Public Health is the Future

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to hear a speech by W. Craig Vanderwagen, a retired Admiral from the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Although vaguely familiar with the USPHS, I discovered that they are one of the seven uniformed services of our country, and more than 6,500 health professionals currently serve. As a part of HHS, their mission is to protect, promote and advance the public health of the United States. They work within federal programs and services, and then when called upon, are deployed to different sites to protect citizens from public health threats. One of these threats is natural disaster, which is particularly relevant in wake of Hurricane Sandy this week. Dr. Vanderwagen spoke about the preparation needed for potential disasters, and the corresponding response and recovery. The Public Health Service in part helps with assisting citizens affected by calamities, but what if they don’t want to be helped? Dr. Vanderwagen explained that so many people don’t properly prepare for public health catastrophes, and even in the aftermath, refuse to listen to authorities to stay safe. In our current world where natural disaster and bioterrorism are growing dangers, how do we get people to understand the risks and results? Health experts argue that public and population health is a huge concern in our society, but so much of that is based on peoples’ bad decisions and personal behavior. Obesity, tobacco use, public health preparedness, and vaccinations all have huge effects on the well-being of our country, but we need to implement effective policy that educates people in a meaningful way. We will need to adapt to new public health needs, in order to strengthen and progress our country. I believe public health promotion will be an invaluable tool in the future in curbing some of our nation’s health problems, but only if it is used in an innovative way.