5 Simple Ways to Influence Better Public Health
Simply put, the goal of public health programs is to prevent disease and promote health.1 While this may seem straightforward, public health programs are a complex mixture of public policy, regulation, and clinical practice. The challenges facing community health workers are multifaceted and not easily understood. There are, however, some simple ways to influence better public health. Let’s take a look at five of those ways.
- Connect Clinical Care With Social Services
For more effective public health programs, clinical practice should be understood as just one part of the integrated community systems needed to support health. No longer is providing the best clinical care the solution to every public health problem. Instead, community services need to be included in the solution. For example, instead of a physician simply telling a patient to eat more vegetables, the doctor can send a note to the food bank informing the staff of the patient’s dietary needs.2 For a patient with barriers to getting the necessary care beyond clinical services, this connection to the community can ensure they get the services they need.
- Building Walkable Neighborhoods
According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, residents of walkable neighborhoods weigh six to 10 pounds less than residents of sprawling neighborhoods.3 When viewed on a community level, this can mean a significant improvement in the health of residents. Having walkable streets and neighborhoods means residents take more frequent walks, feel more connected to nature, feel more engaged with others, and influence many other positive health indicators.4
- Increase Support for Mental Health Services
Improvements have been made for access to physical health services, but comparatively little has been done to address problems caused by mental health conditions. Statistics indicate that one in five adults, or over 40 million Americans, have a mental health condition. But 56% of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment.5 If people suffering from mental health conditions do not seek treatment, their health will not improve. To better influence public health programs, more resources need to be invested in providing access to mental health services.
- Embrace Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool that positively influences public health. Community health workers can use social media to disseminate time-sensitive information, promote information sharing to encourage behavioral changes, be a platform for conversations, and allow the public to provide feedback.6 It can also be used to manage misinformation during a public health crisis. It is an excellent way to positively influence the health behaviors of a large number of people with comparatively little investment or effort.
- Collaboration Between Public Health and Clinicians
The final way to influence public health is through stronger collaboration between public health programs and clinicians. There must be a close working relationship between the two to achieve the shared goals of each discipline.7 During a public health emergency, for example, a public health program should be identifying the scope and scale of a crisis to help direct the clinicians providing needed healthcare services. Any breakdown in this collaboration can cost precious time in an emergency.
Public health professionals are trying to solve problems large and small to improve the health of local, national, and global populations. If this type of challenge is appealing to you, two degree programs to consider are a Master of Public Health (MPH) and an MS in Health Education and Promotion (MSHEP). Both can provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to help communities deal with health challenges.
An MPH or MSHEP degree from an accredited online university can help you learn about cutting-edge technology while completing engaging field experience from on-site professionals. And an online master’s degree program lets you earn your degree on your schedule and from wherever you need to be. It can be the perfect fit for a busy professional looking to solve evolving health challenges.
While no solution in public health is easy, there are ways to influence better public health. Whether it’s through community improvement, reallocation of resources, or better collaboration, even small steps can have a significant impact.
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