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Battling HEALTHCARE

The Importance of Public Health Surveillance

Categories: HEALTHCARE | November 6th, 2012 | by Mary Loise | no comments

Hospital

Who teaches the public about the dangers of smoking? How about the consequences of drunk driving? Who spreads information about HIV transmission, flu outbreaks, or epidemics like SARS? The staff of public health organizations who are trained in public health surveillance implement different methods of tracking the growing trends and widespread issues in the health of the population. They can work in labs, conduct surveys, or analyze reports and data from hospitals to find out how and why people are in danger, and their ongoing research saves lives. Public Health Surveillance can be very complicated. Public health workers often monitor all kinds of health issues across a variety of spectrum – locally, nationally, and globally. But there are three basic types of surveillance they use.

1. Passive Surveillance

Passive surveillance involves collecting and analyzing data, usually from health facilities who want some help with the disease in question – knowing how widespread it is, how serious the cases are, or what can be done to prevent it. Passive surveillance is normally cheap and easy to perform, because it is part of routine health services and research. But in passive surveillance, no attempt to contact outside sources or acquire additional data is made – it is simply for keeping track of population trends and discovering what the baseline trend for a disease usually is.

2. Active Surveillance

Active surveillance is when a problem is identified and public health workers actively seek information on how to diagnose and prevent it. This can be due to an outbreak or due to a common problem that the health industry continuously works to solve, like cancer or infertility. Most of the time, though, active surveillance is a response to a threat. When data that is routinely collected shows a spike in a certain disease or an outbreak of an unidentified disease – such as the early days of AIDS – public health workers begin surveillance to study it. It is usually a much more expensive undertaking than passive surveillance, and so it is reserved for serious problems or important studies.

3. Mixed Surveillance

Combining passive and active surveillance, public health workers strive for disease control. When a disease is very serious and also continuously affects the population, public health workers may want to seek out data on their own, combined with the hospitals and health facilities that are offering their information. AIDS, cancer, and diseases in developing countries like malaria are all controlled by a system of mixed surveillance.

There is a huge shortage of trained, educated workers in public health, which is worrisome because public health surveillance is incredibly important when it comes to protecting the general population. These are the people we turn to when there is a threat, and their research into how to diagnose and prevent the diseases which already impact the lives of so many people can result in medical breakthroughs. We see their work on the evening news telling us what to do to stay healthy, but most people don’t even realize that there are professionals behind the scenes, working to keep us safe.

About the Author:

Nancy Meyers writes for education blogs where you can read more about the Top 10 Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Health Programs.

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Battling ASTHMA,CANCER,HEART AND STROKE

NYC: No smoking in parks and beaches

Categories: ASTHMA, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE | February 7th, 2011 | by Raquel | one comments

“My world gets smaller everyday”, an old song goes. I can imagine that smokers are feeling this way these days. Especially in New York City. It all started with smoking bans in restaurants and bars in 2002. In 2011, the smoking bans will include parks and beaches as well. To be exact, the 1700 parks and the miles of beach of New York City, as well as the pedestrian malls and Plazas around Times Square, according to a report in The New York Times.

This means that cigarettes smokers are restricted more and more in terms of places where they can smoke.

The legislation was heavily and heatedly debated in the NY City Council. The pro group are supporting the rights of non-smokers. Here are what the supporters of the ban have to say:

The contras were not necessarily smokers but fear that this ban will “set a dangerous precedent”.

But how bad is the exposure to second-hand smoking to warrant such drastic measures? A New York City health department study in 2009 analyzed levels of cotinine, a nicotine by-product, in blood samples of new Yorkers. The results showed that 56.7% of non-smokers in the city have high levels of cotinine. This is significantly much higher than the national average of 44.9%. Those of Asian ethnicity or ancestry are especially susceptible – with 68.7%.

The study went on to report that smoking incidence in New York is lower that in other parts of the US due to strict indoor smoking bans. New Yorkers, however, though exposed to lower levels of smoke, are exposed more frequently due to the tight spaces typical of an urban setting. Research studies have shown that exposure indoors and outdoors does not significantly differ if the smoker is within 3 feet away.

The grounds for the legislation, therefore is public health. Recent evidence indicates the second hand or passive smoking has strong adverse effects on the health of non-smokers. These effects include increased risk for heart disease and stroke, asthma and cancer.

The legislation will be implemented by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Those who break the law will be fined.

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