Public Health is a district program serving the health needs of residents of the counties of Guysborough, Antigonish, Richmond and parts of southern Inverness County. Health enhancing initiatives are carried out at a number of public health offices, schools and other community sites, often in collaboration with a variety of government and community partners.
Public Health, follows a 'Population Health Approach' and works in partnership with communities, families and individuals to prevent illness, protect and promote health and achieve well being. Population health means we focus our efforts on the entire population rather then individuals and we try to reduce the inequalities between groups. We do this by advocating for healthy public policy and encouraging action around 'determinants of health':
- Income and Social Status
- Social Support Networks
- Employment/Working Conditions
- Social Environments
- Physical Environments
- Personal Health Practices and Coping Skills
- Healthy Child Development
- Biology and Genetic Endowment
- Health Services
Our Team consists of an interdisciplinary group of professionals working at the community, district, provincial and national levels of the health care system.
- Public Health Nurses
- Licensed Practical Nurses
- Dental Hygienists
- Health Educators
- Support Staff
- Medical Officer of Health
The following five standards represent the expectations for public health at the provincial and district levels over the next five years. They represent a milestone to renew the province's public health system. They are driven by our purpose statement:
Public health works with others to understand the health of our communities, and acts together to improve health.
Public health's work is grounded in health equity and social justice. Public health strives to improve health of the population overall and reduce health inequities among groups.
Public health's focus is to:
- Prevent disease or conditions that are important contributors to disease
- Prevent disease or conditions that are potentially important threats to health
- Improve the overall health and resilience of the population, or groups within the population
Public health focuses on "upstream prevention". For example, if a person fell through a guardrail into a river, a public health solution to such a problem would be to focus more on fixing the guardrail or making access to the river safer through proper signage before we would consider hiring more boats to rescue people after they've fallen into the river. In other words, we would focus more on prevention and the population rather than the individual to influence social, economic and physical environments that support health. This means we work with a variety of sectors and partners outside of the formal healthcare system. Public health assesses strengths and needs, and plans, implements and evaluates its actions demonstrating:
- A deep understanding of the health of communities
- Collaborative/working together action
- Participatory leadership
- Meaningful relationships
- To do this, we adopt the roles of an advocate, connector; collaborator; coach, mentor; champion; builder of competencies; facilitator; catalyst and innovator.
Healthy Development Standard
Healthy development focuses on improving the physical, social and mental well-being of Nova Scotia's children, youth and families in the home, school and community. There is considerable evidence highlighting the importance of children's early years. For example, the Health Council of Canada reports, "A child's living conditions and experiences - determinants of health - shape his or her physical health, development and well-being, affecting not only childhood but the foundation of their health as adults". Public health focuses on prenatal education, post partum education and support; enhanced home visiting; breastfeeding; well child services and four year old screenings, in order to meet this standard.
Healthy Communities Standard
A healthy community meets the basic needs of its residents and removes barriers that inhibit people's ability to participate actively in social, economic, cultural and political life. "Depending on the nature of the environments (where people grow, live, learn, work, age), different groups will have different experiences of material conditions, psychosocial support, and behavioral options, which make them more or less vulnerable to poor health". Public health uses the five pillars of health promotion to help people reach maximum potential: build healthy public policies, create supportive environments, strengthen community action, develop personal skills and re-orientate health services.
Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Standard
The roots of modern public health practice originated with efforts to understand, prevent and control the spread of communicable diseases. Despite the growth in scientific understanding, and the availability of immunizations and antibiotics, the prevention and control of communicable diseases remain an ongoing challenge. The ease of modern travel, complexity of modern society and continuing emergence of new disease causing organisms contribute to this situation. In addition, many communicable diseases are strongly linked to the social determinants of health (i.e., conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, which includes the health system). The Nova Scotia Health Protection Act provides public health with the authority to take required steps to protect the health of the public. Immunizations are one the most cost-effective preventive interventions available. Public health provides leadership in managing vaccines in Nova Scotia, in order to ensure high rates of vaccine use to prevent vaccine-preventable illnesses.
Environmental Health Standard
Environmental health refers to the physical, chemical and biological hazards, external to a person, that have the potential to affect human health. It includes the identification, assessment, control or elimination of these hazards to prevent disease and create environments that support health. It has been estimated that preventable diseases and deaths resulting from exposure to environmental contaminants account for $3.6-9.1 billion in annual health care costs in Canada. Safe food and water are prerequisites for health and the national listeriosis outbreak and the community drinking water outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario clearly highlight that such threats can have devastating effects.
Across Canada many jurisdictions have identified the need for improved scientific evidence, evaluation and surveillance on which to base environmental health services and programs. Other needs identified include the need for stronger laws, consistency of services among regions and the need for overarching strategies with goals and objectives. The standards emphasize understanding before action; provide the overarching goals as well as a foundation for stronger public health legislation and programming. Many stakeholders play a key role in preventing disease and creating supportive environments including municipal and local governments, non-governmental organizations, professional organizations, community activists and businesses.