Public Health Works
In 1900 the life expectancy for the average person was around 40. Of the 30 years added to life expectancy this past century, 25 of those years are directly related to public health. It might surprise you to know that in this day and age the life expectancy in both Angola and Zambia, countries in southern Africa is still less than 40 years. Afghanistan has a life expectancy of 44 years. It makes one stop and think of all that we have here in Holmes County, clean water, clean air, access to medical care, safe streets.
But even in the United States people die young, and public health has worked to learn from their deaths to prevent other deaths. After Jayne Mansfield the actress died at the age of 34 in an automobile crash, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began to require changes on tractor trailers to prevent the sliding of a car underneath a truck. A number of celebrities including saxophonist Charlie Parker (34), John Belushi (33), and Marilyn Monroe (36) have died from drug overdoses. Today public health works hard to address both prescription drug abuse and illicit drug abuse. Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas died at 32 from a heart attack brought on by obesity, a subject that public health is addressing today.
During the lifetime of most adults, public health has contributed to the end of smallpox, a rapid decline in smoking, a marked decrease in heart disease deaths, the AIDS epidemic and subsequent treatments, creation of the EPA, and many other developments. Who knows what advances in the field of public health we will see during our children’s lifetime.