What is public health? I see it as the emphasis of prevention over cures to improve the overall health of the community. It’s that simple, really. I just read a great article from The New England Journal of Medicine called, “Why We Don’t Spend Enough on Public Health” by David Hemenway, Ph.D, a Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University.
Medicine is primarily a private good — the patient receives the main benefit of any care provided. Payments usually come from the individual patient and, in the developed world, from private and governmental insurance. Public health, on the other hand, provides public goods — such as a good sewer system — and relies almost exclusively on government funding. It is generally acknowledged that public health is systematically underfunded and that shifting resources at the margin from cures to prevention could reduce the population’s morbidity and mortality. I believe there are four key reasons for such underfunding.
This also leads me to a quote I posted earlier, “So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.” – A.J.Materi. We live in world where so many temptations exist and the need for immediate results are in demand. We eat poorly (and too much), are inactive, and damage our bodies with toxins until the day the doctor tells you you have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc. Then by the age of 55 we’re spending incredible amounts of money on pills to fix it all. That’s medicine for you. Public health, on the other hand, sees the big picture and promotes a healthier environment and a healthier lifestyle. Since you don’t see the results of these efforts until much further in the future, public health gets put on the back burner. It’s so important to invest in your health NOW rather than wait to invest your retirement in it later.
Nobody wants to be a pill junkie!