Public Awareness
By Sam MacArthur

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Public health begins with public awareness. For disease prevention, improved population health, and all of the other goals of public health, the single most important thing is information. Governments cannot make people healthier by legislation, and public health professionals cannot save people who do not know they are in danger. Awareness is critical to public health.

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1. Understanding the Public Health System

Public Health organizations play essential roles in health and wellness as well as disease prevention. The goal is to protect American citizens while ensuring health and happiness both now and in the future. Academia is represented with a range of advocacy, educational, and support organizations in the public health arena. These public health agencies are dedicated to training, educating, and certifying the staff and individuals who provide quality healthcare treatment and services.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): This public health agency is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The ATSDR responds to environmental health concerns. They respond to hazardous situations by conducting research, investigating threats, and providing educational resources and guidance.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI): The AAAAI is a public health organization that is dedicated to the advocacy, career connections, strategic relationships, the development of treatments for allergic and immunological diseases and disorders, member support, and patient care. This membership organization includes 7,000 members in the US, Canada, and other countries.

American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation (AAHPR, or SHAPE America): This public health organization represents more than 200,000 professionals. Their goal is to support resources and advocacy while promoting research. The organization prepares people to live a healthy and active life, with targeted programs for preschool through college-and-graduate level programs. 

American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD): This public health agency improves the health and wellness of American citizens. The programs are designed to prevent disease and promote oral health via training and education, advocacy, partnerships, scientific resources, and evidence-based research.

American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD): The AAHD works to reduce disparities in adults with disabilities and the general US population. They accomplish their mission through education, advocacy, research, and public awareness. This public health organization also promotes health and wellness initiatives for adults and children with disabilities.

American College of Epidemiology (ACE): This public health organization was initially established to establish benchmarks for academic recognition. The ACE now serves to further education, advocacy, and membership facilitation in health practice and research. This organization has played a part in the integration of epidemiology into fields of sociology, statistics, biology, genetics, and other disciplines.  

American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE): The goal of the ACHE is to improve the health and wellness of patients. This public health organization has 48,000 members who are leaders in healthcare. These executives share the vision of advancing the role of healthcare in management to improve the health and wellness of individuals in each community. The ACHE supports education and research initiatives via training and scholarships with the aim of pursuing excellence in healthcare in the most affordable way possible.

American College Health Association (ACHA): The ACHA creates programs and resources for 19 million college students, with a focus on their health and wellness. This public health organization has more than 800 members from higher-education institutions. They publish the Journal of American College Health, as a reference and educational resource.

American Public Health Association (APHA): This public health nonprofit organization represents 25,000 members both in the US and around the world. Their focus is on advocacy, strengthening the public health community, and representing the interests, health, and wellness of individuals in the community.

American School Health Association (ASHA): This public health organization has more than 2,000 members from dieticians, counselors, and health educators to school nurses, physicians, and social workers. ASHA focuses on transforming schools into healthy environments where students can thrive and learn.

American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE): This public health organization has more than 12,500 members, making it the largest such association. Members come from all walks of life, including designers, architects, managers of health care facilities, infection control specialists, and beyond.

American Society for Nutrition (ASN): The ASN envisions a world that is healthier because of the implementation of evidence-based nutrition. The goal of this public health organization is to advance education (distribution of information), nutrition science, and practice.

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM): This public health nonprofit organization represents 6,000 members in addiction and substance abuse medicine. ASAM plays the roles of educator, advocate for the improvement of treatment, research, and prevention.

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO): The ASTHO organization represents 100,000+ US health officials. This public health association is dedicated to ensuring optimal health and equity for all Americans.

California Association of Public Health Laboratory Directors: The mission of the CAPHLD is to protect and work to improve the quality of public health initiatives with a focus on laboratory practices. The public health organization offers continuing-education coursework, as well as a platform for networking and job opportunities. This association also coordinates activities related to public health labs.

Government jobs in Public Health are popular career options for students and professionals. The Health and Safety Engineer works in technical fields, with an average salary of $91,410/year. The Health and Safety Engineer has a job outlook of about average, at 5%, and has an entry-level job opportunity with a Bachelor’s degree.

While there are some anomalies, Public health jobs have a job outlook of 14%, faster than the average growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 1.9 million jobs in healthcare with an average of $68,190/year median wages. Jobs in the field of public health include Audiologists, with a median of $77,600/year, as well as Chiropractors at $70,340 median, and dentists at $159,200. 

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What is the Role of Government in Public Health Care?

