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GEN-101: Public Health. Pete Walton, M.D. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs School of Public Health and Information Sciences. What is Public Health?.

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gen 101 public health

GEN-101: Public Health

Pete Walton, M.D.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

School of Public Health and Information Sciences

what is public health
What is Public Health?

“Public health is the science and art of promoting health, preventing disease, and prolonging life in the population through the organized efforts of society.”

-- World Health Organization (WHO)

science and art

promoting health

preventing disease

prolonging life

in the population

organized efforts of society

population health
Population Health

Population Health

Health Care

Traditional Public Health

Social Policy













career areas
Career Areas
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Health management
  • Epidemiology
  • Environmental health
  • Health information
  • Wellness
  • Health policy
  • Health inspection
  • Social policy
  • Research
  • Health instruction
  • Program planning
  • Program evaluation
  • Health assessment
  • Community health
how do we measure disease
How Do We “Measure” Disease
  • Morbidity – being sick
    • Prevalence – proportion of people who are sick at a given point in time
    • Incidence – proportion of people who get sick during a given period of time
  • Mortality – deceased
    • Mortality rate – proportion of people who die during a given period of time
how do people get infections
How Do People Get Infections?
  • Agents
    • Bacteria
    • Viruses
    • Protozoa (one-celled animals)
    • Fungi (plant-like)
    • Helminths (worm-like parasites)
    • Infectious proteins (e.g., mad-cow disease)
  • Routes
    • Inhaled – droplets, cysts & spores
    • Contact – direct, indirect
    • Ingested – food, water & other liquids & solids
    • Through skin – bites, needles, wounds & cuts
key assumption of evidence based population health
Key Assumption of Evidence-Based Population Health

“The underlying theory of population health is that the distribution of health and disease in the population is not random and that we can identify the reasons for the non-randomness.”

the origin of evidenced based public health cholera in 19 th century london
The Origin of Evidenced-based Public Health:Cholera in 19th-Century London
  • 1831-1832:
    • first modern outbreak in Britain
    • 23,000 deaths
    • helped to launch the sanitary reform movement, which was based on miasma theory of disease (“bad smells”)
  • 1848-1849:
    • 250,000 cases and 53,000 deaths
    • prompted Snow (and others) to investigate causes based on contagion theory of disease (“person-to-person spread”)
snow s ghost map
Snow’s “Ghost Map”

Black squares are cholera deaths

The green circles are public water pumps.

What’s your interpretation of the evidence on this map?

snow s ghost map1
Snow’s “Ghost Map”

Broad Street

Pump (Southwark

& Vauxahall)

Other Pumps (Lambeth and others)

what really happened
What Really Happened
  • Removal of the Broad Street pump handle by Snow, thereby stopping the epidemic, is legend and NOT based on historical evidence.
    • He persuaded the public authorities to remove it (grudgingly), and it was removed after the epidemic had already peaked.
  • It took Snow years to convince the authorities that water was the problem, not smelly air, and to force the water company to change where it drew water from the Thames,
    • Which was right downstream from the outlet from one of the sewers built to eliminate miasma!
  • Snow died in 1858; the cholera bacterium was not discovered until 1884 and proven by Koch to cause cholera.