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Public Health

Public health is concerned with the health and well-being of the whole community rather than the treatment of illness and disability. Health is viewed as resource for everyday living, and in turn is influenced by the everyday environment that we are part of. Studies have repeatedly shown that the broad determinants of health such as level of income, social status, education, employment opportunities, work place environment, physical environment, and family/friend supports have as much or more to do about influencing health than does the presence of health care practitioners and facilities. This is not to say health care is not important, rather it is intended to make the point that the availability of health care is only one piece of having good health.

Public health focuses on three areas: preventing conditions that may put health at risk (health protection), early detection of health problems (screening), and changing peoples and societies attitudes and practices regarding lifestyle choices (health promotion).

Health protection works particularly in the areas of food and water safety environmental risks such as toxic waste handling and air pollution, second-hand smoke, public sanitation, spread of rabies. vaccinations against major communicable diseases, and mandatory tuberculosis screening of immigrants to Canada.

The screening programs are aimed at specific groups where the early detection of an illness of problem can lead to significant improvements in health. Examples of this are the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program, school-age dental exams and breast and cervical screening for cancer.

The health promotion programs include the provision and education around tobacco use, nutrition, physical activity, injury prevention, birth control and reproductive health, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and breastfeeding.

Public health delivers its programs and services on a population health approach. This means that programs are targeted at either the public as a whole e.g. physical activity, dangers of second-hand smoke, or targeted sub-groups of the population such as expectant mothers (pre-natal health), high school students (drinking and driving), or women between the ages of 50-70 (breast cancer screening). Public health practitioners also aim to influence politicians and policy writers at all levels, to consider the health implications of proposed policies.

For more information
Call the ministry INFOline at 1-866-532-3161
(Toll-free in Ontario only)
TTY 1-800-387-5559
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm
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