Years ago, a younger me had a narrow vision about public health - I imagined it to be about vaccines, antibiotics, and sterile hospitals. Picture a lad (that'd be me) with a Dalmatian constantly trying to play fetch, even when so engrossed in a public health textbook. I'd throw a bone for my pooch Polka all the while trying to decode the language of diseases and epidemics.
Fast forward to today, and I can tell you that public health isn't just a medical concern. Surrounded by my daughter Ebba's toys, strange, plastic multi-coloured unicorns, and mysterious miniature figurines, I realize it's interdisciplinary. It connects a multitude of areas, such as environmental sciences, policy development, social issues, and yes, despite Ebba's queries about if public health has to do with "Frozen" somehow, it indeed does not link to Disney characters, as far as I'm aware.
Public health is a complex and interconnected network of systems. Most readers might connect health to just the "human" entity, but hey, don't forget we are starkly connected to our environments. We eat from the earth, breathe the air, and swim in the waters. It’s not just about the biological viruses or bacteria that might invade us; it's about the air we breathe, the stinging sunshine on our skin, and hell, even what we believe and think has a health impact. The future of public health will recognise these interconnected systems more visibly than now, and boy, am I excited for it!
Imagine going out for a walk with Polka and having to suit her up in full UV radiation gear since regular sun exposure isn't safe anymore. Scary, right? Climate change is becoming a relevant factor in public health. Increased UV radiation, mosquito-borne diseases in previously safe areas, heatstroke cases, and even malnutrition from disrupted agriculture patterns are ongoing realities. The playground that Ebba loves might have to shift indoors if it's too hot, humid, or mosquito-infested.
Demographic transitions, basically people getting older or younger, in different places mean different health needs. We might still need vaccines and antibiotics, but the context changes. We now also need to focus on non-communicable diseases, mental health concerns, age-related issues, and lifestyle diseases which are increasingly popping up in our world. My generation is projected to live longer; longevity isn't just about living, it's about living healthily, retaining mobility, freedom, and cognitive function. Isn’t that fun?
Health equity is and will continue to be a major concern in the future. Imagine if all our kids like Ebba had equal access to healthcare, nutritious food, and educational opportunities. Imagine the world, how much healthier, smarter and kinder it could be. We need to work towards better access, affordability, and quality delivery of health services, leaving nobody behind. Yeah, I'm getting a bit philosophical here, but isn’t it a good dream?
I kid around with Ebba that she can spend all my money on candy (yeah, I know, not the healthiest option), but I also tell her the importance of saving up for a rainy day! Think about the candy as our health. As we have insurance for our cars, our homes, why not our health? Sounds simple, but it's not. It's a future necessity, though. Universal health coverage, not just for the privileged but for every individual, is a public health dream that we need to turn into reality.
Imagine consulting with your doctor over a video call while sipping your morning coffee or having a mobile app remind you to take your medication on time. Seems too sci-fi? Well, it's not, it's our tomorrow. Digital health or e-Health has been making waves and will continue to shape our health in years to come. Now, if only I could find an app to keep track of where Ebba hides her toys, that'd be great.
In conclusion, just like trying to find Ebba's hidden toys in the most unexpected of places (yes, I found one in the oven), predicting the future of public health is both daunting and exciting. It has several facets, some known and acknowledged, and others waiting to be discovered. Like the health of a body, public health is a sum of many parts, some seen and some hidden that need our full attention. In the words of my jolly polka-dotted friend, Polka, ‘Woof woof’, which in my world somehow signifies progress and hope.