The introduction of Public Health agencies and associations facilitated major improvements to the health of the American people through the years. The health care needs of the nation dictated changes to these agencies and associations as the nation grew and new diseases, viruses, and bacteria emerged. Public health professionals focus on national, state, and county level of research, data analysis, and provide recommendations for health promotion. Community health professionals bring the information and recommendations identified by the public health professionals to the communities.
This paper will focus on the history and development of Public Health and compare the differences and similarities between public and community health agencies. History and Development of Public Health Before the twentieth century few formal public health officials existed, often a member of the upper class filled the role. The growth of public health organizations initially started in the quickly growing port cities along the east coast during the late 1800s. People entering from all over the world raised concern for catastrophic diseases entering the country.
Louisiana was the first state to initiate a state board of health in 1855 and by the1880s most states in the union had formed their own boards. Ten health reformers met in New York City in 1872 and created of the American Public Health Association (APHA). The main goal of the APHA is “to protect all Americans, their families, and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventative health services are universally accessible in the Unite States” (American Public Health Association, 2011).
In 1798, the United States Congress had passed the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen to finance the construction and operation of public hospitals in port cities” (Scutchfield & Keck, 2009, p. 15), and this was the origin of the Marine Hospital Service. In 1871, John Maynard Woodward was appointed the Supervising Surgeon of the Marine Hospital Service. In 1879, yellow fever spread up the Mississippi Valley beginning in New Orleans, the devastation this caused lead to the creation of the National Board of Health.
The National Board of Health tried to regulate quarantine laws between the states; this caused discontent with the states, as quarantine laws were valuable financially and politically. In 1883, the National Board of Health was terminated and the board powers went back to the Marine Hospital Service. “In 1912, the Marine Hospital Service became the United States Public Health Service, specifically authorized to investigate the causes and spread of disease and to provide health information to the public” (Scutchfield & Keck, 2009, p. 5).
Between the 1930s and 1944 the United States Public Health Services added engineers, dentists, research scientists, nurses, and other health care specialists to their arsenal. The United States Public Health Service continues today as the U. S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps with the mission of protecting and promoting the public health of the Nation and globally to prevent disease, sickness, and suffering (U. S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, 2011).
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) operates under the Department of Health and Human Services. Beginning July 1, 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center the initial focus was controlling Malaria in war areas. The last six decades have seen the CDC grow and include more responsibility to its program. “Today, CDC is the nation’s premier health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency and a global leader in public health” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010).
The CDC’s mission “is to collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health – through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). The CDC collaborates with the states and health care administration around the country and abroad to maintain a surveillance system to thwart disease occurrences.
County, State, and National Public Health Resources The goal of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services is to provide protection of citizen’s health, and to provide services to the needy. Separate agencies focus care on individual needs, such as wellness (family planning, child health, newborn services), safety (abuse & neglect, domestic violence, food protection), disease education (asthma, diabetes, HIV, hepatitis), and support services (behavioral health, childcare, child support, Medicaid).
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS) is the largest agency in New Hampshire state government, responsible for the health, safety, and well being of the citizens of New Hampshire” (NH DHHS, 2011). New Hampshire DHHS provides services to individuals, children, families, and seniors with programs and services for residents with mental health, developmental disability, substance abuse, and public health. Each county has one or two offices. The Food Stamp Program helps residents meet nutritional needs by providing benefits to buy food at local grocery stores.
Food Stamp benefits cover items like milk, meat, fish, eggs, rice, pasta, and infant formula. The Division of Child Support Services provides support to ensure every child in NH has financial and medical support from both parents. The Governor’s Commission on Disability assists residents who cannot continue working through providing resources from Social Security and Medicare or Medicaid. The Bureau of Behavioral health promotes “respect, recovery, and full community inclusion for adults, including older adults, who experience a mental illness and children with an emotional disturbance” (NH DHHS, 2011).
Public Health Public health nurses focus care on “the community or population as a whole; raising questions about its overall health status, and associated factors” (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008, p. 14). Public health nurses come from a wide variety of specialties or may be credentialed in public health specifically. Some of the programs public health nurses focus on includes obesity, emergency preparedness, and chemical exposure prevention. Public health nurses work in schools, the workplace, and local government. Community Health
Community health is “the synthesis of nursing theory and public health theory applied to promoting, preserving, and maintaining the health of populations through the delivery of personal health care services to individuals and groups” (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008, p. 16). These nurses work in government and private agencies focusing on improving the health of the communities. They provide education about health and disease prevention, nutrition, and childcare. Community health nurses work closely with health care organizations. An example of community health nursing is nurses who work for Community Health Centers or Parish nurses.
Conclusion Public and Community Health Associations have improved and extended the quality of life of American citizens since their inception during the 1800s. Many changes occurred through the early years, and changes will likely continue into the future as the needs of the American people change. Public Health and Community Health are similar in that they each focus on the needs of the people; however, Public Health focuses on the larger scale of the needs of the people of the nation, and Community Health uses the information Public Health extrapolates and tailors the information to the needs of their community.