Public Health Has a Plain Language Problem
In a new de Beaumont Foundation blog post, Mark Miller, Vice President of Communications at the de Beaumont Foundation, explores public health’s communication challenges.
A few weeks after I started working at the de Beaumont Foundation, I was talking to a friend about the organization and our focus on public health. That led to the obvious question, “What exactly is public health?” I did my best to answer him, giving several examples and explaining what it is not, and I told myself, “I need a better answer for that.”
It turns out, the entire public health field struggles with that same question – and that’s a problem. If you can’t explain what you do and why it matters, how can you possibly build support and make others care? This lack of understanding is one of the reasons public health is underfunded and underappreciated, even though public health affects every person in the world, every day.
Professors Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled “It Saves Lives. It Can Save Money. So Why Aren’t We Spending More on Public Health?” Citing numerous examples, they write: “Americans spend relatively little money in [public health] and far more on medical care that returns less value for its costs. Instead of continually complaining about how much is being spent on health care with little to show for it, maybe we should direct more of that money to public health.”