Public health encompasses much more than domestic government policies and political debates. Most practitioners in the public health field are working on the front lines in order to keep all of humanity safe and healthy. Now more than ever, in order to protect humanity we must be able to save and sustain our entire planet. Public health workers are able to do this in many meaningful ways.

1. Getting to the root cause of disease

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the global population has witnessed firsthand the integral role of public health workers, namely the epidemiologist, in helping the planet. An epidemiologist studies everything there is to study when it comes to outbreaks of diseases; the causes, locations, affected communities, methods of slowing or stopping the spread, and ultimately how to prevent future outbreaks. They are critical players in keeping the public informed on how to maintain and improve public health.

According to reports, COVID-19 began in a wet market in Wuhan China when the virus spread from a bat to a human. We know this because of the work of epidemiologists. Many viruses and diseases are related to environmental exposures, such as wild animals like the bat in china, and even global warming. Permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years are melting due to climate change, and as those soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that humans of today carry no immunity for. Epidemiologists are critical when it comes to understanding these viruses and bacteria before they spread as illnesses through the human race.

2. Improve Global Health and Wellness

Many strides have been made by public health workers to eradicate diseases by improving medical treatments, improving living conditions in lower socio-economic populations, having better access to healthcare in remote and underdeveloped nations, and trying to minimize pollution and other harmful environmental factors that cause disease. Globally, 23% of all deaths are due to preventable environmental factors. Public health practitioners work tirelessly to lower this number.

Public health practitioners - COVID-19 Vaccination
Globally, 23% of all deaths are due to preventable environmental factors. Public health practitioners work tirelessly to lower this number. Photo: Wikimedia

3. Controlling ocean pollution

Much of what the public health field is responsible for, is to hold human beings accountable to quality waste management systems in order to avoid pollution and toxic contaminations. One of the biggest problems the world faces today is ocean pollution due to human activity. Currently, there is more plastic in our oceans than there are fish. Sea levels are rising, water temperature is increasing and pH levels are dropping, coral reefs are dying, marine species migrating.

All of this due to trash, chemicals, and oil spilling into our oceans.

Destroying our ocean water is not only unfortunate for our planet, but also has severe implications on the health, lives, and longevity of the human race, from ingesting microplastics to breathing polluted air, and even creating new fatal diseases. Those who serve in the public health field, monitor, manage and control ocean pollution, with the ultimate goal of eradicating it altogether for the sake of both our planet and the humans living on it.

4. Food Production and Environmental Sustainability

With a public health degree, one might work with researchers to determine how what we eat impacts not only our bodies but also the planet. A largely known offender of negative implications on both is the meat industry. More specifically, factory farms. In general, meat production is incredibly resource-intensive (land, crops, water, energy) and produces a huge amount of carbon dioxide-equivalent gases, much more than plant production or meat alternatives, and is, therefore, less sustainable.

Food-borne infection, such as salmonella or trichinosis, caused by ingesting food that is contaminated with bacteria, parasites, and viruses is also a much higher risk in meat-eaters. Public health workers may choose to enter this field by researching these and other implications, tracking and recalling compromised foods, and educating the public.

5. Geo Health

Geo health strives to understand the environment, location, climate, and time that can impact the health of human populations, and how we can use these findings to further progress the health and wellbeing of populations. In other words, it is about understanding the link between the health of the environment and that of the human race.

To do this, Geo Health combines Geographic Information Science (GIS) with public health sciences. GIS refers to the specific software that allows us to store, analyze and visualize spatial data. This scientific software proves to be incredibly useful for public health workers when it comes to tracking diseases, predicting patterns, analyzing contaminated areas, and mapping areas with low healthcare coverage rates, among other things.

All kinds of public health workers are undeniably crucial to the long and healthy lives of both, human beings and the planet. Some humbly serve the small scale, protecting our local businesses and communities. Some have the opportunity to serve the globe. With a Master’s in Public Health, one could be employed by or consult to government agencies, health agencies such as the National Institute of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and in doing so, use their degree to help the entire planet.

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