Despite increasing awareness of the importance of public health education, countries around the world demonstrate different levels of success in addressing common issues such as obesity, hygiene, drug abuse, and injury prevention. The following paper aims at summarizing the important features of public health care programs in different countries by determining their key components and outlining their impact both on domestic health indicators and global public health.
In New Zealand, public health education programs have significant governmental support. A recent update in the country’s health strategy identifies three main sources of public health education. First, fee grants are available to health professionals to pursue a certificate in public health (Ministry of Health). The certificate is expected to improve the consistency of public health education as well as the approachability of communication between public health workers and the general public.
Second, the Ministry of Health provides funds for a range of training, which is expected to diversify the available educational opportunities as well as emphasize the cultural specificities of the region, such as the contribution of the Māori people and, by extension, the importance of equity in public health (Ministry of Health). Finally, the Public Health Leadership Program (PHLP) is expected to help eliminate the existing barriers to public health education and increase the relevance and applicability of the content (Ministry of Health).
Therefore, it can be said that public health education in New Zealand is in a state of dynamic development. The Ministry of Health also frequently updates policies covering a variety of topics including alcohol, child obesity, poverty, health equity, water fluoridation, and Pacific Peoples’ health. The updates to such policy statements range from 2012 to 2017, which ensures up-to-date relevance of all policies and the possibility of necessary adjustments.
Finally, the latest roadmap incorporates health research as one of the most crucial components of a sound health strategy (New Zealand Government). This research is conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Health Research Council, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (New Zealand Government). In this way, the findings of studies will remain relevant and can be successfully integrated into practice to achieve the best health outcomes for the country’s population.
Due to the historical inequity of France’s health care system, a strong orientation toward public health is a prominent component of the country’s new direction. Greater equity is to be achieved through improvements in education and a reorientation of health policies. The most recent attempt to address the lack of equity in health care was a set of guidelines in the Health Act introduced in 2014. According to these guidelines, public health education must focus on a younger audience in areas such as smoking reduction, healthy nutrition, contraception, alcoholism, and attending physicians (French Government).
This shift is expected to enhance the preventative capabilities of the public health sector and improve the long-term health outcomes of the population. This educational effort is also to be synchronized with the results of priorities monitoring based on indicators established by the Higher Council for Public Health (IHS Markit). Next, the reform is expected to strengthen several policies that address specific barriers to public health.
The most prominent areas currently identified and addressed in the policies are a high number of chronic diseases, an increasingly aging population, and, most importantly, the equality of health care access. Currently, the policies are based on three axes: strengthening patients’ rights, improving access to health services, and prioritizing prevention (IHS Markit).
While the guidelines do not specify areas of research that are expected to contribute to France’s public health, they do mention the goal of decreasing the administrative complexity of related processes, such as funding and publishing (IHS Markit). The network involved in the research process currently consists of ANRS, INSERM, the IRD, the CNRS, and a network of Pasteur institutions, all of which potentially increase the overall quality of research but also introduce numerous bureaucratic and communication difficulties which may compromise productivity (French Government).
Overall, the trends in France’s public health management are generally similar to those of New Zealand in terms of orientation towards diversity and equity. However, in contrast to New Zealand’s culturally driven policies, France clearly emphasizes the socioeconomic status and aims at educating the younger generation. Therefore, it is to be expected that a decrease in disease and mortality rates will mostly be observed in the long term, once the current generation can consistently apply the obtained knowledge. From a global perspective, it is reasonable to expect a more even distribution of positive health outcomes, which, in turn, would facilitate a more equal socio-economic landscape.
Similar to France, Australian public health policies focus on prevention rather than treatment. A summary from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare explicitly states a focus on the causes of injuries and illnesses rather than the injuries and illnesses themselves (AIHW). Education is considered an essential way to promote public health among the population and is applied in numerous settings, the most common of which are schools, workplaces, homes, and media outlets (AIHW).
Educational events and programs are run by the Australian government, territorial and local government agencies, and several non-governmental bodies such as the Heart Foundation and various cancer councils (AIHW). Aside from specific diseases, educational programs cover a wide range of related topics. Health promotion includes a healthy social environment and active lifestyle encouragement as well as several area-specific health risks (e.g. excessive sun exposure). Environmental health covers common environmental hazards, such as industrial chemicals and water pollutants, and assists in the development of standards and regulations. Immunization education aims at addressing common misconceptions regarding immunizations and raising awareness of its advantages.
Public health policies in Australia cover hygiene and food standards (through the implementation of regulations on food production and testing conducted by dedicated agencies), environmental hazards (through risk management and advice on specific issues), immunization, and communicable diseases (through a multitude of educational and prevention events). In accordance with the stated orientation toward prevention, some of the policies focus on health screenings and tobacco and alcohol abuse prevention.
The majority of public health-related research is conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). According to its latest strategic plan, its top priorities include dementia, diabetes, cancer, injury prevention and control, health improvement for Aboriginal peoples, obesity, and mental health, among others (NHMRC). Overall, the approach chosen by Australia is more encompassing and straightforward than those of France and New Zealand, which makes a reduction in disease rates and mortality more feasible.
The orientation towards prevention, on the other hand, would provide additional economic benefits for involved institutions in the long run and, by extension, lead to increased sustainability of public health practices. From a global perspective, this approach can set an example of an equitable public health system and help promote education and awareness programs around the world.
Despite the differences in emphases, public health policies in these three countries share several similarities. Most prominently, they recognize prevention is more important than treatment, consider long-term outcomes as the primary goal, and recognize the significance of cultural and socioeconomic factors. Therefore, while their national impact will likely be defined by contemporary barriers, it is safe to expect a relatively similar impact on global health.
AIHW. “Public Health Programs in Australia.” Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011.
French Government. “The Guidelines of the Health Act.” Gouvernement.fr, 2014.
IHS Markit. “France’s MoH Unveils National Health Strategy.” IHS Markit, 2013.
Ministry of Health. “Public Health Education and Training.” Ministry of Health, 2016.
New Zealand Government. “New Zealand Health Strategy Roadmap of Actions 2016.” Ministry of Health. 2016.
NHMRC. “NHMRC Strategic Plan 2013–2015.” National Health and Medical Research Council.