As 2016 comes to a close, public healthcare is on the minds of many Americans.
Declining health in the elderly population, the rise in non-communicable diseases, and the need for more comprehensive maternal healthcare is leading to shortages in qualified public healthcare providers, funding, and resources.
As we move into 2017, we need to consider where to focus our efforts to provide measurable impact. Here are five major public health issues to watch for in 2017.
Non-communicable diseases take center stage.
According to the CDC, the leading cause of death among Americans is heart disease.
In 2014, 614,348 deaths occurred due to heart disease. Beyond that, the top 7 leading causes of death were non-communicable illnesses. Of the top 10, only one, influenza, was a communicable disease.
Influenza was listed at number 8, and killed 55,227 individuals in the year 2014.
However, years of campaigning and advances in healthcare precautions, cleanliness, and public awareness have greatly reduced the risk of communicable diseases in America.
Shortage of qualified health care workers.
In 2017, the focus must shift to preventing non-communicable diseases.
Just as we achieved tremendous success in preventing communicable diseases, we have the capability to reduce these leading causes of death as well. However, to do so, we need to mobilize a force of qualified medical professionals and resources to support them.
According to the WHO, there will be a shortage of 12.9 million healthcare workers by the year 2035. Unless more students choose to pursue degrees in the public health sector, there will not be enough workers to meet the demand.
For those who already have a degree in the healthcare field, seeking a certified masters in public health will fill the demand for the growing number jobs that also require further education in this field.
Health of aging population is deteriorating.
According to the National Institute of Aging, in 5 years there will be more people over the age of 65 than there will be children. They cite that this is due to lower fertility rates and an incredible increase in life expectancy.
As already noted, there has been a considerable rise in non-communicable diseases due to changes in diet and lifestyle.
These needs are only projected to grow and a field of qualified professionals will need to be educated to provide cutting edge care to these aging individuals.
For those considering furthering their education in the public health sector, there has never been more of an incentive to pursue a masters in public health online than in the coming years.
Advances in midwifery care.
According to a 2015 report by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, 1 million women are not receiving sufficient prenatal care in America each year. They estimate that, by 2020, there will not be enough physicians to meet the demand.
The need for specialized midwives who can provide cost effective, quality care is growing.
Many women are choosing to consider midwives as knowledge about these options spreads. As more people express satisfaction with the level of care they receive, this sector will continue to grow.
Finally, informed consent is a growing issue in the medical and political sectors.
The conversation continues about what falls under the need for informed consent. There is a growing amount of information that doctors need to be educated on to properly inform patients.
These issues need to be addressed by qualified individuals who can keep abreast of the overwhelming amount of information coming from pharmaceutical companies, medical journals, and even lobbyists.
There is a growing need for programs that can continue to keep medical professionals informed on the latest science to share with patients.
As you can see, there is a wide number of complex public health care issues to watch out for in 2017, many of which are related in one way or another.
More qualified professionals will need to be trained to face these new realities.
Advances in sciences, growing populations, and advances in technology will all require renewed resources and continued education for those already in the field.