The Future of Public Health in 2020
Between 1800 and 2001, the human lifespan in the Americas doubled.1 This can be attributed to several factors, including a higher standard of living, more comprehensive nutrition, economic development, and expansive biomedical research.2 Our innovations to preserve life and health have come a long way.
Public health is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities.”3 The field focuses on a wide variety of issues, including mental health, disease prevention, and sanitation.4 As the world has grown into the technological golden age we live in today, communities around the world have become less locally confined. Further, with the modernization of preventive treatment, the future of public health has become increasingly globalized and fast-paced. In this post, we’ll explore a few of the most pressing issues in the near future of public health.
COVID-19 has caused great disruption worldwide. In this country alone, millions of lives were upended as the unemployment rate jumped from a low 3.5% in January to a staggering 14.7% in April.5 Many people are hanging their hopes on the prospects of a vaccine, and it may not be as far off as we think.
Currently, there are 139 different vaccines in preclinical or clinical trials around the world. Of those, Moderna is a promising American vaccine option in phase three, which means that it’s now being distributed to 30,000 people who will be closely monitored to ensure minimal adverse effects before it’s approved for public consumption.6 Moderna’s official statistics on the medication’s efficacy have yet to be released, and can be expected as soon as Thanksgiving.7
Since 1999, the suicide rate in the United States has climbed 35%, making it one of the nation’s top 10 causes of death. Successful suicides make up about 14.2 deaths out of 100,000. In 2017, 1.4 million people attempted suicide.8
Several current initiatives strive to decrease these numbers. Among them, Project 2025 aims to lower the suicide rate by 20% by 2025. It targets prevention methods that include broad-scale education of healthcare workers to identify patients who may be at risk, creating new treatment in prison populations, and introducing suicide prevention methods such as short-term safety planning and follow-up care.9
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, created in 2005, recieved 46,000 calls in its first year, and two million calls in 2019.10 The Lifeline staff works to provide the immediate care needed by people who are at risk and in crisis. Now, more and more specialized hotlines are growing, to deliver the specific resources people need for the distress they’re in. Many of those lines include text-messaging options.
It’s estimated that 5.4 million Americans lost health insurance between February and May of this year.11 This loss of insurance has again sparked a national debate about the national handling of healthcare.
President Donald Trump has clearly stated that he is not in support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has suggested restrictions to Medicaid and limits to its availability.12 Designed to help people living under financial duress to pay for their healthcare, Medicaid currently supports 66,769,248 people nationwide.13 If the ACA were to be eliminated, all those solely relying on Medicaid would lose their coverage. In addition, insurance companies would determine which health-related procedures they would and would not cover in employer-provided insurance plans.14 For these reasons among others, healthcare is a high-stakes issue in the upcoming presidential election.
Data Personalization and System Efficiency During COVID-19
Hospitals and private corporations are taking many new steps to personalize peoples’ experiences with widely used, health-related preventative measures. A lot of that effort, as mentioned by Forbes, is data-driven.15
Telehealth, which comprises online healthcare services, has helped direct and streamline the flow of public health traffic. We’re seeing an increase in online personalization in public health, including personalized online therapy from websites such as Talkspace or BetterHelp, genetic testing from services such as 23andMe, and AI systems such as Your.MD, which can link patients to doctors in their geographic area.15
In the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth-specific companies have helped face-to-face frontline workers assess and triage their cases as efficiently and thoroughly as possible. Technology is playing a vital role in treatment through patient messaging systems, telephone visits, and online systems such as e-consult.16
Currently, the American Hospital Association (AHA) is pushing for legislation to regulate use and mandate accessibility of telehealth platforms and services.17
With the global population projected to reach 8.5 billion by the end of 2030, 9.7 billion by the end of 2050, and 11 billion in 210018, the creation of a sturdy and efficient public health system now is imperative not only for our health and wellbeing today, but for the survival of future generations.
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1. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2005.00083.x
2. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from Riley, JC. Rising Life Expectancy: A Global History. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
3. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from cdcfoundation.org/what-public-health
4. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from britannica.com/topic/public-health
5. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from www.bls.gov/charts/employment-situation/civilian-unemployment-rate.htm
6. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html
7. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-15/moderna-says-vaccine-efficacy-data-could-come-by-thanksgiving
8. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/01/30/u-s-suicide-rate-rose-again-2018-how-can-suicide-prevention-save-lives/4616479002/
9. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from project2025.afsp.org/?_ga=2.81818454.1979378731.1598852521-1264221701.1598852519
10. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from usatoday.com/story/news/2018/09/10/suicide-hotline-national-suicide-prevention-lifeline-what-happens-when-you-call/966151002/
11. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from nytimes.com/2020/07/13/us/politics/coronavirus-health-insurance-trump.html
12. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from kff.org/slideshow/health-care-and-the-2020-presidential-election/
13. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from medicaid.gov/medicaid/program-information/medicaid-and-chip-enrollment-data/report-highlights/index.html
14. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from pbs.org/newshour/show/what-happens-if-the-affordable-care-act-is-eliminated-during-a-pandemic
15. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2018/10/22/10-examples-of-personalization-in-healthcare/#7ac2408d24e0
16. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from academic.oup.com/jamia/article/27/6/957/5822868
17. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from aha.org/fact-sheets/2020-07-30-fact-sheet-future-telehealth-protecting-patient-access-care
18. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/07/un-projects-world-population-to-reach-8-5-billion-by-2030-driven-by-growth-in-developing-countries/