Public vs. Clinical Health

Public health deals with the health of the community. On the other hand, clinical health encompasses the clinical aspects of an individual’s care. It focuses more your personal well-being. This includes clinical investigation, diagnostic tests, diagnostic assessments, treatment, and prognosis.


In public health the primary focus is populations. There is an emphasis on prevention, health promotion, control, and the entire community. Examples of public health include epidemiology, occupational health, and nutrition.


In clinical health or medicine, the primary focus is on individuals. There is a major emphasis on diagnosis, treatment, and the whole patient. Examples of clinical health include cardiology, pediatrics, dentistry, and pharmacy.


While public health professionals try to prevent us from being sick, clinical health professionals treat us when we are sick. While individuals make up a community, there are times in public health where one must act with the best interest of the community in mind. As a result, individuals and their personal health may suffer.


In some ways public and clinical health are similar. Public health goes hand in hand with the individual health of the members of a population. While public health has a greater emphasis on prevention of disease, clinical health professionals also use disease prevention strategies. For example, many doctors encourage their patients to quit smoking to help protect them from the possibility of lung cancer and other health complications related to smoking. Another example of prevention in clinical health is when your doctor takes measure to prevent recurring urinary tract infections based on your medical history. In terms of public health, an example of prevention is preventing disease outbreaks in a community or an area. This is done through several methods including spreading awareness, following, and endorsing a certain vaccination and education. A real-life example of this is the measures taken by the government of Ontario to slow the spread of COVID-19.


There are sometimes when clinical health and public health cross paths. A great example of this is vaccinations. Vaccines are products that are used to protect our community against many different diseases. These diseases pose a great health risk against our community and can even be deadly. Most vaccines are given by injection (through a needle, usually through the arm), some are given orally (ingested) or nasally (through the nose). For example, influenza can be very severe or in some cases be fatal. Therefore, the implementation of the flu vaccine provides a great degree of protection against the disease. Vaccines that are in the Ontario schedule are covered by the government. By making the vaccines accessible for the residents of Ontario, the government is promoting the well-being of the public. Other examples of vaccines include the MMR, polio, hepatitis, and tetanus vaccines. Due to their increased accessibility, the disabling disease that are caused from these diseases are not as prevalent in Ontario. Pharmacies can provide individual with vaccinations and consult individuals on the benefits. Through this way of customization for each individual patient, vaccinations can be a form of clinical health as well.


Written By: Penny Liu

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