What is Public Health?
The State of Kansas has a decentralized public health system consisting of the state health department, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and 100 local health departments serving all 105 counties in Kansas. Under Kansas law, health departments report to the local Board of Health, which in most cases is comprised of the local County Commission.
Public Health focuses on prevention which has led to the global eradication of smallpox, is close to doing the same with polio, and has greatly reduced the burden of other diseases such as measles, mumps, pertussis and diphtheria.
Public Health also includes environmental health, where such efforts have largely broken the chain of transmission for diseases such as cholera, malaria, and typhoid fever and reduced the burden of lead in our children and second hand smoke exposure for all Kansans.
Local public health departments focus on improving health outcomes for all by providing services such as immunizations, nutrition assistance for pregnant and nursing mothers and their young children, disease investigation and surveillance, emergency preparedness, home health, and enforcement of state and local public health laws.
Local public health departments across Kansas are increasingly working with their communities to reduce chronic disease. It’s no exaggeration to call growing rates of chronic disease an epidemic. According tothe Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report “For the Public’s Health: Investing in a Healthier Future,” over half of the U. S. population has one or more chronic health conditions. The same report estimated that “indirect costs associated with preventable chronic diseases are over $1 trillion a year.”
What drives chronic disease and why should we care?
An important place to start is addressing the behaviors that drive chronic disease. Three behaviors--physical inactivity, poor diet, and tobacco use—are key risk factors for four diseases—cancers, Type 2 diabetes,respiratory diseases, and heart disease—these diseases are responsible for more than 50 percent of all deaths. In the United States, 96% of Medicare costs, 83%of Medicaid costs, and 75% of all healthcare costs are attributable to chronic diseases.
Institute of Medicine Report for the Public’s Health:Investing in a Healthier Future, 2012, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Power to Prevent, the Call to Control: At A Glance 2009 (2009) Accessed at http:www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/chronic.htm
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