What can an individual do to further public health? (2023)

September 15, 2020

7 super simple steps to contribute to public health.

What can an individual do to further public health? (1)

A glaring spotlight has been placed on public health ever since COVID-19 erupted across the globe. As the world tries to navigate its way through the pandemic, we find ourself turning to governments and experts for advice. Should we stay at home? When should we visit the doctor? Are we allowed to meet our loved ones face-to-face? In times like this, it’s easy to think of public health issues as stuff that only organisations, experts and powerful people can solve. What can an individual do to improve public health anyway?

What can an individual do to further public health? (2)

The answer: a lot. What we’ve learned from COVID-19 is how much good (or harm) one person can do. You can mask up. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Tell others to do the same. All these efforts go a long way. The most important lesson of all is to realise that public health matters not just during wartime (see: COVID-19), but during peacetime too.

In this article, we explore two things. First, we touch on what public health is all about. Second, we go through seven super-simple steps you can take as an individual to further public health.

What is public health?

Simply put, public health is related to anything concerned with the health of the public. According to the CDC,

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Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. This work is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases.

Unlike clinical professionals who focus on treating the sick or injured, public health focuses on preventing people from falling sick in the first place.

With that in mind, what can someone with zero background in healthcare do to improve public health? Here are seven super simple steps to get started.

1. Stay healthy.

Exercise. Eat nutritious food. Spend time with your loved ones. By taking care of yourself, you inspire others to do the same. And by keeping healthy, you also lower your chances of falling ill and spreading diseases. The bonus? You look good and feel good.

2. Get vaccinated.

Vaccines have been said to be the most important public health invention in the history of mankind. Unfortunately, there has been rising misinformation and declining trust in vaccines in certain parts of the world. That has caused anti-vaccine sentiments to brew in recent years.

What can an individual do to further public health? (3)

But all that misinformation is simply that: untrue. Vaccines have prevented at least 10 million deaths from 2010-2015 AND protected millions more from severely debilitating diseases such as polio, measles, and pneumonia.1 It is thanks to vaccines that we can enjoy healthy lives free of some of the worst infectious diseases on the planet. 2

When you vaccinate, you protect both yourself and those around you. Check with your doctor to see if you’re due for the annual flu shot. Also, depending on your age or health condition, you may be due for vaccines that can prevent life-threatening conditions such as pneumococcal pneumonia.3

What can an individual do to further public health? (4)

Travelling to a new country? There may be specific vaccines you require depending on your destination country. Some of them include those for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Yellow fever. Vaccinating before travel helps protect yourself and the local population in your destination country. This site offers advice for safeguarding your health during travel.

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Once you’re vaccinated, you lower your chances of getting the disease AND THEN spreading it to someone else. It’s one of the simplest ways to protect yourself and others from falling sick.

3. Wash your hands properly.

It can’t get simpler than this. Everyone is tired of hearing this age-old mantra (since 1847 I might add),4 but when it comes to saving lives, sometimes simplicity is key. We exchange germs all the time- from the surfaces we touch or the hands we shake. Unfortunately for us, the science shows that we seem to be obsessed with touching our own faces. When we touch our faces, disease-causing germs can enter our bodies through our eyes, nose or mouths. We can fall sick this way.

What can an individual do to further public health? (5)

In short, wash your hands, everybody. Maintaining personal hygiene is by far, the cheapest and most effective way to prevent infection and infecting others. It’s also the most boring way. But that’s what makes it so beautifully simple. 5

4. Become an organ donor

For individuals whose organs have failed, an organ transplant is usually their only hope for recovery. However, they have to put on a waiting list.6 This means that they can only undergo an organ transplant when an organ match is available. For them, a donated organ easily becomes a gift of life. By becoming a registered donor, you are not only increasing the chances of treatment, but also offering someone the gift of hope and life. As a registered donor in Singapore, the kidneys, liver, heart and corneas, can be donated in the event of death for transplantation. 7

According to the American Transplant Foundation, 8

One deceased donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and can save and enhance more than 100 lives through the lifesaving and healing gift of tissue donation. Organs that can be donated after death are the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and small intestines. Tissues include corneas, skin, veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments and bones.

