Public health administration is the bureaucratic core of public health activism, which in turn, can be defined as an organized attempt to improve the health of communities. Steps to reach this goal include addressing concerns within the physical environment, dealing with risk factors such as socio-economic status, providing an impetus for changes in lifestyle and offering vital services for the maintenance of health.
Most organized societies have had some sort of formal public health services. The ancient Greeks, through the genius of Hippocrates, realized that a bad environment (such as swamps), as well as lifestyle choices, and bad soil and water could cause disease. Greece and Rome, as well as the medieval states, took public health seriously. However, it was not until the late 18th century that the British established boards of public health in cities.
Public health administration deals primarily with prevention of disease and unhealthy choices. Its main areas of concern are with clean drinking water, maternal/child health and dealing with environmental hazards, as well as the ongoing surveillance of health-related issues within the community. Policies are based on populations rather than individuals, and trends in health practices and conditions over a substantial community.
The increase of life expectancy from 45 to 75 years in America from 1900 to today is at least partially the result of substantial public health measures. This is especially the case in child welfare, where the jump in life expectancy is the result of dealing successfully with infant mortality. The challenges of increasing urbanization and the environmental effects of industrialization brought public health to the forefront.
The effects of public health administration are seen in vaccines, infant health, workplace safety, infections, healthy foods and water supplies---with substantial gains made throughout the 19th and 20th centuries---leading to healthier people, lifestyles and societies as a whole.
The four major focuses of public health are the physical environment, socio-economic factors, lifestyle and services. The physical environment has been dealt with, but the question of socio-economic status as a risk factor is one of the big remaining issues in public health: poor areas have more difficult time with sanitation and basic health issues than wealthy areas. Lifestyle is also significant---the dangers of smoking, drug use, alcohol and even bad driving have all come under the basic aegis of public health. In response, the administration usually provides services such as free vaccines, training in hygienic practices, and classes on maternity and child health for expectant mothers.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Shutr
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