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PT and the Greater Good

PT and Public Health

Published February 18, 2010 5:36 PM by Dean Metz

Do you know what public health is? I'm half way through my first course of my masters in public health and I think I'm just starting to get a handle on it. What I find interesting is that there could be a huge role for PT in this field.

Environmental health and safety, of which ergonomics plays a huge part, is one of the areas that is growing rapidly. Health education is another area that is gaining importance in the states as well. Think about osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, and other conditions that people could be much better educated about thereby possibly lowering the drain on precious health care resources.

The goal of public health is maintaining wellness. This has not been a popular approach to health care in the USA. After all, pharmaceutical companies, DME companies, and hospitals don't know how to make money by keeping people well. Health professionals like physical therapists could, but very few have ventured there. I took an excellent course on ergonomics and the owner of that school has done very well in teaching clients and other therapists how to maintain health.

Public health is not provided for in the constitution of the United States. It is left up to the states and localities to deal with. In short, public health is not a right in the eyes of the federal government. Here in the UK it is an integral part of the NHS and is perceived as a right. As a matter of fact, the Department of Health here is due to be renamed as the Department of Public Health. That shows the degree of commitment and awareness here in the UK. Is this perception of health not being a basic right part of what is preventing health care reform in the states?

What role could you play in public health? How can you change your practice toward maintaining wellness rather than rehabilitation from illness? Are we, as a profession, part of the problem?


Education is the main key to maintaining wellness.  Ultimately the patient/client has to make up their mind that they want to change lifestyle behaviors.  However,  clinicians are in great positions to influence this change.

In my weight loss quest, it was a female gynecologist who ultimately convinced me to join weight watchers.  I dropped 35 pounds because of it.  

My undergraduate degree is bachelor of science with concentration in public health.  My perspectives in my graduate program were very different from some of my colleagues who had exercise science degrees.  You really learn to appreciate health as a country versus the individual.

Crystalyn Richard February 25, 2010 5:16 PM

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About this Blog

    Dean Metz
    Occupation: Staff Development Specialist
    Setting: New York, NY – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain
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