Public health crises. Public health concerns. Public health disaster.
You've definitely heard these terms when talking about things like drug abuse, communicable diseases, and even violence. There's no shortage of public health problems even in our modern days.
Clinical health programs. Clinical health services. Clinical health institutions.
You've heard these terms when talking about things like community projects and education. There's no shortage of clinical health initiatives all over the world.
Students and medical professionals alike need to know these two terms: public health and clinical health. So, what's the difference? Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Public Health?
Public health is about the population's health as a whole. That's why widespread, escalating, and serious health issues are considered public health crises.
Public Health Crises in Different Times
These crises change from decade to decade. They're especially important when they're new and unknown. For example, scarlet fever was a devastating public health crisis in 19th century Europe.
Overpopulation, overcrowding, and poor hygiene in industrious cities led to the outbreak of scarlet fever. It seemingly could not be contained and killed up to 30% of the infected.
Scarlet fever still exists today. It's the same bacteria that power strep throat. But we don't consider strep throat to be deadly, do we?
That's because we've developed treatments and preventative measures against the disease. While it still exists, it's no longer a pressing public health issue.
But while medicine and technology advance, so do diseases. There will always be new public health concerns in every age. For example, one that is quite serious now that wasn't back in the 19th century: mental health.
Of course, mental health issues existed in the 1800s. But they weren't widely studied, understood, and treated. Nowadays, we're very aware of mental health disorders and their effects.
Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychoses, and dementia are well-known now. They are certainly our day's plague or scarlet fever because there's still so much we don't know about them!
Public Health Crises in Different Places
The "most serious" public health concerns vary from country to country, even state to state. It's amazing that we live in the 21st century, many places are considered "first-world," and yet our health problems vary so widely!
In the U.S., the top ten most important health problems are:
- Alcohol-related harms
- Food safety
- Healthcare-associated infections
- Heart disease and stroke
- Motor vehicle injury
- Nutrition, physical activity, obesity
- Prescription drug overdose
- Teen pregnancy
- Tobacco use
Notice that mental health disorders didn't make the list. That doesn't mean they're not a huge problem and public health crisis.
That simply means the Center for Disease Control, who wrote and published this list, didn't determine mental health to be in the top ten (although they did include it on their broader list.)
Nutrition, physical activity, and obesity are listed as one because they all revolve around each other. Poor nutrition, poor physical activity, and obesity can also lead to lifelong diseases, like diabetes. If you have diabetes, there are proper ways to manage it.
But these same ten concerns might not be the top ten in another country, like Africa. In Africa, the top public health issue is the lack of clean water.
Public health is about the health of the population as a whole, not specific cases or specific treatments. This is how it's different from clinical health.
What Is Clinical Health?
While clinical and public health are related, they differ in what they deal with. Clinical health is about individuals, not populations. Clinical health deals with individual diagnoses, treatments, and procedures.
Your family doctor, a labor and delivery nurse, and your dentist are all clinical health professionals. They don't research an entire population to find a cure, a vaccine, or set up humanitarian efforts.
You visit them in their office and they treat your specific case. That is the root of clinical health: individual attention and individual treatment.
So the main clinical health issues of today are different than the main public health issues, although they can be the same and are usually related.
Clinical Health in the U.S.
The U.S. has a specific set of health problems that are unique to being first-world problems and being affluent. The top ten clinical health concerns in the U.S. are as follows, in order:
- Hypertension, which is high blood pressure. This can result from things like obesity and smoking, which are certainly first world problems. Look into these four tips for regulating your blood pressure!
- Depression. This can be classified as another "first world problem" because, in any country, urgent physical needs take precedence over mental health needs. In the U.S., we have the ability to focus on mental health because we can usually meet basic human needs, like clean drinking water.
- High cholesterol, another condition affected by diet and physical activity.
- Coronary artery disease, another condition affected by diet and physical activity.
- Type 2 Diabetes, yet another condition affected by diet and physical activity.
- Substance abuse, which over 19 million Americans suffer from every year.
- Alcohol abuse. Did you know that alcohol abuse is actually considered a brain disease? Characterized by compulsive use, relapses, and lack of self-control.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), which is severe damage to the lungs usually caused by smoking.
- Psychotic disorders. Mental health made this list! This doesn't include depression or anxiety, but conditions like schizophrenia and PTSD. Things that alter one's sense of reality.
- Crohn's disease. Did you have any idea that Crohn's disease was so prevalent? It causes painful and often fatal issues in the intestines and affects around three million Americans every year.
Clinical health is all about identifying and treating these health problems. That includes education to promote prevention! The goal is to stop any of these clinical health issues from becoming widespread, devastating public health crises.
Public Health vs. Clinical Health
Public health and clinical health are similar in that they deal with humans and well-being. They're different in how they deal with it and how they look at it. Public health is about populations, clinical health is about individuals.
A career in either field is admirable and extremely needed, around the world! Contact us with questions, inquiries, or for information about how we benefit the medical community and how we can benefit you!