When it comes to healthcare and management, community health serves as a critical piece of the puzzle. Public or community health can be defined in a myriad of ways. In general, it is the portion of healthcare focused on protecting and improving the health of the whole population, which could be seen as entire country or a small town (CDC Foundation, 2017, para. 2). Community health proves to be a vital and necessary component of quality healthcare across the globe.
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While this definition is easily understood, one must also appreciate how community health differs from personal health. While personal health focuses on the individual, public health places emphasis on the health of a group as a whole. In other words, community health speaks to a broad realm of healthcare, while personal health has a more narrow concentration all the way down to a precise being. All of this is important to understand in regard to community health and public health assessments.
Public Health Assessments
A key way that public health is continually evaluated is through community health assessments. Definitively speaking, a community or public health assessment is meant to serve as an ongoing improvement process that functions to identify community wide health problems along with policy formation, execution of a solution, and evaluation (NACCHO, 2016, para. 1). This is a way for individuals to analyze if certain new changes or policies that involve community health are actually working.
Public health assessments have many advantages. Not only do assessments help communities identify major health problems specific to a particular area, but they can also aid in identifying possible ways to address those problems. Each distinct community has different health issues and different resources to combat those issues. With that being said, it is important that all communities take part in public health assessments. Through data and research, it has also been found that community health improvement plans and health assessments lead to better public health actions and improved decision making (Rabarison, Timsina, & Mays, 2015, p. 2526). Better health choices made by the public is the ultimate goal of community health assessments, therefore, their benefits, when done correctly, are excessive.
Although the advantages are great, disadvantages are also possible. Unfortunately, many resources needed for accurate health assessments are limited, as well as the resources to implement change. In addition to this, when public health assessments are performed, sometimes changes need to be made. For example, if a public health assessment was conducted in a local area on chemicals in paint and they found a certain chemical needed to be eradicated in all types of paint, then this finding would cause some animosity. People who have used the certain paint would become upset and want to know what to do and businesses that made or sold the paint might face financial loss. While the assessment was necessary and the finding will eventually result in healthier paint, the initial stun of the discovery will be seen as an inconvenience. Even so, these assessments are necessary to the health of the community.
The overall purpose of a public health assessment is to identify a health problem and changes that need to be made in order to fix that problem. From these assessments that are implemented, public policy can be formed. Sometimes these policies can be established on a community level, while others may be state and federal mandated. The leader of a community may introduce a specific policy about smoking in public places, while the federal government may create a policy school lunches in response to childhood obesity. Either way, the information and data obtained from public health assessments is utilized to best create a policy that would target the problem and hopefully begin to eradicate it.
Health Concerns and Legislations
A major health concern in the United States that continues to be addressed today is that of smoking. While there are not any federal legislations specific to smoking in public places, there are many other laws that affect smoking in general and their sales. These legislations do work toward improving public health. With that being said, certain states do have laws restricting the use of tobacco in public places such as restaurants, parks, and so on.
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One recent federal legislation that stands out is the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. It is controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and requires warning labels on tobacco products, requires tobacco companies to submit necessary information to the FDA, forbids flavored tobacco products, and more (HHS.gov, 2017, para. 17). This legislation has already impacted every community in the United States. Warning labels for cigarettes are detailed and graphic. Advertisements for tobacco products are limited and controlled. Tobacco is now seen for all its detrimental effects instead of a typical pastime like it was in previous decades.
The issue of smoking and how it affects the general public is continually being researched. America has had much progress in this area, but still has a long way to go. One can be certain that legislations in regards to smoking in order to benefit the public will continue to be made.
Public health is a subject that seems to be rising in importance in today’s world. It has been found that the health of the general community as a whole does make a difference when it comes to individual health. With that being said, public health assessments help to identify concerns and address what could be done to fix them. These assessments can lead to community wide changes, as well as new federal legislations. It is important to be aware of public health concerns and why these assessments are so important.
CDC Foundation. (2017). Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://www.cdcfoundation.org/content/what-public-health
NACCHO. (2016). Community Health Assessment and Improvement Planning. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.naccho.org/programs/public-health-infrastructure/community-health-assessment?p=chachipgeneral
HHS.gov. (2017). Laws/Policies. Retrieved February 14, 2017, from https://betobaccofree.hhs.gov/laws/
Rabarison, K. M., Timsina, L., & Mays, G. P. (2015). Community Health Assessment and Improved Public Health Decision-Making: A Propensity Score Matching Approach. American Journal Of Public Health, 105(12), 2526-2533. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302795
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