Public Health Issues That Need to Be Addressed in 2023

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Public health is more than just responding to chronic health issues like the COVID-19 pandemic; it encompasses dealing with several emotional, mental, and physical health issues people face worldwide. Hence, many nonprofit organizations and government public health agencies run different programs aimed at promoting well-being, protecting health, and preventing the spread of diseases. 

These organizations use their knowledge and authority to address economic, environmental, and social challenges that cause acute and chronic diseases – the diseases that lead to increased mortality rates and poor overall health and well-being. Since global health challenges will continue to emerge even in 2023, it is highly important to recognize and identify them to address them promptly. 

In this article, we will discuss the six emerging public health issues that have caused concerns among experts. 

1. Workforce Shortage

Typically, the public health workforce comprises two primary components, i.e., nurses, doctors, other clinical providers, and public health professionals who serve government agencies, research institutions, and healthcare nonprofits. However, both of these components are now severely impacted by the shortage of workers. 

As per the 2021 public health think tank de Beaumont’s survey (Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey), more than 25% of public health officials said they were considering leaving their agency within a year. You might wonder why. 

The reason many of these respondents decided to leave public health was the backlash created against public health initiatives during the pandemic. 

This is exactly why governments worldwide are now more focused on producing trained experts in public health. This is in response to the demand for professionals that is likely to grow in the future as well. However, for students considering a career in public health, it’s important to know the difference between a doctor of public health vs PhD program. One of the most significant differences is that while DrPH programs are for those who have already started their careers with sufficient experience, PhDs are mostly for undergraduates or graduates who want to advance their knowledge and might not have any experience in the field yet. 

2. Mental Disorders

The increasing number of mental health issues have become a leading cause of disability globally. Considering the impact of violence, war, and the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, the issue remains a priority. However, COVID isn’t the sole culprit. It is also important to understand how other issues have impacted the burden and prevalence of mental disorders and how countries must adapt their mental health response wisely and accordingly. 

Currently, some of the biggest risk factors leading to mental disorders include childhood sexual abuse, bullying victimization, and intimate partner violence. Therefore, moving forward, there is a need to understand better the risks associated with these disorders. Also, we must understand how these vary across different populations, what can be done, and how the best opportunities can be offered for complete prevention at a global level. 

3. Malnutrition, Infectious Diseases, and Food Safety

Another important public health issue that needs to be addressed in 2023 is the increasing potential of infectious diseases, which indicates the need to improve the quality of services in the healthcare industry. Resilient and functional primary healthcare is one way to boost health services aimed at preventing infectious diseases. 

Similarly, malnutrition remains a significant concern among children in 2023. The problem is linked to socioeconomic factors like a general lack of awareness about healthy diets and limited access to healthy foods. Moreover, a healthy diet is increasingly unaffordable for many due to political conflicts, pandemics, and climate disasters.

As a result, in October 2022, the World Health Organization introduced the Global Strategy for Food Safety 2022-30, emphasizing a One Health approach through collaboration and communication. The strategy focuses on addressing and identifying safety risks and the implementation of surveillance and risk assessment to prevent, detect, and respond to foodborne diseases.

4. Climate Change

Climate change is already affecting the health of billions of people worldwide, and the situation is only likely to worsen in the future. Today, people are experiencing extreme heat due to the depletion of the ozone layer, and the effects are not limited to physical health.

For instance, flooding forces people to leave their homes, negatively impacting their mental health. 

Similarly, storms and droughts impact water availability and food security in many countries, while wildfire smoke episodes are a leading cause of increased air pollution. Thus, as we now know from the experience of the pandemic, being prepared is the key, and there is an increasing need to adopt sustainable practices to slow down the effects of climate change in the future.

5. Diabetes and Cancer

Diabetes is a growing concern in 2023; it’s a condition that majorly affects healthcare systems, the economy, and, of course, people. Despite the long-standing relation between overweight/obesity and diabetes, the prevalence of the latter is increasing in individuals with a healthy weight as well. However, one way to prevent and mitigate the emerging complications and impact of the disease is to invest in awareness campaigns and support programs.

Similarly, cancer is now the leading cause of death worldwide due to a lack of diagnosis and timely access to screening and treatment, contributing to higher cancer-related mortality rates in many countries. Therefore, one of the sustainable development goals in 2023 is to prevent cancer-related mortality. Also, to ensure the quality of life of affected people, timely and appropriate detection, followed by effective therapy, has become inevitable.

6. E-Cigarettes

These devices were initially introduced in 2006 and marketed as a way to quit smoking. However, they are now being used to ingest tobacco and related drugs like fentanyl and marijuana and have become widespread among the young population. There are many dangers associated with the increasing use of e-cigarettes, such as addiction to tobacco among young people and abuse of illicit substances, leading to overdoses and permanent lung damage. 

However, to curb this issue, every country needs to run a nationwide campaign highlighting the negative effects of its use and creating awareness to combat the use of e-cigarettes among children.

The Final Words

Public health issues are the challenges that still await the right measures from officials worldwide. While the officials understand the challenges in keeping people healthy and safe, they need to make more efforts to ensure everyone has access to essential healthcare, which may be tough but necessary. 

Identifying the critical public health challenges has become crucial for sustainable and effective health delivery. For this, more funding, greater prioritization, and better cooperation and collaboration are necessary to achieve universal healthcare targets. Lastly, global efforts need to be initiated before these challenges turn into public health emergencies.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich.

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I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds. 

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