“The way we work in public health is, we make the best recommendations and decisions based on the best available data.”
Tom Frieden, Public Servant
Public Health Problems: Causes, Effects & Solutions
Public health issues can be defined as problems related to the overall health of our global population.
In contrast to healthcare, public health is not focused on single patients but rather on the health of whole populations.
There are several threats regarding public health to our nowadays society.
In the following, the causes, effects and solutions regarding the public health problems are examined.
Causes for Public Health Issues
- Low health standards
- Lack of fertile fields for agriculture
- Lack of contraceptives
- Vaccination refusal
- Excessive use of vehicles
- Excessive consumption
- Lack of education
- Political goals
- Industry goals
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy food
- Illegal drugs
Low health standards
One cause for public health issues is low healthcare standards in many countries. This problem is especially severe in third world countries which are usually quite poor and do not have advanced public healthcare infrastructures like in the Western world. If people get sick in those countries, they usually have to pay part of the whole treatment costs by themselves.
Many people are not able to afford those treatment costs and therefore may suffer from adverse consequential issues in the future or may even die from diseases.
Moreover, in many countries, not only health insurance is a big issue. Also, the quality of medical treatment itself is far from optimal. Many hospitals are overcrowded and have not enough stuff to deal with the number of people who urgently need treatment.
Some hospitals do not even have air conditioning which makes situations worse since if people suffer from high fever and there is no air condition, they may suffer from circulatory collapse. This is especially true for countries with high air temperature and high levels of moisture in the air.
Lack of fertile fields for agriculture
In many countries, there is a lack of fertile fields. Since farmers often have to rely on crop yields as their single source of income, a lack of fertility of their fields may threaten their livelihood.
Making things worse, this problem will likely be even more severe in the future. Due to climate change, average air temperature will increase over time.
This may lead to the problem of water scarcity. Areas that already currently suffer from water shortages will be quite helpless in the future and may be forced to leave their homes since they will no longer be able to harvest enough crops from their fields due to water shortages.
Lack of contraceptives
In some countries, there may also be a lack of contraceptives or at least a lack of understanding of how important contraceptives really are to regulate the number of children.
A lack of contraceptives not only leads to a high number of children per household which in turn may lead to poverty for each individual. It may also lead to a spread of serious diseases like HIV.
Many people, even in developed countries are still quite skeptic about the use of vaccines. They think that vaccines are either unnecessary or even harmful.
Therefore, many people refuse vaccines for their children. This behavior may harm their children through diseases and may also harm other people since children carrying diseases are likely to infect other people.
Excessive use of vehicles
Our excessive use of vehicles also contributes to public health issues. In the Western world, almost every household has at least one car. Some households even have two or more motor vehicles.
The use of motor vehicles which run by fossil fuels is quite harmful to our environment since it implies the emission of several harmful substances, including greenhouse gases which contribute to the global warming problem.
The use of motor vehicles also decreases the local air quality since the particulate matter issue is exacerbated.
Since the industrial revolution period, worldwide consumption levels skyrocketed. This is due to the fact that with the help of machines, we are now able to produce large quantities of goods with a low unit price.
This development of consumption behavior has severe economic downsides. In order to be able to meet the demand for material things, we have to extract large amounts of resources out of the ground.
This can lead to a depletion of resources. Moreover, in the production process, harmful gases like CO2 and methane are emitted into the earth, contributing to the global warming problem.
Global warming in turn can lead to the destruction of living spaces for many people and is also like to lead to water shortages and food scarcity.
Many people, especially in developing countries, suffer from extreme poverty. They are often not even able to afford basic items like enough food and drinks.
This in turn often leads to diseases since their immune system is weakened due to their poor living conditions and malnutrition.
Lack of education
A lack of education also contributes to several public health issues. The level of education significantly determines a person’s attitude towards life. This includes his or her consumption behavior as well as their social behavior.
A lack of education will likely lead to a state where people do not care at all about their environmental behavior since they simply do not comprehend how their daily actions affect our environmental system.
A lack of education also contributes to public health issues since uneducated people are likely to drink and smoke and therefore suffer from the adverse health effects regarding this behavior.
When it comes to public health issues, political goals are another important factor. In an ideal world, politicians should strive for the improvement of the life quality of people in their countries. However, in many countries, political goals and private goals diverge significantly.
There are countries where dictators try to keep people poor and uneducated in order to sustain their reign. Dictators know quite well that people may overthrow them if they have the opportunity to do so.
Thus, it is in a dictator’s interest to assure his reign, even if this means that most of the local population will have to suffer.
There is also a divergence between social and company goals. Since companies usually strive to maximize profits, this may come on the cost of our global society. For example, industries may strive to produce large quantities of goods in order to maximize their profits.
This also leads to large amounts of emissions and all kinds of other pollution. It also contributes to global warming. Our society will suffer from the adverse consequences of this profit-maximizing behavior, however, firms do not have an incentive to stop it.
Thus, if there is not enough regulation, industries are likely to impose negative externalities on the public which will in turn lead to severe public health issues.
