What is Public Health to me as a student?

Public Health (PH) is a journey that we take as a population towards the perfect state of health. It is like looking at health as a big project that has to be undertaken by a team of professionals. Creating good health for the population can be compared to building a city wherein there are many processes that go into it. These processes represent the disciplines in PH like epidemiology, health economics, health system strengthening, communicable disease control and prevention of non-communicable diseases, environmental health, biostatistics etc.

Being a registrar in Public Health Medicine (PHM) made me view things differently. A clinician focuses on the interests of the patient in front of her/him, while as a PHM specialist in the making, I have to look at the community as my primary focus. The main focus in PH is to prevent illness while maintaining a healthy population as opposed to treating a sick patient. Though the effects of PH interventions take long to be recognised, they have a substantial impact on people’s health and quality of life.

There are no assumptions in PH (as assumption is regarded as the lowest form of knowledge), but decisions are based on factual information. Thus the first step in PH is to ascertain if there is a problem, then measure the extent of the problem and its effects before coming up with appropriate interventions. PHM is the only specialty that produces professionals that function in different sub-disciplines without super-specializing. This means that even though as colleagues we are taught the same things, one has the freedom of identifying his or her area of interest and harnessing it.

To answer the question posed to me – What is PH to me as a student? – I would like to say that PH  is the most important part of medicine that is ignored. It is the answer to most of the healthcare problems we are facing as a country and as a continent; it can assist us in dealing with health concerns in a cost-effective manner. If as a country we could embrace the concepts of PH and use them to solve the country’s health problems we would have won the war against poor health outcomes.

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