The Connection Between Public Health and Health Education

The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile focuses on increasing access to care, on both a primary care level and a public health level, to under-served populations of Chicago. As the NHC Chicago member and Health Educator on the Care Mobile, I’ve been exposed to public health issues first-hand, and have been given the opportunity take part in a worldwide effort to find solutions.

At the heart of public health is infectious disease control, which has developed into a worldwide effort to administer vaccines to once-common diseases: Polio, Measles, Varicella, and many others. However, many public health officials face battles with patients’ misinformation and concern regarding vaccine safety. For example, the Nurse Practitioner on the Care Mobile and I have made an effort to emphasize education surrounding the HPV vaccine. It is a relatively new vaccine, compared to the polio vaccine, so concerns regarding its safety have frequently been raised to us. With concern, we meet with education: the Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and can lead to cervical cancer. To expand on our efforts, the Nurse Practitioner on the Care Mobile is launching an education program surrounding the HPV vaccine, both to increase the awareness and vaccine rates of the HPV vaccine, but to also determine the most effective means to address public health problems such as this one.

Another branch of public health is chronic disease management, which is my primary role on the Care Mobile. Regarding asthma, my goal is for children to recognize their own triggers, avoid them, and/or manage them. They will also know how to use their inhaler, should they experience asthma systems, all in effort to manage their chronic condition. If a chronic condition is managed, less emergency room visits are made, which leads to more financial and physical freedom for the child to go to school, play sports, and enjoy being a child.

From my experience on the Care Mobile, I have found that health education can be a solution to certain public health issues. While many consider public health as a systematic approach to healthcare, appealing to populations and conditions, the solution can be approached individualistically: education with the individual in mind can make the difference between a vaccinated child and an unvaccinated child, or it can make the difference between a child that has managed their asthma for years and a child that has had 3 hospitalizations for asthma attacks in the past year.

This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2019-20 member Lauren Mueller.

Lauren is a Health Educator at Advocate Children's Hospital.