Last semester I took an HMP course about comparing health policies in high-income countries in the world, primarily in Europe. Not only was this a fantastic discussion-based course, it also opened my eyes to many of the global problems public health is facing in countries we normally regard as well-off. Obesity and the aging population are two of the major issues that come to mind and are clearly on the front lines of public health in the US as well.
After learning about how various countries tackle (and fail to tackle) these emerging problems, it quickly becomes discouraging when evaluating the current US health care system and solutions. Why does the US health care system cost almost twice as much as other leading high-income nations, yet we remain behind many of these countries in health outcomes such as mortality and life-expectancy? Unfortunately, this environment is exactly what we are graduating into. However, as one of my friends encouraged me, this is also a great opportunity to work as a public health professional.
As I learned from my HMP course, many of the answers can be gleaned from studying other nation’s health care systems and how they adapt to problems we are facing as well. I’m still at the very beginnings of my education in public health and have a long way to go, but I’m starting to understand the point and task of public health on a global scale. For any prospective students out there, Michigan provides an excellent opportunity to study many of the public health issues facing the global population, both in industrialized and developing nations. From understanding the big picture to focusing on interest areas such as the AIDS epidemic, mathematical modeling of diseases, and cardiovascular disease risk factors, the scope of public health is ever-widening and in need of fresh new candidates every day. Thankfully I still have three semesters left to see what areas I’m most interested in!