Global: Realigning the public health curriculum to NCD burden
Title: "The prevention of global chronic disease: Academic public health's new frontier"
Reference: American Journal of Public Health 2011; published online 16 June 2011
Summarized by: Jocelyn Sterling, ProCor
Summary: The American Journal of Public Health recently published an article discussing the need for academic public health to reformat its curriculum to meet the rising demands of NCDs within the global forum. This need for change is brought on by the growing global epidemic of NCDs, specifically CVD, which poses a threat to the future economic development. Additionally, public health leaders seek to change the core mission of public health to move away from focusing on the individual in a medical setting, and rather address the larger issues that affect society as a whole.
Why public health change is important
Public health academia needs a change for several reasons. The current view of public health is outdated, NCD needs are great, but they receive little attention. In the same sense, the current training for new public health professionals does not give enough attention to NCDs, providing little education on NCDs, and therefore creating little interest on the part of the professional. Training professionals in a new way is essential, and programs that prepare individuals for the coming surge of NCD problems are needed.
Barriers and solutions to change
Cultural, behavioral, and political barriers to NCD prevention exist for public health, and fighting the source of the problem - not the risk factor itself - is recommended. As urbanization and globalization bring beneficial changes to underdeveloped countries, it also increases the risk factors for CVD and promotes unhealthy practices. Being mindful of how changes can affect a community's diet or access to physical activity is an important step in healthy urbanization.
In many underdeveloped countries, addressing the immediate medical needs are often all that can be done with limited resources, and practices that could help prevent CVD are not put into use. By lobbying ministries of health to require hospitals and clinics to follow NCD guidelines, such as measuring blood pressure and advising on diet and physical activity, NCDs will become a focus.
Managing risk factors is difficult in an underdeveloped country where access to medication is limited, behavior change is difficult, and NCDs typically bring on no symptoms. Using multiple programs, such as education and policy change, is necessary, but ultimately, recognizing the importance of battling NCDs for economic growth is crucial.
Curbing NCDs will take decades, if not generations, to do, however, the importance of making NCDs a top priority is at the forefront of public health. In order to enact change, academic public health needs to refocus its core lessons and build a professional crop that can work to decrease the growing NCD crisis.