An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Public Health

Preventative care is what drew me into the field of public health. Instead of treating disease, why not take steps to take care of yourself before it’s too late. Prevent trips to the hospital, prevent disease, prevent illness. What are some measures you currently take to ensure you and your family live a healthy life?

As my graduate school professor used to say, there is a public health impact in everything. My town built a street designed to be a thoroughfare between two business districts, in lieu of the existing green space and walking path. It caused quite an uproar years ago and the village has since tried to redeem itself by creating additional pedestrian paths and such. Creating the street added traffic, and the parking meters and lots of course contributed to increasing revenue. Consider the public health implication of farmed vs wild caught fish.

Farmed fish is laden with chemicals, mercury and the fish are fatter as they don’t have the space to be free as opposed to wild caught fish which have more omegas, sometimes as much mercury and are 3-4 times more expensive. Check out this great article by Rodale for more information. Ultimately people have to be comfortable in the decision they make when determining what type of fish to consume. Making these decisions, however, implores one to be informed.

Once you develop the mindset that there is a public health implication in everything we do, you begin to think more consciously about your actions and are more mindful about your impact. The connection between public health and preventative care becomes is blatant, and you can begin to see if from whatever lens you are wearing, be it parent, teacher, chef or physician.

Uninformed people don’t change

Here’s a sampling of various disciplines and how you can appreciate public health and take part in your own preventative health from those lenses. This reminds me of the way I first learned about public health vis a vis the social justice theory which one of my grad school professors, Dr. Bernard Turnock, is very well known for discussing. It implies that everyone in society has a fair share of burdens and benefits and that everyone be educated about health and illness. This is why I believe in the interdisciplinary approach to public health as it involves all aspects of a society.

Appreciate public health…

As a scientist. You need to understand your genetic makeup. Do you have a predisposition to heart disease? Do you have a history of diabetes? Also, understand how artificial and synthetic products are created. Soy protein isolate, for example, sounds great, it’s ‘soy’, but it’s a synthetic by-product created from soy and has little resembles to its original, healthy form. If you aspire to eat lean, clean and green you can avoid most of the synthetic junk that finds its way into common foods. It may be an adjustment, but completely possible. Beyond genetics and food is epidemiology and the etiology of disease. Understanding how diseases are formed and spread are critical to staying healthy.

As an accountant / entrepreneur. Learn how to budget and live within your means. Retail therapy, excess spending, and falling into debt are tickets to financial hell. Many people complain that eating healthy is costly, yet have no problem purchasing the latest TVs or personal electronics. Eating organic can be expensive so maybe pick the top 3-5 food items your household consumes the most and purchase those products in organic. Excess spending and living outside of your means induces stress which brings unwanted health risks.

As a lawyer / activist / politician. As my mom always told me, “Be an advocate for yourself.” Understand consumer law, understand how the FDA and USDA work. Understand how food is regulated and how the corn industry is monopolized by a few companies. (Join the fight against Monsanto). Understand your insurance policy, your rights as an insurance consumer. Does your employer reward you for maintaining your health during the year?

As a consumer. Ultimately we are all consumers. You’re reading this, you are consuming information. We consume products, ideas, food, concepts, and words. What are we putting out there in response? We are all part of a system that relies upon the strength of one another (until we get some new version of healthcare). Insurance premiums vary based on the health of your group. Cancer rates are high and communicable diseases are spreading.

What are you going to do about your public health?

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