Most individuals would regard “good health” as a blessing because they are aware that without good health, they would not be able to function and carry out their day-to-day lives. Thus, policymakers, healthcare officials, and community leaders prioritize discussions and decisions about public health, or the collective well-being of a community.
Public health is a comprehensive topic because of the multitude of areas that could improve or damage the well-being of a community. For example, residents of third-world countries living in the most extreme forms of poverty are likely to have poor health. Poverty has shown to lead to issues like a shortage of healthcare facilities and personnel, lack of sanitation, and malnourishment. Each of these factors has the potential to impair the health of a nation’s residents and create a cycle over generations in which, the public health of that community, is threatened. Thus, the agendas and policies decision-makers create regarding the economics, infrastructure, and healthcare of their nation affect the living conditions and essentially the health of their communities.
Public health also relies on the decisions made collectively by a community. For example, genocide and other forms of war, decided upon and enacted by one group with the intention of harming another, pose implications for the public health of the community. In war-torn areas, people often lack access to essentials like clothing, food, and water, and as their lifestyle begins to deteriorate, so does their health. War weapons can also create new health issues like lead poisoning and acid burns. In some areas, certain groups have cultural views that objectively damage their health. For example, the stigma against women with fistulas in Africa and the practices of genital mutilation and breast-ironing all pose a threat to the lives of those respective populations.
Lastly, public health can also be impacted by non-human factors such as natural disasters and epidemics. Droughts, floods, and earthquakes often create conditions that prevent populations from accessing basic resources. Epidemics such as Ebola and Zika also take the lives of thousands and challenge scientists and decision-makers to create solutions that would stunt the spread of these illnesses. The decisions created at a local and global scale that affect the well-being of populations experiencing similar conditions are thus integral to maintaining public health.