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Public Health and Health Care

Introduction

The local government performs numerous public health functions. These functions cover pollution, sewage and sanitation, cigarette sales and smoking in public, fluoridation of drinking water, firearm licensure and prohibition, and drug paraphernalia sales. Moreover, local governments’ functions entail rodents and infestations, sanitary and food and beverage, housing codes, garbage disposal, as well as animal control (Novick, Morrow, & Mays, 2008, p. 138). Nevertheless, the nagging question remains; how is the local government able to deliver these functions? Local public health agencies cover a political demarcation of a state including a city (municipality), township, and borough, or county. Municipalities form public health agencies to perform their functions. These local public health agencies are responsible for health policy and regulation (Novick, Morrow, & Mays, 2008, p. 138). Courts normally permit local public health agencies to exercise great caution regarding public health issues, occasionally even past the geographic boundary if needed to safeguard the city’s residents. This paper discusses the contributions of a public health agency, Environmental Justice Movement, to the primary function of public health in Houston, Texas.

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Environmental Justice Movement

Environmental Justice (EJ) ensures that all people receive reasonable treatment on top of participating significantly in the formulation, implementation, and imposition of environmental plans, ordinances, and laws. Based on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fair treatment implies that no population, for reasons of policy or economic disempowerment, is compelled to bear a disproportionate burden of adverse health impacts. These impacts include “water and air pollution emanating from commercial, municipal, and industrial operations or the implementation of tribal, local, state, federal programs and policies” (Taylor, Floyd, Whitt-Glover, & Brooks, 2007, p.52). In 1994, President Clinton’s Executive Order 12898, sanctioned every federal agency to design an EJ strategy “that identifies and addresses disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies or activities on minority populations” (Taylor et al., 2007, p.52). The mentioned policies and legislations emerged from experimental studies linked with the first wave of the EJ movement. Noteworthy, grassroots organizations and protests offered the drive for policy amendment and implementations.

The local government dedicated the first wave of the EJ movement to unwanted land utilization, (such as landfills, oil, chemical and metal production facilities, and hazardous waste incinerators), lead and other pollutants in homes. Nevertheless, various empirical studies have indicated environmental injustices. Particularly, in Houston, Texas, 6 out of 8 incinerators, as well as 15 out of 17 landfills, were situated in the African American neighborhoods. This population in 1980s comprised one-fourth of the total Houston population; nevertheless, three-quarter of the landfills were situated in the African American neighborhoods.

Role on public health

Environmental justice movement focuses on urban design, public health, and availability and quality of outdoor recreation including parks. The goals of Healthy People 2010 are to increase years and quality of healthy life and to remove health disparities (Taylor et al., 2007, p.53). Physical inactivity is one of the health indicators for Healthy people 2010. The EJ represents an important structure for assessing disparities in physical activity (PA). This move has an edge in reducing risks of obesity and the accompanying health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension, culminating to reduced incidence of these conditions.

Efforts to dissipate “racial and ethnic disparities regarding PA is based on an ecological model, and it identifies the contribution of playgrounds, parks and other recreation facilities in providing community-based physical activity opportunities” (Taylor et al., 2007, p.53). The EJ clearly recognizes that access to parks and recreation zones is hindered by structural disadvantages related with ethnicity.

Functions of public health agency workforce

Public health agencies execute their mandates through a specialized workforce. There are three key public health agencies’ functions and essential public health services. They include health assessment, health policy development, and health assurance. Health assessment entails three activities (“The Three Core Public Health Functions,” p. 1). First, monitoring health situation to identify health problems associated with a specific community. Second, diagnosing and studying health hazards and events in the community; third, assessing the usefulness, accessibility, and quality of private and population-based health services.

Policy development involves three functions. A specific group of the workforce acts as policy makers and executors. They also enforce laws and regulations aimed at protecting the health and guarantee safety; in addition, they research for new knowledge and innovative approach to health problems.

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The health assurance aspect performs the following four functions; they link individuals to necessary personal health services and pledge delivery of health care when otherwise not available. They guarantee a competent public health and individual health care personnel. In addition, they inform, teach, and empower the public about health concerns. Finally, they encourage community partnership to detect and solve health problems (“The Three Core Public Health Functions”, p. 2).

Specific responsibilities, competencies, and skills of workforce

Some activities by public health agencies involve experts in a certain field of study. One activity by local public health agencies relevant to the University General Hospital includes monitoring wastewater treatment and disposal. The aforementioned agency will ensure that wastewater from the hospital is treated and disposed appropriately to prevent the spread of diseases. Other activities involving experts are immunizations and STD/HIV testing and counseling, requiring a clinician, and psychology counselors respectively (“The Three Core Public Health Functions”, p. 3). A public health agency workforce examines health issues and risks, within the community. This requires epidemiologists, health analysts, and clinicians.

Conclusion

Public health agencies contribute significantly to the maintenance of quality health care. The environmental justice agency regulates waste matter disposal by hospitals and other facilities. The agency’s workforce comprises of individuals with various expertise to enable the agency achieve its objectives.

Reference list

Novick, L. F., Morrow, C. B., & Mays, G. P. (Eds.). (2008). Public health administration: Principles for population-based management (2nd Ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Pub.

Taylor, W. C., Floyd, M., Whitt-Glover, W. C., & Brooks, J. (2007). Environmental Justice: A Framework for Collaboration Between the Public Healthand Parks and Recreation Fields to Study Disparities in Physical Activity. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 4(1), 50-63.

The Three Core Public Health Functions. (N.d). Web.

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