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What is public health policy and why is it important?

Facing the continuing challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic, there has been a greater focus than ever on public health and public health policy in recent years. 

The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for governments and health systems worldwide, as they grappled to deal with this public health emergency on a mass scale. 

Public health policy played a vital role in addressing these challenges, and will continue to do so as populations around the world try to find ways to normalise living with COVID-19 and manage it alongside other viruses within the community. 

What is public health policy? 

Public health policy refers to the regulations, laws and policies implemented within a population to ensure specific health goals are met, and promote wellbeing. It plays a pivotal role in safeguarding populations and improving their health and wellbeing. 

Public health policy is multidisciplinary and plays an important role across a range of sectors, including: 

  • Agriculture 

  • Health care 

  • Education 

  • Insurance 

  • Business 

  • Public sector 

International organisations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as both governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide have an important part to play in guiding public health policy.

They can help with research, education and health initiatives to ensure populations have access to, for example, adequate clean water, nutritious food and vaccines.  

Why is public health policy important around the world? 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a recent example of why public health policy is important around the world – regardless of a population’s location, economy, or wealth. 

Health is a global fundamental human right, as identified by the WHO. This right extends to every human being around the world, and means all individuals should have access to the health services they need, where and when they need them, without having to suffer financial hardship. 

The WHO adds that, as part of this basic human right, no one should become ill or die simply because they’re poor, or because they can’t access the health services they need. 

As the WHO highlights, good health is also determined by other basic human rights, such as having access to safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious foods, education, adequate housing, and safe working conditions. 

For all these critical reasons and more, public health policy is important around the world – both for protecting the health and safety of populations and ensuring their basic human rights. 

What are some examples of public health policies? 

There are many examples of public health policies around the world, and these can differ across populations. 

Just some areas public health policy can cover include: 

  • Smoking 

  • Mental health awareness and education 

  • Substance abuse and education 

  • Suicide prevention 

  • HIV and sex education 

  • Contraception and reproductive health 

  • Food safety 

  • COVID-19 management measures 

How can an MSc Applied Public Health help you succeed in the field? 

An MSc Applied Public Health can empower you with the knowledge and skills you need to meet the needs of this rapidly-evolving field with confidence. 

It will see you master what it takes to effectively take on the complex challenges related to the public health of a population, such as housing, the environment, media and education.  

With an MSc Applied Public Health, you’ll be able to:  

  • Plan, conduct, and analyse public health research, and apply theoretical perspectives in the field to real-world issues 

  • Understand the key factors underpinning health and its inequalities, and the importance of addressing these factors with evidence-based approaches, including statistical and epidemiological methods 

  • Identify effective ways to assess, protect, and improve populations’ health and wellbeing – from evaluating health initiatives through to appropriately engaging the media to share information 

UCLan offers an online MSc Applied Public Health that will equip you with the unique skills, insights and perspectives you need to confidently address public health challenges – and make a positive difference to populations around the world: 

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