The main role of public health in the 21st Century will be to protect us from various diseases or life threatening conditions deriving from: climate change; emerging diseases; bioterrorism; racism; stigma; prejudice; and political dilemmas. Public health practitioners of the 21st Century must be in position to understand the complexities of cultural diversity, e.g.,different generational, economic, professional, ethnic, religious, linguistic background, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, stereotypes, prejudices, physical status, conscious bias, unconscious bias, structural bias, enjoyment of access to resources, access to opportunities, access to options, safety from violence, affordability of housing, civil rights, access to food, access to jobs, opportunities for job trainings, access to recreation and readiness to be a compassionate provider. Many clients and communities face bias and discrimination when they attempt to access health and social services and , as a result, receive fewer services and services of poorer quality (Berthold, T. 2009). In order to provide public health services, government has concrete plans such as enacting laws, enforce laws, provide financial support and oversight to ensure promotion of health, prevention of diseases and instituting a preparedness mechanism.The most important new or expanded roles for public health occupations in the 21st century will include:
1. Strengthening the public health activities framework that is interlinked by a network of federal, state and local public health agencies with emphasis on referral mechanisms and oversight processes.
2. Ensure a reporting mechanism that dovetails into the overarching design where: the contribution of USA to international health-related interventions continues; the legal foundation gives gives primacy for health concerns to states; allows the federal government to promote consistency and minimum standards across the 50 diverse states; and a practical foundation of LHDs serving as the point of contact between communities and the three-tiered government.
3. Shifting mobilization tasks to advocacy entities at community level as a means of having a pulse on changing needs, resource needs and meeting public expectations.
4. Investing in early warning mechanisms for threats from fires to bio-terrorism. There will be need to have a contingency for fire hazards now that the globe is getting warmer. This will mean wildfire-prone geographical zones like Mid-Western and California will have more established fire departments. The quarantine points at border entry points, airports and ports need to be strengthened now that there is more likelihood for bioterrorism, hostility and acts of sabotage against the U.S. or any other nation by terrorists and enemies (www.nytimes.com).
5. Public health practitioners reaching out to the indigent or marginalized. This will rely on the work of local health agencies. These will in turn report to second tier government levels and different organizations that form the backbone through which the power to protect the public’s health is possible.
6. Providing training and promoting competencies for public health professionals in the 21st century mostly in these areas: conducting essential public health services; legislation; regulation; policies; and the ability to negotiate, justify public funding for many public health initiatives. For public health to be perceived, such essential services as are relevant: monitoring the health status of the population; diagnosing and investigating problems deemed hazardous to the public’s health; educating the population on health issues; mobilizing communities to act on their own health issues; developing policies; enforcing laws and regulations that protect the public; linking people to health services; ensuring a competent health care workforce; evaluating the effectiveness, access and quality of health services and researching to continue progress and innovation in healthcare (Turnock, B. J. (2016). Essentials of public health (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett).
7. Use of Technology, which will enable complex research to be translated into action in a faster and flexible way. Technology can be used in many other forms as well. One way is establishing a centralized health management information templates that can be used to report for instance compliances to the Healthy 2020 vision and mission. Events in which equity and equality are addressed can be captured at local, state, regional and federal levels. Racial biases are shown to be a part of the social structure of medical practices at both macro and micro levels (Centre for excellence in health care journalism). Use of web-based platforms to share information can help improve on coverage of what works and who is served. Public health will be a means for America to deal with the hot topics that focus on: race, culture, ethnicity, lifestyle, health status and health care in America. This might be the great quest of technology as well. Through technology it will be possible to level the health care playing field. Socioeconomics, individual racism, and institutional racism that represent the three predominant pathways to differential treatment for diseases will be targeted and redress provided. Reporting mechanisms will provide common indicators used to gauge quality of life for women and men irrespective of their gender, sexuality, race and social status. Compiling reports into a format that can be disseminated to all concerned is another good use of print technology and the world-wide web. In this format the media can be relied upon to make information available or the applicability of the information by society in form of case reports/studies or any format that is reliable for dissemination. However, newsprint, radio and TV tend to tap into our anxieties focusing on trivia. “The CDC has had to contend with bogus reports of imported banana carrying flesh-eating bacteria, drug addicts placing HIV-infected needles in pay coin-return boxes, virus soaked sponges arriving with the mail,” (Drexler, M. 2010).
8. Understanding the need for post trauma stress counseling and care arising from the link between terrorism, massacres and resultant traumas, e.g., counseling after separation from loved ones, death and shock, care after post traumatic stress disease (PTSD), homelessness following destruction of homes or infrastructure and other needs. A global nightmare envelopes the world every time wars, genocides and terrorist attacks occur anywhere in the world. The rallying call that brings together nations ready to do rescue activities is to profess solidarity with the suffering nations. Rescue efforts are made by nations. This was seen after September 11, 2001, in UK, in Uganda, in Tanzania, in Kenya and most recently in the 10th district of Paris where the most recent attacks have occurred. The San Francisco editorial has this to say, “France’s loss is our loss. Its grief is our grief. And its fight to counter the forces of inhumanity is our fight” (San Francisco Chronicle, Editorial, November 14th, 2015).
9. The effects of political pronouncements such as the recent debate on mass deportations sends trauma shocks to those who are not documented yet they many have lived in USA all their life and some are employed. These people may end up not attending social services for fear of being hounded and put on hot lists.
10. Establishing a structure of international partnership to deal with climate change, neglect, poverty and famine at a global level which in turn make humans and in some cases livestock vulnerable to influenza, Legionnaires’ disease, Lyme disease, toxic shock syndrome, E. Coli 0157:H7, STDs, Ebola virus, AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1 influenza (Drexler, M. 2010).
11. Understanding the increasing relation of chronic low-level inflammation, wide range of common debilitating disorders, stealth infections, deadly sepsis, how to balance use of antibiotics and inflammatory-quashing steroids. Research findings recommend Mediterranean style diet for those suffering from inflammatory disorders (Sachs J.S., 2007).
In the 21st Century, stigma discrimination, bias and prejudice will be the issues that need addressing. This in turn will clear the way for addressing neglect, poverty and famine. In situations where equality, respect and dignity are promoted, proper protection of life and ensuring individual well-being will be achievable.
1. Berthold, T. 2009. Foundations For Community Health Workers. San Francisco, MA: Jossey-Bass.
Centre For Excellence in Health Care Journalism. 2006.
2. Drexler M., 2010. Emerging Epidemics: The Menace of New Infections: H1N1 Flu, SARS, Anthrax, E.Coli.Penguin Books.
4. Sachs, J.S. 2007. Good germs,Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.
6. Turnock, B. J. 2016. Essentials of public health (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett.