Confronting Current Public Health Issues Head-On

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Public health involves educating and protecting individuals and communities from major threats to their health and well-being. Though the focus of public health policy is ever shifting toward more pressing issues, the leading causes of death are still heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Public health professionals are working with government and nonprofit organizations to improve the health of Americans and prevent illness.


To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the University of Nevada-Reno’s Online Master of Public Health program.

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Alcohol Abuse, Prescription Opioid Overdose & Motor Vehicle Accidents

Unfortunately, what starts as one alcoholic beverage or a prescription for painkiller can turn into a serious habit that could prove fatal. And though driving has become safer over recent decades, motor vehicle accidents still cause thousands of fatalities every year.

Alcohol Abuse

According to the 2015 National survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 26.9% of individuals 18 and over had engaged in binge drinking in the past month, and 7% of the demographic had engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month. The survey also estimated that 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women had alcohol use disorder (AUD), and it also reported that 6.7% of those with AUD sought treatment in the past year.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a list of key preventative measures to protect from alcohol abuse. This include regulating alcohol outlet density, commercial host liability laws, and stat excise taxes on beer, wine, and distilled spirits.

Prescription Opioid Overdose

Forty-Six fatalities occur from prescription opioid overdoses daily. According to the CDC, the highest death rates from prescription opioid overdoses in 2017 were in West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Utah.

The CDC has also created a list of preventive measures to combat this crisis. These measures include implementing state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to track controlled substances dispensed to patients and requiring prescribers to submit data to the PDMP on a regular, timely basis.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

According to the National Safety Council, 2017 saw 40,100 motor vehicle deaths. This translated to 12.28 deaths per 100,000 people. They also reported 4.57 million injuries caused by motor vehicles. Additionally, they listed the total cost of fatalities, injuries, and property damage to be roughly $413.8 billion.

The CDC does offer several preventative measures to try and reduce these number. These include requiring and enforcing seatbelt usage, implementing graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, and several mandates aimed at reducing drunk driving.

Heart Disease, Stroke, Obesity & Diabetes

According to a report by the CDC, diagnosed diabetes has increased from 0.93% in 1958 to 7.4% in 2015. Today, public health professionals are addressing the complex health challenges of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity.

Heart Disease and Stroke

Hear disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. the annual cost of the condition is roughly $200 billion. Additionally, one stroke occurs in the U.S. every 30 seconds, and accounts for 1 in 19 deaths in the country. Stroke fatalities occur ever 3 minutes and 45 seconds, and the condition itself kills nearly 133,000 Americans each year.

The CDC lists several preventative measures to fight these conditions. These include implementing certified electronic health records (EHRs) and allowing pharmacists to provide certain patient services under state collaborative drug therapy management (CDTM) policies.


Between 2015 and 2016, 39.8% of American adults were obese. This translates to 93.3 million people. Studies indicate that 47% of Hispanics and 46.8% of non-Hispanic blacks were obese, and roughly 43% of people ages 40-59 suffered from obesity.

The CDC has several recommendations to prevent obesity. These include increasing healthy food and drink options at school and regulating food and drink sold of government property.


In 2015, 30.3 million Americans – or 9.4% of the U.S. population – had diabetes. The National Diabetes Prevention Program, established by the CDC in 2010, “created partnerships between public and private organizations to offer evidence-based, cost-effective interventions that help prevent Type 2 diabetes.”

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers tips for preventing Type 2 diabetes. These tips include drinking a glass of water before a meal, exercising 30 minutes per day five days a week, and choosing raw fruit over juices.

Addressing Current Public Health Issues

Public health professionals can choose from many career opportunities to advocate for public health. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a faster-than-average increase in the employment of medical and health services managers in the next few years, and graduates of master’s in public health program should expect to enter a strong job market overall.

Role of Public Health Professionals

Those in the medical and health services manager profession can be responsible for establishing a health care organization’s department goals, can strive to improve the quality and efficiency of care services, and can manage finances and monitor budgets. Health educators can collect and analyze data to evaluate the health needs of local communities, oversee the implementation of health education programs, and advocate for public health policies. Epidemiologists can oversee studies of public health problems, manage public health programs, and conduct research for pharmaceutical companies or health insurance companies.


Public health professionals address current public health issues across health care, government, nonprofit, private and educational settings. They must stay aware of the latest developments in research and evidence-based solutions and spread awareness among communities across the U.S.