Since public health programs have been around, physicians remained essential to their success. Seeing as this post comes halfway through National Public Health Week, it’s a good time to understand the role of physicians in public health. Among physicians, the professionals recruited for these programs often includes nurses, dentists, environmental health specialists, epidemiologists, health educators and many others! Considering the size and complexity of the public health workforce, zeroing in on physicians’ roles is as important as ever!
The Role of Physicians in Public Health
Today, many more physicians engage in public health activities and services than most realize. Through many services provided by their practice, physicians often intersect with public health activities. Additionally, the practices of some physicians can more directly include public health elements. This involves things like:
- Infectious disease physicians investigating health care-related disease outbreaks
- Pediatricians working in school health
- Emergency medicine specialists serving as medical directors of emergency medical services
- Physicians volunteering in community aid screening or health workshops
Some physicians also specialize in public health. Again, there are a variety of settings in which public health physicians are commonly employed:
- Nongovernmental organizations
- Managed care organizations
- Occupational medicine
- Aerospace medicine
- Public Hospitals
- Government Agencies
During this year’s National Public Health Week, the theme is centered around “changing our future together.” The message is simple, yet it’s a rather complex situation: Everyone should have the ability to lead a long and healthy life in a safe environment. Tackling the causes of poor health and disease in communities is the way to make that happen.
Physicians can work to start the right conversations over what issues impact certain communities, in addition to finding solutions. Each day of National Public Health Week has a particular focus:
Monday: Behavioral Health
Mental and behavioral health services are areas of public health that require significant physician guidance. Efforts to de-stigmatize mental health diagnoses while encouraging people to seek treatment remain key issues. Generating an awareness of the types of services available and what different physician practices contribute is just the start.
Tuesday: Communicable Diseases
Helping communities become aware of how disease spreads is another major area addressed by National Public Health Week. This covers everything from calling on employers to support sick leave policies to proper STD and HIV screening services. Making the public aware of where vaccines for the flu and other serious diseases are available is another part of the role of physicians in public health.
Wednesday: Environmental Health
Aspects of our environments also play a significant role in public health. Protecting natural resources through evidence-based policies and understanding what health-promoting interventions are available remain important. Physicians can help patients understand the negative impact air pollution, unclean water sources, and other hazards pose to their health.
Thursday: Injury and Violence Prevention
Programs that reduce and prevent community violence or promote occupational health and safety are absolutely integral to public health. Occupational medicine physicians who work to keep workers safe on the job know all about the importance of these services. Additionally, this area focuses on addiction medicine and drug overdoses — something that the U.S. is struggling with to say the least.
Friday: Ensuring the Right to Health
At the end of the day, each person deserves the opportunity to live a life free from preventable diseases and disabilities. Focusing on common-sense policies and creating resources for at-risk communities is something most physicians already focus on. The role of physicians in public health is enormous and very multi-faceted. Creating the healthiest nation possible is all about playing into your professional strengths and resources for the best outcomes right now and in the future too!
What are ways your understand your role as a physician in public health? Let us know in the comments below!