Shedding Light on Public Health Issues

3 min read

| By Brigham Narins, Sr. Content Developer, Gale |

A new year has just begun, and along with resolutions and hope for the future there are nevertheless a lot of persistent things we could really worry about if we choose to:

  • Pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
  • Bullying at school, online, and at the workplace is a national problem.
  • Fires, extreme weather, and other manifestations of climate change occur with increasing regularity.
  • Gun violence erupts so often and is so widespread that each new case shocks less and less.
  • Increasing numbers of people refuse to vaccinate themselves and their children.
  • Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, sickening and even killing people.

This is a wide range of disparate issues, and pondering any one—let alone all of them—could cause sleepless nights. But if you want to begin to draw connections between them, to unite them under a field of study and douse the fear with science, you will recognize that each has an impact on the health and well-being of large groups of people. They are all public health issues. And there are people, agencies, and institutions devoted to tackling them.

There’s also a book that discusses these and many other related issues in clear and concise language, The Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, 2nd Edition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—there’s an entry on the organization in the book—quotes the American bacteriologist and early public health expert Charles-Edward Amory Winslow’s definition of public health:1

Public health is “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals.”

In addition to describing all manner of diseases (cancer, influenza, Ebola, Zika virus), The Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health discusses the social issues involved, the impact on communities, and ways to deal with these things that afflict us. So there are discussions of what antimicrobial resistance is and what it means for the public; how bullying is not just a schoolyard thing, it affects all age groups; the impacts of environmental and natural disasters; the long-overdue understanding that gun violence is a public health issue; how vaccination works and why it’s safe; and what vaping is and how it affects people.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health helps you get a handle on what’s going on out there—and how to deal with it.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “Introduction to Public Health,” November 15, 2018.


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