#HAchat Recap: Public Health & Health Activism

Happy National Public Health Week everyone!  In honor of National Public Health week, WEGO Health dedicated this week’s #HAChat to discussing public health issues.  This week serves to recognize the vast strides that have been made in public health in the last century as well as highlight issues that are important to our nation’s health.  This year’s theme is A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement. This week, Health Activists talked about what public health means to them and what public health looks like in their communities.


What is public health?

healthyjack a 1920 def. that still works (part 1): “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts & informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities & individuals” #hachat.

Even while looking at this definition it’s hard to conjure up an exact image of what “public health” looks like.  It invokes images of PSA’s and food pyramids, workplace fitness programs and smoking bans.  The reason it’s so hard to pinpoint exactly what public health is, is because when public health is working – you don’t know.  Public health is all around us, it’s everything from clean drinking water and waste removal services, emergency response teams and public restrooms.  It’s the health and safety inspections in restaurants, homes and buildings and the containment of food borne illnesses such as E.coli and Salmonella.  It’s a proactive and preventative approach to keeping the entire population healthy by fighting chronic and infectious diseases, obesity and terrorism.  It’s ensuring that there is equal access to affordable healthcare services. Health Activists were right on in their definitions, and came up with a number of different real life examples of what public health means in our society:

TiffanyAndLupus T1: To me, public health is the promotion of delivering health info, practicing healthy lifestyles, & disease protection/prevention. #hachat

IIIGifts PH = the things necessary to manage the health and well-being of a population as a whole, not just the individual w/ single encounter #HAchat

WalkForCure Public health to me means making available resources to stay healthy for everyone, not just those who can afford it. #HaChat

Dyverse_Steele: to me ph is educating consumers, providing for safe healthy spaces to work and play in i.e. communities #hachat

ConquerLupus: I think of the public health care services. Like urgent care centers and planned parenthood #HAchat

puffin_77:  I think of the term in epidemiological terms… population health. #HAchat

Public health strategies focus on prevention, and they do this by promoting education, awareness and behavior change.  Behavior change, however, takes time.  Hand hygiene, for example.  In the 1800’s, Dr. Semmelweis discovered that there is a lower chance of puerperal sepsis during childbirth if a doctor washes his hands before delivering the baby.  Such a simple intervention has revolutionized not only childbirth, but medicine as a whole.  Yet, to this day, there are still signs in the bathrooms of restaurants instructing workers to wash their hands before returning to work.  This demonstrates that behavior change and awareness are not static concepts, and that ensuring public health requires continual efforts.


What does public health look like in your community?

While public health focuses on the health of the population, there are many different “populations” that make up our society.  As such, public health will vary between regions, towns, socioeconomic groups, gender, and condition.  Here are some examples of what public health looks like in the communities of various Health Activists:

WalkForCure:  Access to healthcare. I live in growing community where a 2hr wait time in a doctor’s office is the norm. #HAChat

kimmieCollas: access to pain control is a big one, as is doctors who don’t “believe” in fibro #HAchat

julianna12369: My local community needs to address issues of the elderly. My #lupus community needs awareness and research. #HAchat

eCaring:  Need for widespread recognition that #aging of population will require HUGE healthcare system changes #hachat

TiffanyAndLupus: The biggest public health issues that I believe affect the #lupus community: Lack of disease education about lupus. The cause & triggers of #lupus are highly speculated but still unknown, this causes a major issue w/ disease prevention. #hachat

AnacostiaYogi @wegohealth the biggest health issue in Anacostia is health education! Why have health resources if ppl don’t know about em? #HAchat

Dyverse_Steele for hiv/aids stigma still exists, overall mental health, growing older with hiv, dealing with side effects of medication, jobs #hachat -3:25 P

LAlupusLady: Public Health issue for#Lupus the racial/sexual disparities need to be understood, which means Research! #hachat


Who is responsible for public health?  What can Health Activists do?

Since public health focuses on the health of entire populations, who is responsible for addressing all of these issues and promoting and maintaining public health?  The answer is that EVERYONE is responsible.  The government has an innate responsibility to ensure access to services, though some people do slip through the cracks.  baljaid: nowadays not only government is the only responsible for public health, also big companies have social responsibility #hachat.  Though things are changing slowly, we are starting to see more big companies make investments in local community organizations, clinics and hospitals as well as make strides in protecting the environment, all of which contribute to public health.  Health Activists can also take a role in promoting public health by promoting awareness and education.

TiffanyAndLupus: Health Activists can work together on issues w/public health by using their voice to advocate/& share their views. #hachat

susanmees: Health Activists are in the unique position to share information with lots of people & that is what public health tries to do. #hachat

AnacostiaYogi:  Social media, local meetups, supporting each orgs events. Collaboration not competition.#HAchat

TiffanyAndLupus: Health Activists can use tools like social media to share their thoughts on Public Health. Alone we are1, 2gether we’re strong #hachat

Health Activists are constantly promoting public health by promoting healthier lifestyles for their communities.  In public health, it is often the simplest interventions that have the biggest impact, and harnessing the power of Health Activists to discover what these simple interventions are will be vital for community health programs in the future.

Though your community will always be your best source of support when you’re going through a hard time, banding together across conditions can only benefit you in terms of public health.  People suffering from conditions that cause chronic pain may have different day to day needs, but they also face the same stigma from doctors and healthcare professionals.  Advocating for safer and healthier communities can benefit the health of everyone, no matter your condition.  Health Activists have more in common than not and together can make big strides in improving public health for the entire population.

What does public health mean to you?  What have you done to improve the public health of your community?  Feel free to email us at editorial@wegohealth.com and share your thoughts?

It’s never too late to start participating in the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge! There are still 26 more prompts to go! Sign up here: http://info.wegohealth.com/HAWMC2012/ or check our Facebook or Twitter for the day’s prompt as well as posts by other bloggers.  To celebrate Health Activist Writer’s Month, the rest of April’s chats will focus on writing. See you next Tuesday at 3 PM EST.


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