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What is Public Health?

Public health tries to reduce health problems in a population by

  • monitoring disease patterns (surveillance)
  • protecting people from hazards
  • preventing illnesses and injuries, and
  • promoting healthy behaviours, communities, and environments.

Whereas clinicians try to cure people once they are ill, public health programs focus on preventing illnesses or managing them so as to minimize future complications. The programs are usually directed at groups, communities, or entire populations rather than at individuals. They may be delivered in settings such as workplaces, day care centres, schools, seniors’ homes, or community health clinics.

In Eeyou Istchee, the Public Health Department’s duties include

Protecting the health of individuals and communities
Examples: Advising on mercury levels in fish; immunizing people against infectious diseases

Preventing disease and promoting health
Examples: Maternal and infant health program; public health dental program

Promoting healthy living
Examples: Teaching people about good eating habits; working with community governments to introduce exercise facilities and to adopt healthy public policies

Keeping track of health needs and issues
Examples: Monitoring rates of car crashes in the region

Supporting research into health issues important to Cree communities
Examples: Research on traditional medicines for diabetes

Communicating health information
Posters, radio announcements, reports, website

The first three functions-protection, prevention, and promotion-are the pillars of any public health program. The remaining three-surveillance, research, and communication-support these pillars by providing information on the extent and nature of various health problems in the territory, and by ensuring that information is shared.

Our areas of responsibility include

  • Infectious diseases
  • Immunization
  • Environmental health
  • Health in the workplace
  • School health
  • Injury prevention
  • Maternal and child health
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Chronic disease prevention and management
  • Development, adjustment and social integration of vulnerable groups