Lack of exercise
In the last decades, we have seen a significant shift from physical to mental work. Since our daily life is centered around our jobs, many people sit in offices the whole day.
This change in working conditions is likely to lead to obesity and other health issues if people do not work in order to mitigate the related health problems. Thus, a lack of exercise and physical work may also lead to several public health issues.
Another factor that significantly contributes to public health issues is our attitude towards food. Many people consume large amounts of fast food and other unhealthy stuff.
This leads to obesity and may also shorten life expectancy since unhealthy food can also lead to heart attacks, strokes or other serious health issues.
Many people may not even be aware of the adverse effects which are implied through an unhealthy nutrition behavior. These people are at great risk for public health issues and also their children may suffer from adverse health consequences.
Bribing can also lead to public health issues. In many countries, politicians, police officers and other officials can be bribed in order to get building permissions or other amenities. This means that people with money may be able to influence political decisions in their favor.
On the flip side, this means that poor people may suffer even more since they are not able to influence the decision processes at all. They may even lose all their belongings and their livelihood due to bribing. Thus, bribing can play a crucial role in the context of public health issues.
Alcohol is a quite serious cause of public health issues. In many countries and cultures, alcohol is propagated as harmless substance for partying purposes.
However, alcohol is one of the most harmful drugs. In fact, many studies found that alcohol can be considered the most harmful drugs if we add not only private, but also social adverse effects. The interesting part of these findings is that nobody seems to be eager to talk about this issue.
Alcohol is still quite accepted in many cultures and therefore alcohol abuse is on a daily basis. According to the WHO, around 3 million people die from the harmful use of alcohol each year.
Thus, alcohol can be regarded as an extremely dangerous drug that causes massive adverse health effects, also it is often belittled by ignorant people.
Tobacco is another legal drug that imposes massive adverse effects on our public health system. According to the WHO, 8 million people die from the effects of tobacco use each year.
Therefore, tobacco can be regarded as the most dangerous drug in terms of deaths per year worldwide. Although quite accepted in many societies, tobacco plays a major role in the development of lung cancer and other serious diseases and therefore contributes to public health issues in a severe manner.
There are many illegal drugs that may also cause some health issues. Although hyped in the media, the number of death from illegal drugs is quite low compared to the number of death from legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco.
Therefore, although illegal drugs are not that important for public health compared to legal drugs, they still impose significant costs on our public health system.
Effects of Public Health Problems
- Alcohol-related effects
- Tobacco-related effects
- Drug-related effects
- Mental issues
- Air pollution
- Global warming
- Lack of access to basic care
- Non-communicable diseases
- Antimicrobial resistance
- Dengue fever
- High-threat pathogens
The excessive use of alcohol is responsible for a significant number of deaths each year. It can also lead to several serious health issues, including cirrhosis of the liver.
Alcohol also increases aggression level for most people which also increases the probability of brawls and their adverse effects. Thus, alcohol can have serious adverse effects on individuals as well as on public health.
Tobacco also leads to serious public health effects. Tobacco is the most dangerous drug in terms of fatalities per year. Moreover, tobacco also leads to high social costs since the treatment of lung diseases can be quite costly and these costs are often borne by the taxpayer through health insurance schemes. Therefore, the use of tobacco can lead to several private as well as public health issues.
Illegal drugs can also cause several adverse health conditions. This may come in the form of serious diseases like HIV or also from overdoses.
Although illegal drugs cause significantly fewer fatalities per year compared to legal drugs like alcohol or tobacco, illegal drugs still pose serious public health issues since people addicted to these substances are likely to suffer in a dramatic manner.
Obesity is a major public health issue in our current society. This is due to the fact that people mainly sit around the whole day, starring at their computer and waiting until the day is over and they can go home and watch their favorite serious on their couch.
Moreover, many people eat quite unhealthily. This combination of low levels of exercise and unhealthy food leads to obesity for many people. Obesity in turn can lead to serious health conditions and affect people not only physically, but also mentally.
Malnutrition is a huge public health issue, especially in poor developing countries. In these countries, people usually have many children. However, many children need many resources in order to grow healthy.
Poor families are often not able to provide enough food and minerals to their children, which results in malnutrition. Malnutrition can in turn lead to a weak immune system and may even lead to death.
Public health issues can also include mental issues. Since we are affected by so many impressions today, our brains may not be able to deal with all of them. There are many people who report that they feel burned out.
The number of people suffering from mental illness increased drastically over the last decades. If our society and our value system continue to value excessive mental work, chances are that the number of mentally sick people will continue to increase in the future.
Air pollution can also be regarded as public health issue since it contributes to all kinds of diseases. These diseases are likely to lead to high health costs in return which are often borne by the taxpayer through health insurance schemes.
Global warming is another issue that can be caused by public health issues. A major factor for global warming is the emission of greenhouse gases. These gases are emitted in industrial processes, but also through the daily use of our cars.
Lack of access to basic care
Many people worldwide lack access to basic care. This includes basic things like sufficient food and drinks but also includes basic supply with healthcare items.
