchers, and policy makers are directly involved in, or turn to, public health work—which includes but is not limited to research, disease prevention, and community education to improve health across populations.
Public health work affects federal and state law to improve conditions and help shape how we define threats to health. It guides how people and organizations think about and respond to health issues. A current example of public health work is the growing response to what we understand as the “opioid crisis.” How this issue is defined, positioned, and addressed by medical providers, law enforcement, social service organizations, government, and even you, is directly affected by public health work. Public health defines and substantiates best medical practices and community interventions.
The social determinants of health, which are the everyday conditions (housing, economics, education, access to food, and so on) that affect people’s health and lives, are a priority in this field and becoming more and more commonly discussed and considered across professional disciplines. But something is missing in this industry when it comes to addressing health disparities and the diseases that disproportionately affect people of color and marginalized people, and that was evident at this year’s American Public Health Association(APHA) conference, which drew approximately 12,000 people. The organization boasts an annual membership of 25,000.