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Top Public Health Issues Facing Health

Officials
Improved national health care conditions can ultimately create a stronger nation, both
economically and through an improved quality of life. Public health officials will be playing a
large part in the health of our country this year with the identification, prevention and treatment
of the public health issues facing citizens today.

A Matter of Public Health


Matters of public health have been investigated and managed for centuries, first establishing
significance following the devastating effects of the bubonic plague, or Black Death, in 1348.
Recognized public health initiatives were established to control the spread of the disease in 1350
A.D. Through each health issue that America has faced, the public health industry has become a
crucial part of the American system of healthcare and government. In 1872, the foundation of the
American Public Health Association (APHA) brought a national focus to the causes and
treatments of illness, disease and other factors affecting American health. Proven public health
achievements in the 20th century (smallpox eradication, improved sanitation, clean water access)
increased life expectancy by 30 years and paved the way for more advanced treatments and
preventative measures in the country today.

2013 Public Health Issues


Although our country has made astounding advancements in medicine and public health,
considerable public health challenges persevere. Some of the main health care issues facing
America today include:

Diabetes
Diabetes, which causes abnormally high blood glucose levels, either because the body does not
produce insulin (Type 1) or the body does not produce enough insulin to function properly (Type
2). A third type, gestational diabetes, affects females during pregnancy. While Type 1 diabetes is
primarily genetic, Type 2 diabetes (usually closely related to obesity), can be prevented through
proper diet and exercise. 25.7 million Americans (8.3% of the population) have diabetes,
making it a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, limb amputation, as
well as the seventh leading cause of death. Public health officials are working on diabetes
prevention campaigns which promote healthier diets and active lifestyles.

Obesity
Obesity is described as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, while a normal body
weight rests between 18.5 and 24.9. In 1990, every state had 15 percent or less citizens who
struggled with obesity; in 2000 49 states were above the 15 percent line; in 2010, every state in

the country had at least a 20 percent obesity rate. Twelve states topped 30 percent, and as the
number continues to climb, the cost of health care related to obesity soars, costing around
$147 billion per year. Obesity is an overwhelming factor in the development of heart disease,
hypertension, metabolic syndrome, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. While some obesity can be
linked to genetics, the majority is preventable through regular exercise and intelligent diet
choices. Public health officials are battling obesity issues through a variety of physical activity
and healthy eating campaigns.

Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America today, causing around 600,000 deaths (1
in every 4 deaths) and $300 billion in cost each year. Major factors in the development of heart
disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Some medical conditions and
lifestyle habits can also influence heart disease, including diabetes, obesity, stagnant lifestyle,
incorrect diet choices and alcoholism. Many heart disease prevention campaigns have been
launched over the years, and most recently, the Department of Health and Human Services, along
with the American Heart Association, have initiated Million Hearts, which strives to prevent 1
million strokes and heart attacks by 2017.

Cancer
In the 2013 Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, it was revealed that cancer
rates have shown a decline in the past 30 years. However, the rates of certain forms of cancers,
such as melanoma of the skin, have remained steady or increased. The types of cancers that have
shown an increase include thyroid, kidney, pancreas, liver, uterus, and leukemia. While cancer
research has not identified the direct cause of cancer, some measures of prevention can be taken,
such as limiting alcohol use, quitting smoking and using sunscreen. Additionally, maintaining a
properly balanced diet and enough physical activity can also prevent certain types of cancers.
Promoting initiatives such as skin cancer prevention and lung cancer awareness is becoming
more common in public health.

Communicable Illness
Chronic illnesses are not the only cause for strong public health concern in America, as more
commonplace communicable illnesses have proven to be just as threatening to an individuals
health. While research attempts to predict the future of health care needs, epidemics of illness
can strike without warning or proper preparation. In 2012, an outbreak of meningitis brought
over 720 cases and 48 deaths, as well as a wave of West Nile Virus, which caused 243 deaths
out of 5, 387 cases. So far, 2013 has shown a stronger strain of the influenza virus than ever
before, and while a vaccine is available, it has been ineffective with the elderly, who have a
higher mortality rate from effects of the virus. While only hypotheses can be drawn about the
next viral outbreak in America, public officials are promoting a boost in Vitamin D and Vitamin
C to battle infection and illness, as well as raising awareness about preventative measures that
can be taken in the face of the influenza virus.

Awareness and Prevention

Public health officials are charged with promoting awareness to assist in the prevention of health
issues, in addition to the research and promotion of treatment measures. America is continuing to
struggle with health issues, including diabetes, obesity and cancer, in which prevention can
ultimately affect health status There is an urgent calling now, more than ever, for qualified health
care and public health professionals to join forces in the battle against illness and disease in
America and to create conditions in which health for all can be achieved.
As the demand for public health services continues to grow, obtaining a Masters degree in
Public Health from Creighton University Online is a valuable way to improve a current career
or transition into a new one. The school combines a passion for learning with a zeal for making
a difference, and the MPH program at Creighton University Online encourages student to merge
their own passion for health of the public with the ability to help serve those at risk in their
communities.