Public Health Policy: The Focus on Health Education

Public health policy aims at promoting and improving health of the general public. Different health policies use different principles to guide their aims. Public health starts from individuals and as a part of the target group (e.g. smokers, gender, and age among others) to the general public (Stanhope and Lancaster, 2008). There are also policies public officials can impose on the public, or individuals may take the initiatives to promote their public health status. Occasionally, there are wide environmental and population concerns where policy makers may formulate laws to protect the general public. For instance, the ban on smoking in public places and workplaces promotes individual health and protects the general public from harmful effects of smoking.

Public policy on health usually focuses on health education. Health education involves giving information, instruction or enhancing understanding about health concerns. Usually, this takes the form of education on how to maintain health and avoid certain ill health situations. At the same time, there are behavior change or modification model meant to improve public health. This approach encourages individuals to change their behavior in order to avoid ill health or develop better level of health. The focus is primarily on changing the lifestyle. For instance, the article talks about the smoking ban at large companies in the US. Some of the workers may feel that these companies are telling them what to do with their lives. This is particularly in smoking cases. However, the article indicates that the number of companies imposing smoking ban are on the increase. This may be due to a rising cost of health insurance to the companies among smoking workers. Companies must realize that they cannot force people to quit smoking within a time frame. At the same time, companies do not control individuals’ personal lifestyles. They must recognize that behavior change among smokers has two underlying assumptions. First, individual determine their own health status. Second, individuals can also decide to change their behavior if they have the resources to do, and they must also receive healthy alternatives to replace or counteract effects of sudden withdrawals.

In most cases, public health policy aims at ill health prevention. This mainly focuses on increasing understanding of factors facilitating the development of ill health so that the public may take preventative action in order to avoid, or reduce exposure to health problems e.g. advising the public to seek vaccinations against flu. Ill health prevention may involve screening people in order to identify diseases at an early stage, develop surveillance systems to identify deviations from normal health, increasing understanding of the causes of certain diseases and possible preventative actions (Carr, Unwin and Pless-Mulloli, 2007). For instance, health officials warn the public that the numbers of deaths related to flu will rise during this season. In addition, they identify population that is at risk of dying from flu. Another ill health prevention method is immunization. Health officials encourage vulnerable population to seek flu shots when the flu season is still young. They encourage the public by providing free shots to senior adults and lower charges to the rest of the target groups.

Public health professionals believe that individuals can make informed choices if they have the right information at the right time. Informed choice model aims at improving public health through increasing knowledge and understanding of the public. They provide public education and information early enough to enable people seek flu shots before the season reaches its peak. Early provision of information is likely to increase turn out, and consequently, reduce the number of flu-related deaths. This promotes public health awareness campaigns and enhance public health career.


Carr, S., Unwin, N. and Pless-Mulloli, T. (2007). An Introduction to Public Health and Epidemiology, 2nd ed. New York: Open University Press.

Stanhope, M. and Lancaster, J. (2008). Public health nursing: Population-centered health care in the community, 7th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.