April 4, 2005
Emergency Preparedness, Disease Prevention, Public Safety Among the Many Responsibilities of Public Health
ATLANTA (GA) – The American Public Health Association’s (APHA) theme for National Public Health Week is Empowering Americans to Live Stronger, Longer. The Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) focuses on the theme of this year’s observance to help define the role and responsibility of public health in Georgia.
“To define what public health is, we first have to clarify what it is not,” said Stuart Brown, M.D. and acting director of DHR, Division of Public Health. “It is not a health services safety net to all people. The scope and scale of resources – financial and human – and the American system of government does not support this model. In the simplest terms, the role of public health is to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease; protect against environmental hazards; prevent injuries; promote and encourage healthy behaviors; respond to disasters; assist communities in recovery; and foster linkage with needed health care services.”
According to Dr. Brown, public health is well known as the government function that offers such traditional essential services as immunizations, septic tank permits, restaurant inspections and many inclusive health services to the poor and underserved. During National Public Health Week, he re-emphasizes that public health is also the source of much lesser known yet equally essential roles and responsibilities.
DHR, Division of Public Health is also responsible for disease control and prevention, the reduction of avoidable injury-related deaths and disabilities, the promotion of healthy lifestyles and emergency preparedness. Emergency preparedness includes:
Disease surveillance and epidemiologic investigation
Electronic laboratory test reporting
Emergency communications, and
Professional workforce training
The three basic functions of public health include assessing the health status of the population; assuring that people have the resources and skills necessary to remain healthy and safe; and establishing and implementing sound public health and emergency preparedness policies. Public health facilitates solutions that prevent potential health challenges from developing into real health problems.
Preventing disease, improving health status, and keeping communities safe are at the core of Public Health’s mission. Public Health is responsible for describing the health status of the people in Georgia. Next, public health leads development of partnerships to make changes that improve the health of citizens. Finally, public health keeps a focus on health outcomes to ensure that efforts are continually adjusted to prevent disease and injury.
“If we each focused on achieving optimal personal health, we have an opportunity to have healthier babies; smarter young students; more responsible teens; better-equipped parents; more enthusiastic workers; and thriving seniors. The result would be more fulfilled people and safer, more self-reliant communities,” stated Brown.
One of the ways DHR, Division of Public Health aims to help people in Georgia get healthier is through its recently launched Live Healthy Georgia Campaign. Partnering with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, the campaign features five disease prevention messages:
Be Active, Get Checked, Be Smoke-Free, Eat Healthy and Be Positive. “Our goal for the Live Healthy Georgia campaign is to encourage everyone in Georgia to live healthier lives while at the same time lowering health care costs and improving employee productivity,” said Abel Ortiz, the governor’s new policy adviser for health and human services, juvenile justice and veteran's affairs. For information about Public Health Week activities in your community call your local health department or visit www.APHA.org. For media interviews call 404.657.6313. For information about the DHR, Division of Public Health and the Live Healthy Georgia campaign, visit health.state.ga.us.
For information, contact: