A Risk Sciences International glossary definition (Last modifed: December 15, 2023)

public health

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Public health is the science and practice of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. This field focuses on promoting healthy behaviors, preventing health hazards, and creating environments that support good health. Public health initiatives include everything from educating people about the risks of smoking, advocating for safer work and living conditions, immunization campaigns, to developing public policies that benefit health. The emphasis is generally on preventing health problems before they occur, rather than treating them afterward, thereby applying a collective approach to health improvement. Public health typically operates within the purview of specific local or national communities and governments, tailoring interventions to the unique needs and characteristics of those populations.

Global public health, on the other hand, extends the concept of public health to an international scale, seeking to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities across nations and populations worldwide. This field encompasses a wide range of concerns including infectious diseases, malnutrition, maternal and child health, water and sanitation, and health systems strengthening. Unlike localized public health efforts, global public health must consider cross-border health issues and often involves cooperation among countries, international organizations, and other global entities. This involves not just the adaptation of public health principles to global health problems, but also a focus on the complex interplay of factors that contribute to health disparities worldwide, such as globalization, economic policies, and social inequities.

In summary, while both public health and global public health aim to improve health and prevent disease, the scope and scale of their efforts differ significantly. Public health primarily concerns itself with local or national communities, concentrating on tailored interventions that suit specific populations. Global public health, however, operates on a broader, international scale, focusing on cross-border health issues and global health disparities, often requiring multi-country collaboration and systemic approaches to problem-solving.

global public health
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