We must first comprehend that health, often is traditionally associated with relationship to transmittable diseases and broad social conditions. In reality it is a compilation of physiological and mental health, environmental and economical conditions. We cannot analyze public health without taking all possible influences into account. The very nature of our social system is a health risk, due to the imprudent approach at public health. Our public health system is an actual sick care system rather then a healthcare system. Statistics and research show that the US healthcare system is one of the worst of developed nations. The US spends the most per person, has the least percentage of covered members and has some of the poorest health outcomes. A common sense assessment of public health would be measured by the health of its citizenry over time, “assessing and comparing conditions and consequences through a simple trend analysis and factor accounting should give insight into what can be changed and improved on a social level.”25
The real inquiry towards true public health is do we want to improve health on a large scale or do we want to continue running marathons for what health condition currently made awareness? “The study of social pathology is crucial to the maintenance of social health.”26 The examination of who, what, when, where, and why of health conditions attributes to better knowledge and practices of public health. Often we look at issues like substance abuse, homelessness, violence, crime, terrorism, corruption, discrimination, isolation, stigmatization and human rights violations as isolated individual conditions unrelated to health. These conditions are directly correlated with public health and social pathology. Social pathology is highly dependent on the zeitgeist.
Violence has direct associations with economics. The reason crime rates differ in different parts of the globe isn’t due to inherently evil people only allocated in certain regions. According to a study conducted by Gernor Kohler and Norman Alcock in 1976 the study directly correlates violence with low income.27 Dr. Gilligan the American psychiatrist and author who has done over 25 years of research on violence stated that “the only way to explain the causes of violence, so that we can learn how to prevent it, is to approach violence as a problem in public health and preventive medicine, and to think of violence as a symptom of life-threatening pathology…”28 The decriminalization of drugs enables a more successful approach at the global drug epidemic. It classifies drug addiction in the public health category, where it belongs. The prohibition and criminalization of drugs directly showed how this method contributed to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice and the undermining of people’s right to healthcare.
Research is indicating that the driver of addiction isn’t drugs ironically, but isolation. In the 1970s, psychology professor Bruce Alexander from Vancouver conducted a study on drug addiction with rats. The study showed astonishing results, indicating that an isolated rat is more prone to addiction. In the contrast a rat with access to addictive drugs and access to company (a rat pack) was likely to shun the usage or abuse of drugs.29 This study is coming to fruition with the drug decriminalization experiments in Portugal. After 15 years of Portugal’s drug decriminalization, drug use rates have fallen, overdose deaths are rare and new HIV infections among drug users have taken a fall. The greater focus placed on harm reduction and treatment helped reverse most negative effects due to drug usage.30
Another example of the adverse effects economic influence has on public is heart disease. The WHO (World Health Organization) clearly indicates that socioeconomic status breeds more heart disease then genetic influence.31 90% of those who died have risk factors influenced by lifestyle. Dr. Ralph R Frerichs focused on the socioeconomic effect of heart disease in the city of Los Angeles, CA, and discovered that the overall death rates for lower class citizens was 40% higher then the wealthy class.32
Utilizing a more practical approach to public health will alleviate the economic burden of governmental spending. Cost-effective analysis helps identify ways to redirect resources to achieve more. Evidence suggests that there are opportunities to save money and improve health through methods like preventive care, alternative medicines such as medicinal marijuana, encouraging a positive balance between work and life through government policies, increasing better economic opportunity, and improving health system infrastructure and living conditions. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) isn’t very affordable; people only get the healthcare they can afford rather than what they need. The ACA insures the insurance companies with residual profits. Maybe its time we have some dialogue about a universal Medicare for all public health system. With all these methods combined public health can be improved and become less of a financial burden. Utilizing these approaches to public health can help solidify it as a basic human right rather than making it a constant struggle.
Isolation leads to addiction
Decriminalization experiments in Portugal
Universal Medicare for all public health system