David’s post about what exactly is public health got me thinking about what public health means to me.
In my mind, public health is a lot about prevention. It’s about the research to put into place policies regarding how to prevent illness and disease and promote well-being. In my mind, medicine is pretty reactive — an individual has symptoms, the condition is identified, and treated.
I’m not knocking medicine by any means. I work in a hospital, so I know all about the incredible things these people do. And to be honest, when I think about my future career, its pretty reactive as well. I want to practice environmental law, especially as it pertains to contaminants in water supplies. Think Erin Brokovich or A Civil Action.
But if I’m advocating for individuals who may have exposure to these contaminants, I’m being reactive. There already has been an exposure for these people. And although remediation and removal of the contaminants is a probable outcome, there could be dozens of health effects already occuring.
My reconciliation for all of this is the notion of precedent. Not only precedent in the law, but also precedent in the realization that if these potential environmental hazards are not proactively prevented, the consequences could be huge — multi-million dollar clean-ups, compensation, or even punitive sanctions.
So although the pathway may be a little uncommon, and seem to have a bit of contradiction, I hope that the pathway allows me to capitalize on my public health background, and actually work to prevent adverse health outcomes.
Or at least just get an academy-award winning movie written about my life and how I made a multi-billion dollar corporation take responsibility for poisoning a water supply.