The lack of access to these basic items is usually due to the fact that many people around the world are quite poor and are not able to afford these basic daily life items.
Non-communicable diseases are diseases that are not transmissible directly from one person to another. Examples for those kinds of diseases are autoimmune diseases, heart attacks or diabetes.
These diseases are often related to our consumption behavior. For example, type 2 diabetes is often caused by the consumption of excessive amounts of sugar and a low level of physical activity. Non-communicable diseases cause serious health conditions for a large number of people worldwide.
In mainstream medicine, antibiotics are often prescribed in an excessive way. However, the excessive use of antibiotics can lead to antimicrobial resistance.
This means that certain bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. This in turn may lead to an increase in fatalities since antibiotics will no longer work to cure certain diseases.
Some public health issues may also lead to pandemics. Pandemics are likely to spread in regions where living and health conditions are quite basic. Poor people will not be able to fight these pandemics in a sufficient way, which may lead to the death of many people worldwide.
HIV is a big problem worldwide. HIV is often transmitted through sexual intercourse. HIV is a serious disease that takes away the lives of many people. It is especially harmful in countries which do not have proper HIV treatment.
These people will usually have quite low life expectancies. Thus, HIV can be regarded as a serious public health issue. It is often caused by a lack of education or the unwillingness to use contraceptives.
Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitos. It is a severe disease that causes many fatalities per year. Especially in poor countries with low healthcare standards, Dengue fever has extreme adverse impacts.
High-threat pathogens like Ebola can often spread in countries with low health standards. They are known to cause a high number of deaths. High-threat pathogens are likely to spread across country borders and thus may affect large areas and large numbers of people.
Solutions to the Public Health Problem
- Higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco
- Improve health standards
- Improve research
- Transnational support
- Reduction in consumption
- Recycle and reuse
- Reduce corruptive actions
- Promote vaccinations
- Education and research
- Convince others
Higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco
One measure to mitigate public health issues is to increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco. This tax increase will lead to an increase in prices and people will likely consume less due to this price increase.
Improve health standards
In many countries, it is crucial to increase overall health standards. It should be assured that everyone who has severe health conditions can be treated appropriately.
Governments have to make sure that hospitals have enough financial resources and staff to work in an efficient way in order to be able to cure as many people as possible.
Research is an important measure when it comes to the mitigation of public health issues. Advancements in research are the basis for the development of more effective drugs.
This in turn will lead to better healing chances for patients. Moreover, through extensive research, some diseases which are currently incurable may be curable in the future.
It is crucial that rich developed countries support poor developing countries financially but also in terms of sharing their research findings in order to fight public health issues.
By doing so, we will spread knowledge and research advancements in all parts of the world, which in turn likely leads to an increase in overall health standards and to more effective treatment of diseases.
Reduction in consumption
Some public health issues are caused by our excessive consumption behavior. This is especially true for the global warming issue. The production and also the disposal or our goods lead to a huge level of greenhouse gas emission which in turn contributes to global warming.
Global warming is a serious contributor to public health issues. It leads to water shortage for many people and may also destroy the livelihood of many people. Therefore, we should reduce our consumption in order to reduce our adverse impact.
Recycle and reuse
Another measure to mitigate public health issues is to recycle and reuse our material belongings more efficiently. Since our consumption level has a big effect on public health issues, we have to ensure that we use our resources in an efficient way in order to reduce the adverse effects.
Thus, this could mean that you give away your old but yet working stuff or that you at least recycle it in an effective manner.
Reduce corruptive actions
In order to be able to fight public health issues, we have to reduce corruptive actions. Bribing often leads to a state in which a few wealthy people can do whatever they want, while most of the people suffer from severe health conditions due to poverty and a lack of public healthcare services. Thus, a reduction in corruptive action levels may also mitigate public health issues to a certain extent.
Another reason for public health issues is that many people refuse vaccinations and also refuse vaccinations for their children. This behavior can lead to a spread of diseases.
By promoting and educating people about the effects of vaccinations, more people may be willing to accept vaccinations and therefore adverse public health effects may be lowered.
Education and Research
Education is crucial for solving problems. This is also true for the mitigation of public health issues. We have to teach children as well as grownups about the adverse consequences and how we can mitigate them.
By doing so, people will be more aware of their behavior and are likely to behave in a way that contributes to a reduction in public health issues.
Moreover, extensive research is necessary in order to fight public health issues. This may also include genetic engineering to mitigate the spread of some kinds of diseases.
Your contribution is an important part for solving the public health problem. However, by convincing others, you can even make a bigger impact since you can multiply your positive effects. Tell your family and friends about the issue regarding public health and how they can contribute to its reduction.
Public health issues are a serious environmental problem. There are many causes of public health problems that can be altered by our daily behavior.
For example, reducing the consumption of alcohol or tobacco would be a first step in order to mitigate adverse effects on your private health.
Moreover, you can also take several measures that address the public health issue in a global context, for example through a reduction in your consumption behavior. If everyone makes a small contribution, together we can have a big impact in order to mitigate the public health problem.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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