Donations are usually made in the event of your death. However, you don’t have to wait until death to become a donor. A healthy person can become a ‘living donor’ by donating a kidney, or a part of the liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow.

Are you a registered organ donor? If you’re not, consider becoming one. It is one of the easiest ways (and most rewarding ways) to contribute to public health.

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Many find volunteering for health programmes extremely rewarding. What better way to do something you enjoy, while doing good at the same time? Love kids? Volunteer at the local children’s hospital. Enjoy performing? Play some songs and spread joy at the nearby hospice. Feel strongly about patient advocacy and dispelling stigma? Become an advocate for an HIV/AIDS non-profit.

What can an individual do to further public health? (6)

If you’re interested in global health, you can also consider volunteering or even working with international health organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), The International Committee of the Red Cross, International Medical Corps, Oxfam or Partners in Health. And if volunteering isn’t for you, consider donating to these organisations instead. Any amount goes a long way. There’s something out there for everyone. And volunteering or donating are some of the best ways to make a positive impact on public health, at scale.

6. Get educated.

There are many ways to learn about public health. A fun way is to read public health comics to learn about the experiences of patients and healthcare professionals. Some great places to start are My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s (Graphic Medicine) and Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371

There are also plenty of YouTube channels creating quality, engaging and beautiful videos about public health. Here’s a fantastic video that takes you through the science to address the controversies surrounding milk and whether it is truly healthy for us.

Here’s another great one that explores what happens to your body when you’re sitting all day. It’s a short but comprehensive clip on the hidden risks of sitting- and why it could be the new smoking.

Some have termed all the health misinformation going around an “infodemic”.9 Health misinformation should be taken seriously because the wrong advice can literally kill you.10 We have seen how COVID-19 misinformation about unproven use of certain medications like hydroxychloroquine or alcohol has caused poisoning or even death among uninformed users.

What can an individual do to further public health? (7)

Think about the last time you shared an article with your friends and family. You probably shared it with good intention- to encourage them to take certain advice or make a lifestyle change. However, before you hit ‘send’, did you check whether the article was reliable or not?

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To care for our own health as well as the health of others, we need to learn to differentiate between what is scientifically-accurate information- and what is not. And then share only what is correct.

How do you do that? The easiest way is to share information from trusted sources.

  • For the latest evidence-based news on global health occurrences, the World Health Organization and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are your best bet.
  • University websites are usually a good choice. Simply type in your health query followed by the university name. Some reliable ones include Harvard Health Blog, Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • For Singaporeans, the Ministry of Health is the go-to source for the latest health-related updates in the country, while HealthHub is a great repository of information for health articles, the latest health events and a useful directory for health services across the country.
  • When it comes to YouTube videos, try to share only those From channels that produce content based on sound research. Some include TED-Ed and Kurzgesagt.

Some misconceptions

1. Go to the doctor regularly

Generally, if you’re in good health, there should be no need for you to visit the doctor regularly. However, depending on your age, family history of disease and lifestyle, you may need to visit the doctor for annual health screening. Health screenings can help detect if you have a particular condition even if you do not experience any signs or symptoms.

Some common examples of health screenings include those for diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and high blood pressure. You might then be able to get started on treatment and control of your condition earlier. Speak to your doctor to find out more about the types of screening you may require.

2. Eating vitamins

When it comes to improving one’s general health, are multivitamin and mineral supplements really beneficial? This is yet another common misconception. Studies have shown that vitamins have little to no effect on those who are generally healthy.

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However, for people with certain health conditions, doctors may recommend them to take certain vitamins to fill their nutritional gaps. Some conditions include anaemia, neuropathy and osteoporosis 11

Do seek your doctor’s advice to check whether your vitamins are necessary. You may end up doing your wallet a favour.

Conclusion

And that’s a wrap! In this article, we first touched briefly on what public health is all about. Second, we highlighted seven super-simple steps you can take as an individual to further public health. And they are:

  1. Stay healthy.
  2. Get vaccinated.
  3. Wash your hands.
  4. Become and organ donor.
  5. Volunteer with a public health promotion campaign.
  6. Get educated.
  7. Share evidence-based news.
  1. Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization. 2018. “2018 Assessment Report of the Global Vaccine Action Plan.” Switzerland: Geneva: World Health Organization. ↩︎
  2. World Economic Forum. 2018. “Over Half of Vaccines Are Wasted Globally for These Simple Reasons.” World Economic Forum. July 24, 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/the-biggest-hurdle-to-universal-vaccination-might-just-be-a-fridge/. ↩︎
  3. A potentially fatal bacteria infection in the lungs. ↩︎
  4. On Washing Hands by Atul Gawande ↩︎
  5. On Washing Hands by Atul Gawande↩︎
  6. https://www.liveon.gov.sg/support-organ-donation.html ↩︎
  7. https://www.gov.sg/article/what-is-hota-all-about ↩︎
  8. https://www.americantransplantfoundation.org/about-transplant/facts-and-myths/ ↩︎
  9. 9 Reliable Resources for Information About Coronavirus https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/coronavirus-resources-for-reliable-information/ ↩︎
  10. Coronavirus: The human cost of virus misinformation https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-52731624 ↩︎
  11. Ward, E. Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutr J 13, 72 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-72 ↩︎

FAQs

What can an individual do to further public health? ›

Health education will help an individual to further public education by spreading the importance of health and knowledge about it among public. Health education and spreading its knowledge in public and making public aware of their health can only be done if a person himself is fully aware about the concept of health.

How do we take care of public health? ›

You can find more information on public health activities relating to these areas online.
  1. Assure an adequate local public health infrastructure. ...
  2. Promote healthy communities and healthy behavior. ...
  3. Prevent the spread of communicable disease. ...
  4. Protect against environmental health hazards. ...
  5. Prepare and respond to emergencies.

What are some ways to improve public health? ›

Top 10 Ways To Improve Health and Health Equity
  1. Stop the spread of COVID-19.
  2. Invest in public health infrastructure.
  3. Address the opioid and substance use epidemic.
  4. Mitigate climate change and invest in environmental justice.
  5. Reduce poverty and improve economic stability.
  6. Improve education access and quality.
Apr 28, 2022

What can an individual do to further public health stop binge drinking? ›

Recommended strategies include: Using pricing strategies, including increasing alcohol taxes. Limiting the number of retail alcohol outlets in a given area. Holding alcohol retailers responsible for the harms caused by illegal alcohol sales to minors or intoxicated patrons (dram shop liability).

Why is it important to improve public health? ›

Public health supports individuals, organisations, and society to tackle preventable disease, mortality and disability using: Prevention: reducing the incidence of ill health supporting healthier lifestyle. Protection: surveillance and monitoring of infectious disease, emergency response and immunisation.

What are the 3 core functions of public health? ›

This page and graphic show how the ten essential environmental health services align with the three core functions of public health (assessment, policy development, and assurance).

Why is prevention important in public health? ›

Prevention deters the incidence of a disease, or stops, slows or reverses the progress of an acute condition. The separation of the roles between medical providers and public health officials leads to a lack of collaboration when it comes to preventive care.

How can you promote health in your community? ›

Promoting Healthy Communities
  1. Address basic needs such as food, shelter and education.
  2. Promote healthier lifestyles, one person at a time.
  3. Knock down barriers to health screenings and needed care.
  4. Create opportunities for people to improve their lives.

How do you develop a public health intervention? ›

Main steps in public health intervention development

Define and understand the problem and its causes. Clarify which causal or contextual factors are malleable and have greatest scope for change. Identify how to bring about change: the change mechanism. Identify how to deliver the change mechanism.

What are healthy alternatives to drinking alcohol? ›

What to drink instead of alcohol
  • Soda and fresh lime. Proof that simple is still the best.
  • Berries in iced water. This summery drink will keep you refreshed and revitalised.
  • Kombucha. ...
  • Virgin bloody Mary. ...
  • Virgin Mojito. ...
  • Half soda/half cranberry juice and muddled lime. ...
  • Soda and fresh fruit. ...
  • Mocktails.

How will you protect yourself your family and the community against the dangers of drinking alcohol? ›

Tips for Staying Low Risk
  • Avoid drinking situations. Go to places where alcohol isn't served, like the movies or the beach. ...
  • Count your drinks. ...
  • Slow down your drinking. ...
  • Take less alcohol with you. ...
  • Make every second drink a non-alcoholic drink. ...
  • Eat before or while you are drinking. ...
  • Avoid top-ups. ...
  • Drink water with a meal.
Jul 20, 2020

How can we reduce alcohol consumption? ›

Simple tips for cutting down
  1. Make a plan. Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you're going to drink.
  2. Set a budget. Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol.
  3. Let them know. ...
  4. Take it a day at a time. ...
  5. Make it a smaller one. ...
  6. Have a lower-strength drink. ...
  7. Stay hydrated. ...
  8. Take a break.

What is health improvement in public health? ›

“Health Improvement describes the work to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals or communities through enabling and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices as well as addressing underlying issues such as poverty, lack of educational opportunities and other such areas.”

What are the goals of public health? ›

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the goal of public health is to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Therefore, public health initiatives are aimed at fostering conditions in which people can be healthy within specific populations.

What is the most important aspect of public health system? ›

The public health practice promotes the detection, management, and prevention of various diseases through research and innovation. The professionals with public health certification help improve the lifestyle and health-related behaviors of individuals.

How can we prevent health problems? ›

Eight healthy choices to reduce your risk for disease
  1. Be a non-smoker and avoid second hand smoke. If you smoke, get help to quit. ...
  2. Be physically active everyday. ...
  3. Eat healthy foods. ...
  4. Achieve a healthy weight. ...
  5. Control your blood pressure. ...
  6. Limit your intake of alcohol. ...
  7. Reduce your stress. ...
  8. Be screened or tested regularly.
Jan 21, 2011

What are the 3 basic strategies for health promotion? ›

The small circle stands for the three basic strategies for health promotion, “enabling, mediating, and advocacy”.

How can preventive health care be improved? ›

Preventive health care
  1. Screen for diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
  2. Look for future disease risks, such as high cholesterol and obesity.
  3. Discuss alcohol use and safe drinking and tips on how to quit smoking.
  4. Encourage a healthy lifestyle, such as healthy eating and exercise.
  5. Update vaccinations.
Jan 16, 2021

Which strategy is used by public health to reduce the incidence of flu? ›

Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent seasonal influenza infection. Achieving high influenza vaccination rates of HCP and patients is a critical step in preventing healthcare transmission of influenza from HCP to patients and from patients to HCP.

Which strategy is used by public health to reduce the incidence of measles? ›

Routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with high case and death rates, are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths. The measles vaccine has been in use for nearly 60 years. It is safe, effective and inexpensive.

Which strategies have the potential to prevent the spread of disease? ›

The most important way to reduce the spread of infections is hand washing - frequently wash hands with soap and water, if unavailable use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol). Also important is to get a vaccine for those infections and viruses that have one, when available.

What are three ways we can lessen the danger of a future flu pandemic? ›

Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
  • Take everyday preventive actions that are recommended to reduce the spread of flu. ...
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. ...
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. ...
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Nov 18, 2021

What are three important public health tools for addressing flu outbreaks? ›

Pandemic Modeling Tools
  • CDC Community Flu 2.0.
  • CDC FluAid 2.0.
  • CDC FluSurge 2.0.
  • CDC FluLabSurge 1.0.
  • CDC FluWorkLoss 1.0.
  • PanVax Tool for Pandemic Vaccination Planning.

How can we prevent and control measles? ›

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against measles. Measles is a routine vaccination that children in the United States receive. The vaccine is given in 2 doses, with the first dose administered at age 12 through 15 months and the second dose administered at age 4 through 6 years.

How do you prevent a measles outbreak? ›

The use of exclusion and quarantine of non-immune individuals is likely effective in limiting the spread of measles during outbreaks in elimination settings.

How can we limit the spread of measles through public health education? ›

Public health interventions to reduce the secondary spread of measles are vaccination of susceptible contacts; human immunoglobulin (Ig) for susceptible contacts; quarantine of susceptible contacts; isolation of active measles cases; and special vaccination clinics or activities during outbreaks to increase population ...

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