When it comes to the well-being of the overall population, community and public health are both vital areas to consider. However, how the community rallies around its members and how it bands together in times of crisis are not the only kinds of issues that have to be looked at. Those are important, but it is the day-to-day workings of a community that provide more indication as to how it treats the population and whether an overall sense of well-being can be expected. How that same community responds to public health issues is also worthy of consideration. If a community does not take public health seriously, that could be very disastrous for the overall population. Sickness can spread quickly when people are not taking care of themselves and one another.
It also spreads when the people in a community are not focused on the severity of the issues they face where public health is concerned. This can include trash that does not get cleaned up, a lack of health clinics, and general decay of buildings and the way people treat one another in a community. In order to facilitate the well-being of any population, there are two areas that have to work together: the community at large and organizations that provide public health solutions. By working together to bring about change and encourage health and wellness, as well as safety, cleanliness, and security, it is possible to greatly improve the overall well-being of a given population. That can benefit a community in the present, and also provide hope for the future. Without hope, there is very little for some of the most underprivileged in communities to cling to.
The Role of the Community
The community has its own role to play when it comes to the well-being of the population. It is easy for people in a community to look the other way when there are problems, or assume that someone else will take care of things. (Barzilai, 2003) Unfortunately, that only results in the majority of people waiting for something to happen, while very few attempt to make a change for the better for everyone. That does not mean the people trying to make the change will not be successful, but more could be accomplished if more people were involved in the work. In other words, if more people focused on making a difference in their communities, those communities would accomplish more. That includes in the area of public health and well-being. An entire community that relies on just a few people to keep it running is not going to get very far very fast (Cohen, 1985).
There are a number of things a community can do in order to make sure the well-being of the population is considered. For example, community action programs are very important ways to clean up an area and get the word out about health clinics where people without insurance can get assistance (Long & Perkins, 2003). They also help to make people aware other places that can help them like food banks, shelters, and churches. Too many people in a community do not get the help they need because they do not know it is available to them. They languish, not because of a lack of services but because of a lack of awareness about those services (Chipuer & Pretty, 1999). Rather than be part of the problem, community members can start becoming part of the solution by helping the others in their community lead better, healthier lives. Making people knowledgeable about the services that are available in their community is one of the first steps toward getting help and hope for a larger number of people (Barzilai, 2003; Chipuer & Pretty, 1999).
The Role of Public Health and Health Care Organizations
Public health and other health care organizations have a duty to the community they serve (Turnock, 2009). These organizations can play a strong role in the well-being of a population, but only if they are proactive and get the word out that they can and will help. Until a population has been reached by health care organizations and public health entities, those types of businesses are mostly an afterthought in the minds of a majority of people. Because of that, it is vital that public health agencies -- such as the local health department -- make themselves known to the population they serve. This can be done through community programs, through flyers, through the internet, and through a number of other means that will ensure the population knows where they can turn when they need assistance (Garrett, 2000).
Health care organizations can help the public health agencies reach out to the community by providing flyers and other information in their offices. Doctors offices and hospitals are excellent places for printed information about the health department, which can be given to patients and also made available in the waiting room and other areas where patients and their families will spend time, including the exam rooms and at the front desk. These organizations can also be proactive in making sure people understand the value of preventative care, which will go a long way toward keeping the well-being of the community as strong as possible (Heggenhougen & Quah, 2008; Turnock, 2009). The stronger a population's well-being, the better able it will be to ensure continued growth beyond just keeping the population at a base level of health. That is certainly better than nothing, but the goal is to get the population to thrive, not just survive.
Epidemiology and Community Health
Epidemiology is the study of disease. Those who work in this field attempt to determine what a disease is, what causes it, and how it is spread, along with how it can be stopped or at least reduced in scope (Turnock, 2009). That plays a large role in community health, because a big part of keeping a population healthy is reducing disease and keeping outbreaks of disease to a minimum (Heggenhougen & Quah, 2008; Turnock, 2009). The more the community knows about particular diseases and how to prevent them, the more the people in that community can work to stay healthy (Barzilai, 2003). This is also true for the treatment of diseases, as it is nearly impossible to keep all of disease out of a community. Because that is the case, it is necessary to provide adequate treatment information along with prevention information. To do otherwise would leave a population vulnerable and at risk for a disease for which they would otherwise have been able to mitigate the spread (Barzilai, 2003).
Community Agencies and Cultural Diversity
One of the biggest problems with community agencies and what they are able to offer to various populations is the issue of cultural diversity. More countries are becoming more culturally diverse today, and that is a trend that looks as though it will continue for the foreseeable future. While there are many advantages to a more diverse cultural mix, it does create some difficulties for community agencies that want to help others (Barzilai, 2003). If those agencies do not understand the language and the culture, working with populations full of diversity can be very difficult. It is not just about being able to speak the same language. That is only the first barrier that has to be addressed. The largest barrier to be broken through is the barrier between one culture and another (Barzilai, 2003; Long & Perkins, 2003). This holds all the differences and unique subtleties that each culture contains, and until it is torn down there will always be that distance between those who need help and those who are trying to offer that help (Barzilai, 2003).
This is well worth considering when it comes to community agencies, because they may see a number of different cultures come through their door. They also have to realize that some cultures are less likely to seek out help, so they will need to go out into the population and determine who needs help before any can be provided (Garrett, 2000). This can be done through the use of advocates, but there are still some people who will not be reached -- unless others in the community let the agency know that someone is in need of assistance. In that way it becomes the community's "job" to help out those in it who are struggling. Help can cross any cultural barrier, but it has to be done in the right way at the right time, or it is much more likely to be refused in the long run (Turnock, 2009).
The Organizational Structure of Public Health
The structure that public health has as an organization is part of the problem when it comes to a lack of help in a community (Heggenhougen & Quah, 2008). Public health is generally bureaucratic, and that can keep a population from getting what it needs from a health department or other type of public service (Turnock, 2009). The…