PUBLIC HEALTH CARE– WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

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PUBLIC HEALTH CARE– WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

What is Public Health and Public Health care?   How are all of us connected to and through it?     What should I know and be on the look for?

Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases.

Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood, or as big as an entire country or region of the world.

Public health professionals try to prevent problems from happening or recurring through implementing educational programs, recommending policies, administering services and conducting research – in contrast to clinical professionals like doctors and nurses, who focus primarily on treating individuals after they become sick or injured. Public health also works to limit health disparities. A large part of public health is promoting healthcare equity, quality and accessibility.

The CDC is the nation’s disease prevention and wellness promotion agency, protecting people’s health and safety, providing credible information to enhance health decisions, and improving health through strong partnerships. CDC’s work encompasses a wide range of health threats, including infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, birth defects, food and water safety, bioterrorism, environmental hazards, and occupational health and safety. CDC also administers funding for state and local health departments, community-based organizations and academic institutions for a wide array of public health programs and research. Every day, CDC experts work both behind the scenes and on the frontlines to improve people’s daily lives and respond to health emergencies. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has approximately 14,000, full-time, part-time and contract employees located throughout the United States and in 54 countries.

Publicly funded health care is a form of health care financing designed to meet the cost of all or most health care needs from a publicly managed fund. Usually this is under some form of democratic accountability, the right of access to which are set down in rules applying to the whole population contributing to the fund or receiving benefits from it.

The fund may be a not-for-profit trust that pays out for health care according to common rules established by the members or by some other democratic form. In some countries, the fund is controlled directly by the government or by an agency of the government for the benefit of the entire population. That distinguishes it from other forms of private medical insurance, the rights of access to which are subject to contractual obligations between an insurer (or his sponsor) and an insurance company, which seeks to make a profit by managing the flow of funds between funders and providers of health care services.

When taxation is the primary means of financing health care and sometimes with compulsory insurance, all eligible people receive the same level of cover regardless of their financial circumstances or risk factors.

Most developed countries, with the exception of the United States, have partially or fully publicly funded health systems. Most western industrial countries have a system of social insurance based on the principle of social solidarity that covers eligible people from bearing the direct burden of most health care expenditure, funded by taxation during their working life.

Among countries with significant public funding of health care there are many different approaches to the funding and provision of medical services. Systems may be funded from general government revenues or through a government social security system (as in Australia, France, Belgium, Japan and Germany) with a separate budget and hypothecated taxes or contributions. The proportion of the cost of care covered also differs: in Canada, all hospital care is paid for by the government, while in Japan, patients must pay 10 to 30% of the cost of a hospital stay. Services provided by public systems vary. For example, the Belgian government pays the bulk of the fees for dental and eye care, while the Australian government covers eye care but not dental care.

Publicly funded medicine may be administered and provided by the government, as in the Nordic countries, Spain, Portugal and Italy; in some systems, though, medicine is publicly funded but most hospital providers are private entities, as in Canada. The organization providing public health insurance is not necessarily a public administration, and its budget may be isolated from the main state budget. Some systems do not provide universal healthcare or restrict coverage to public health facilities. Some countries, such as Germany, have multiple public insurance organizations linked by a common legal framework. Some, such as the Netherlands, allow private for-profit insurers to participate.

Almost every major country that has a publicly funded health care system also has a parallel private system for patients who hold private medical insurance or themselves pay for treatment. In those states, those able to pay have access to treatment and comforts that may not be available to those dependent upon the state system.

From the inception of the National Health System (NHS) model (1948), public hospitals in the United Kingdom have included “amenity beds” which would typically be side-rooms fitted more comfortably, and private wards in some hospitals where for a fee more amenities are provided. Patients using these beds are in an NHS hospital for surgical treatment, and operations are generally carried out in the same operating theatres as NHS work and by the same personnel but the hospital and the physician receive funding from an insurance company or the patient. These amenity beds do not exist in all publicly funded systems, such as in Spain. From time to time, the NHS pays for private hospitals (arranged hospitals) to take on surgical cases under contract.

Many OECD countries have implemented reforms to achieve policy goals of ensuring access to health-care, improving the quality of health care and health outcomes, allocating an appropriate level of public sector other resources to health care but at the same time ensuring that services are provided in a cost-efficient and cost-effective manner (microeconomic efficiency). A range of measures, such as better payment methods, have improved the microeconomic incentives facing providers. However, introducing improved incentives through a more competitive environment among providers and insurers has proved difficult.

A recent Harvard study published in the American Journal of Public Health found more than 44,800 excess deaths annually in the United States because of Americans’ lacking health insurance, equivalent to one excess death every 12 min. More broadly, the total number of people in the United States, whether insured or uninsured, who die because of lack of medical care was estimated in a 1997 analysis to be nearly 100,000 per year.

 Kathy Liefer

 

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