The role of government in Public Health care is complicated by issues of legislation, funding, and standards for quality and excellence. Public Health government agencies often take on the roles of advocacy, education, and behavior modification to improve and promote a healthy and vibrant lifestyle in communities across the US.

Federal Public Health agencies are on the front lines of public health services. Their role is to assess health situations, protect and improve health and wellness, and ensure healthy communities. So, when you search for “Public Health agencies near me,” the government Public Health resources should be self-evident. Federal Public Health agencies deliver services while evaluating and monitoring the situation. The goal is (or should be) to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare.

The list of federal Public Health agencies is a virtual who’s who of important advocacy groups. These government Public Health agencies were established to make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities. The research, educational resources, and other programmatic elements work to improve the quality and reliability of treatment while helping to facilitate better understanding.

The top government Public Health organizations include agencies like the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the Administration on Aging (AoA), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Who are the Public Health Leaders?

Public Health leaders in influential in the spheres of public health, wellness, and often advocacy. They have the skills and background to understand and clearly articulate the current and evolving situation in healthcare. Leaders in Public Health head up the major healthcare organizations. They demonstrate their leadership in Public Health by understanding, communicating, and driving the change they want to see in the world of public health. Here are a few key leaders in Public Health.  

MPHOnline has also listed the most important public health influencers on social media.

Charles “Chip” Lyons, President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, was appointed the United States Alternate Representative to the Executive Board on the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He developed and managed public health programs for global organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Human Rights Watch Health, the Human Rights Advisory Committee, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). His work has been instrumental and important not only for public health issues but also for global poverty reduction.

Rick Pollack, President and CEO, American Hospital Association (Chicago), started out as a legislative assistant in 1976, but his career has gravitated toward public health. He first worked with the American Nurses Association and then he joined the American Hospital Association in 1982. He served as associate director, vice president, deputy director, and then executive vice president. Over the years, Pollack has frequently been cited as a prominent expert and advocate in public health. He is a leader and proponent for expanded healthcare.

Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, was appointed to his position at the National Institutes of Health by President Barack Obama, with confirmation by the Senate in 2009. As a physician-geneticist, his work has involved biomedical research. Most notable, he was part of the Human Genome Project, and the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, as well as an investigator at the University of Michigan. 

Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Organization, is an important and influential public health leader. He is a passionate speaker and advocate for preventative care and treatment. He worked for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, but he also worked in Public Health Services as the deputy secretary. He is an accomplished speaker and author, with more than 100 book chapters and articles to his name.

Gregory Petsko, Biochemist and Professor at the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is a leader in public health advocacy and treatment. His primary focus is on ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. He has received many awards. He authors the monthly “Genome Biology” column and he is co-author of Protein Structure and Function.

Lucien Engelen, Director and Founder of the Reshape & Innovation Center, focuses on technology and patient empowerment. He advocates for the philosophy of putting patients in charge of their healthcare, making them a participant in the process. He speaks about sustainable global public healthcare. He is the author of Augmented Health(care)™.

Maureen Bisognano, President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), is a recognized leader in public health. She is an advocate, speaker, advisor, and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her focus is often on quality improvement in public health. She serves as a change-maker and expert with her numerous advisory positions Indiana University Health, the Commonwealth Fund, and Nursing Now.

Why are Public Health Nonprofit Organizations Important?

Public Health non profit organizations play an important role by filling in the gaps that are left from the health and wellness offerings from government agencies and private healthcare services. Public Health nonprofit organizations act to advocate for health and safety while educating the public on disease prevention and wellness initiatives.

Although the impact of nonprofit Public Health organizations is often overlooked, non profit public health organizations have a role to play in health informatics, health ethics, environmental health, healthcare management and systems, behavioral health, disease prevention, and cultural implications. Public Health non profit organizations may not be the first thought when it comes to healthcare concerns, but these associations often play lifesaving and awareness-raising roles. Here are just a few examples of public health agencies in the nonprofit sector.

American Heart Association (AHA): The AHA plays an essential role in education and advocacy for cardiac and cardiovascular conditions. This public health nonprofit organization was founded nearly 100 years ago, but its mission remains essential. They work to improve lives, while they fight for better awareness and treatment in stroke and heart disease realms.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, Inc. (ASDF): The ASDF was founded to support and advocate for those individuals affected by autism. Statistically, autism affects one in 54 children. Beyond awareness campaigns, this public health organization offers financial assistance to families who are in need, as well as sending iPads to nonverbal kids.

Educate Tomorrow’s Parents (ETP): This public health organization is dedicated to supporting and guiding young kids to learn and be better prepared for the roles they will hold in the future. The premise of the organization’s mission is based on the finding that 1-in5 kids are in poverty, abuse, dysfunction, and/or neglect. 

