Explore the factors impacting population well-being with our Masters in Public Health
During the Covid-19 pandemic it has become apparent that the health of a population is not only affected by a virus but also by the resources that are available and the disadvantaged, have the worst health outcomes (Marmot 2020). Whilst the world seems shocked by this, it is nothing new and the socioeconomic status of an individual has been at the forefront of health inequalities for more time than we care to imagine (Black 1980, Acheson 1998, Marmot 2010, Marmot 2020).
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Does an awareness, equate to action?
The World Health Organisation (2017) suggest that:
‘Health inequities are systematic differences in the health status of different population groups. These inequities have significant social and economic costs both to individuals and societies.’
In order to understand this, as public health professionals we ask you to undertake a task to understand where you live and what you know about the area. The reason for this is simple. Communities are suspicious of strangers and would you want a stranger who purports to be a health professional coming to where you live and telling you what to do? I suspect you would say no. Therefore, when trying to assist it is essential to understand the area.
Task 1 –
- What are the demographics of the people who live in my area?
- Is it predominantly young, old or is there a mix?
- What does my area look like?
Are there green spaces where it is safe to walk and children to play? Is there a lot of traffic?
- Do most people own their house or rent?
So here you are building a mental image of an area that you live in. Have you really paid attention to it? Are you seeing things differently now you are taking some time to look?
Task 2 –
- What facilities are available in your area?
Is there a gym? If so, could most of the people afford to join?
- Are there any day centres or clubs and who attends them?
- Is it mainly young people but you have a predominantly older population?
- How many schools or doctors do you have?
This is also called a health needs assessment. What you have completed above is only a small part of the assessment and you would look at many things and this is one of the first assessments you undertake in the Master of Public Health programme. It is important because not only does it allow you to know the community, it helps you to understand population needs, how health and social care is distributed and what is missing from this. It also enables you to understand the factors that affect and influence health behaviour, for example if you have a lot of take aways’ near you, you may not cook very often at home and therefore healthy eating is not occurring. Therefore the environment s influencing health behaviour. Health Needs Assessments can be carried out in different levels, from strategic to community focused and has a lot of stakeholders involved to ensure health needs are addressed (NHS Scotland 2019).
Reflecting upon the elements you have found in the previous two tasks. Is there anything that is obviously missing in your area?
Missing does not always mean needed – so rationalise this and think what is missing but what would improve the health and social wellbeing of the community? Think of two different improvements – you may have identified more.
Public health has a budget and therefore you are going to have to think about your ideas in relation to how much this costs and who will utilise the service. If you have service improvements rather than developing something completely new, you may be allowed both but you are now going to have to justify the choice of one of the two improvements. Can you do this?
How did this make you feel?
Every day, a public health practitioner will justify a health and wellbeing improvement in order to attain funding and implement changes. Was it easy to choose one thing over another idea?
If this task caught your attention, or if you want to lead, develop, and evaluate public health projects in a multi-disciplinary environment, our Master in Public Health online course is for you. It’s practical and ideal if you’re already working in public health.
Picture (c) University of Derby Online Learning.