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What is Public Health?

الوقاية خير من العلاج
“Prevention is better than cure!”

This ancient Arabic proverb contains a lot of wisdom for society today – expressing a “Public Health” message those many years ago!

Public Health focuses on protecting people’s health, promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing disease, thereby reducing disease, disability, injury, and premature death in Populations as a whole. Public Health identifies the population’s health needs, and provides solutions to address those needs.

Health Protection refers to actions that protect against harmful exposures at home, at work, and in society. Examples of this include ensuring the safety and quality of food, water, air and the general and work environments; preventing the transmission of infectious diseases; and managing outbreaks and the other incidents which threaten the health of the population.

Health Promotion refers to the “process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health.” It moves beyond a focus on individual behavior towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.

Prevention refers to interventions that individuals and communities can take to reduce the risk of disease, injuries, disability or premature death. It understands that in this world, actions have consequences. For example, if society provides clean water to its population, the number of children who die from diarrhea will decrease; or if a law is enforced to restrict smoking in public places, it leads to less population exposure to smoke, and consequently, less cancer and heart disease. Public Health identifies hazards through research activities, providing a sufficient level of evidence for precaution against negative health outcomes in the population.

Public Health, then, aims to provide the conditions in which people can be healthy. The main focus is on entire populations and the environment, not on individual patients or diseases.

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