Public health definition
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “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.”
The overall goal is to use these different tools to protect the health of everyone within a target population. It involves recommendations and regulations to keep the overall health of a population sound, despite dangers or diseases that may arise.
Community health definition
The American Hospital Association defines community health as a collection of “non-clinical approaches for improving health, preventing disease and reducing health disparities through addressing social, behavioral, environmental, economic and medical determinants of health in a geographically defined population.”
Community health experts identify related factors (known as social determinants) that keep communities and specific groups within the wider population from getting effective healthcare and experiencing overall wellness. These factors can include variables like race, nationality, language, economic status, age and location. These factors are accounted for in the design of community health programs.
The difference between public health and community health
The primary difference between community and public health is scope. Public health has a much broader focus — both in terms of the number of factors it considers and the size of the target populations. As mentioned, public health efforts, such as disease prevention, involve an entire state, region or country. Community health, as its name suggests, typically focuses on concentrated areas, with many efforts occurring at the city or neighborhood level.
In other words, community health is a non-clinical, localized subspecialty within the wider field of public health.
Example: Public health approach
An example of the scope of public health is the CDC’s effort to enact and enforce vaccination requirements. These are state or national requirements meant to stop the spread of diseases such as hepatitis, measles and mumps. Most states require that children receive vaccinations before attending school. Meanwhile, those who work directly with vulnerable populations need annual influenza vaccines.
These examples show the scope of public health. Immunization efforts might focus on a particular state but be based on national guidelines meant to stop the spread of preventable diseases. Though these immunization efforts typically involve aspects of community health, such as ensuring people in a localized area have access to and proper information about vaccinations, the overall focus is on protecting people in the entire state.
Example: Community health approach
An example of a community health project is a local health needs assessment. This includes research about disparities and gaps in healthcare access. Community health workers might use meetings and focus groups to get feedback from local communities about issues that keep people from accessing local health services, such as a lack of transportation options or education. With this information, public health agencies can create community health programs that address any shortcomings or disparities.
Jobs in public health
From a general perspective, public health careers may involve research, communication and outreach, and planning and technology. The following are just several of the many career options:
- Epidemiologists* study the spread of diseases and patterns of transmission to stop them from affecting the public and to plan responses to current and future outbreaks.
- Medical scientists* study diseases and health issues that impact communities and find treatments, vaccines and preventive measures.
- Communication and public relations specialists craft messages to explain healthcare issues and spur the population to take preventive measures, get vaccinations and engage in behaviors that protect their health.
- Health policy analysts* study rules and laws related to healthcare and offer advice about new policies and legislation to improve overall public health.
These jobs require an educational background in either public health-related studies or healthcare.
*University of Phoenix does not educationally prepare for these career outcomes.
Skills needed for public health jobs
The skills necessary for public health jobs vary by specialty but often include the following:
● Research abilities are essential in many public health jobs. Professionals need to build upon current knowledge and find out which steps and policy changes worked in similar circumstances or populations.
● Communication skills are necessary for public health professionals to accurately and convincingly explain why certain actions or behaviors are necessary. Communication is also needed when engaging with community stakeholders.
● Data analysis is required for describing and assessing community health status.
Master’s degree programs, such as a master’s in public health, can help students develop more helpful skills and knowledge they can apply in public health professions.