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The Future of the Public’s Health in the 21st Century
tions develop criteria for recognizing and rewarding faculty scholarship related to service activities that strengthen public health practice.
Academia, as one component of the public health system, provides important contributions to the health of the public in three ways: educating and training public health workers; conducting research in disciplines pertinent to public health; and engaging in community, public, and professional service. Numerous activities have been undertaken to educate and train the current and future public health workforce through methods such as classroom-based instruction, distance-learning programs, and training and leadership institutes. Stagnant and shrinking resources allocated to public health training are, however, impeding the ability of academic institutions to address today’s new and emerging health problems. If it is true that the public health workforce is at the heart of the nation’s ability to respond to new challenges such as emerging infections and preparedness against terrorist attacks, then that public health workforce must be adequately educated and trained to successfully face those challenges. This cannot be accomplished without making the training and education of public health workers the number one priority as demonstrated through adequate funding.
Academia has made major contributions to prolonging life and increasing the quality of life through research. Basic research has provided the knowledge necessary to develop precious vaccines that protect against debilitating and deadly diseases, whereas research on the determinants of health has demonstrated the importance of social and behavioral factors to health. However, comparatively few resources have been devoted to supporting prevention research, community-based research, or the translation of research findings into practice. Such resources must be found and allocated if academia is to continue to have a major impact on the health of communities. With the collaboration and partnership of academia, scholarly service has the potential to make great strides in engaging the community in improving its own health. However, without a restructuring of the reward system within universities and colleges, this most promising approach to change encounters barriers that are difficult to surmount.
Improvement of the public’s health faces great challenges. Academia is committed to working in partnership with other components of the public health system to meet these challenges. Yet, to be successful, the role of academia must be valued, and funding must be available to develop the programs and approaches needed for education and training, research, and service to improve the public’s health.