Epilepsy Services Foundation, Inc. (ESF): An estimated 3 million (9%) Americans have epilepsy. The ESF offers a range of programs and services, centering on the support, encouragement, and education. The goal of this public health nonprofit organization is to create a future that is better, happier, and healthier for the millions who are affected by epilepsy.

Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA): The HLAA plays a critical role in hearing help and advocacy, with programs, events, networking, and resources. The numbers of individuals affected by hearing loss are staggering, with 1-in-5 teens experiencing some loss and 2.7 million veterans with hearing-related issues. Their educational resources, financial assistance, volunteering opportunities, and other activities, this public health nonprofit organization is making a difference.

International Cancer Advocacy Network (ICAN): ICAN is a public health organization that works around the clock in 17 time zones to advocate those individuals affected by cancer while focusing on research, treatment, and the distribution of cutting-edge educational resources.

2. Public Health Dangers

Public Health issues may seem so broad and far-reaching as to be impossible to solve or address in any meaningful way. A few issues in Public Health that are commonly the focus of attention. For many healthcare professionals, focusing on these issues of Public Health provides focus, direction, and purpose. By targeting the current Public Health issues, medical and public health care professionals make progress toward the stated goal and can distinguish results.

So, as the focus is on the current issues in Public Health, it is important to understand that these do not represent the totality of Public Health issues in America. The list of Public Health issues rationalizes the urgency or criticality of the topic or issue. That is part of where the ethical issues in Public Health arise. Who decides which Public Health ethical issues are important enough (or far-reaching enough) to demand the laser-tuned focus of the medical community? There are Public Health risks no matter how you look at it, but this is a list of Public Health issues.

Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Some 46 million people use alcohol and tobacco, which is also the top cause of preventable deaths of Americans. Smoking and drinking quickly lead to a myriad of negative side effects. A focus on public health agencies and member doctors is to prevent individuals from smoking and drinking alcohol.

Food safety: One-in-six Americans (48 million) experience issues with food safety every year. So, improving food safety awareness, access, and food handling make a difference in how many people get sick and succumb to their food-borne illnesses.

Heart disease and stroke: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death both in the US and around the world. At last count, there are some 17.8 million deaths from CVD in a year. Every 40 seconds, a person in the US will have a stroke or heart attack.

HIV: Some 1.1 million American citizens have HIV, but as many as 15% do not know that they are affected. An estimated 38,700 are infected every year.

Motor vehicle injury: The CDC reports that motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 100 people dying each day. An additional 2.5 million people per year spent time in the emergency room because of injuries from vehicle crashes.

Teen pregnancy: The US is still in the lead for teen pregnancies, compared to other countries around the world. With 750,000 teen pregnancies, nearly 400,000 live births result. The rates of teen birth as a public health and ethics issue is continuing to decrease overall.

Air pollution: 7 million people die each year from diseases caused by air pollution. It’s the biggest environmental problem around the world. 

Nutrition, physical activity, and obesity: 93 million adults and more than 13.7 million children and adolescents are currently affected by obesity. Lack of exercise and poor nutrition have other, far-reaching and severe consequences, including heart disease an increased chance of certain cancers, diabetes, etc. 

3. The Importance of Public Awareness and Communication to Public Health

The act of Public Health communications is the practice and study of communications as it relates to health information. Public Health communication can involve health education, consulting, and campaigns. Communication and Public Health are essential to any policy or improvement initiative. In order to reach the most people possible for education and support, mass communication and Public Health go hand-in-hand.

Global Public Health communication is not something that comes naturally or seamlessly. It requires an experienced and knowledgeable representative to approach the issues related to Public Health and communication. By extension, the distribution of knowledge and resource may settle on a combination of Public Health communication and marketing to tell stories and inspire innovation. The goal is to develop and implement communication strategies in Public Health without the headache or hassle often associated with these campaigns.

Public Health communication campaigns are effective, with long-term (and positive) repercussions. These campaigns and strategic approaches consider the principles of communication in Public Health. They identify the Public Health issue, develop a strategy to achieve Public Health awareness, take a systematic approach, and use communication channels including the media to call attention to the Public Health issue.

The process of raising awareness of Public Health issues is difficult and time-consuming. The Public Health issues themselves, though, involve millions of lives in jeopardy. The sheer scope underscores the importance of communication in Public Health. Public Health communication strategies are at the core of message distribution.

For those wondering why health communication is important in Public Health, perhaps it is best to imagine where public health and advocacy would be today if it were not for the strategic and passionate approaches from public health professionals. It really makes a difference.


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