What are Leading Areas of Public Health Research?

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  • Written By: Renee Malove
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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Public health research is a very broad field, but everything a public health researcher does is related to the health of the public. There are many leading areas of public health research that are seen over and over again as time goes by, even in the face of advancing technology. These areas include the prevention of chronic disease through diet and exercise, the prevention of antimicrobial resistance, preventing the spread of airborne diseases, and the prevention of bioterrorism.

Public health research is dedicated to the study of finding ways to promote the health of the general public. It strongly resembles clinical research in many ways, except in that it's not focused on the individual treatment of patients. Instead, public health focuses on the prevention of disease in the general population before it needs to be treated.

Centuries ago, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease were fairly insignificant factors when it came to survival. Time has changed that, however. Public health research is expending a tremendous amount of effort to research how diet and exercise can help people live longer and be healthier. This may involve preventing the development of these chronic diseases in the first place and, in some cases, even leading to the prevention of cancer. This campaign includes the spread of the anti-smoking movement.


When it was first developed, penicillin was a miracle drug. In most cases, bacteria had never been exposed to the drug before, so it worked on many types of disease. Over time, these germs developed a resistance to the drug. This same thing is being seen repeatedly with different types of antimicrobial drugs designed to kill viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. This is a process known as anti-microbial resistance, and it's leading to the rebirth of previously extinct diseases like tuberculosis. Public health policy against over-prescribing antibiotics and antivirals are attempting to combat this.

The growing threat of avian and swine flu has made it clear that public health research into the containment of airborne, disease-causing germs known as pathogens was invaluable. Prior to the development of public health, the plague and cholera swept through Europe, devastating the population. Thanks to public health research into ways to control and contain the spread of these diseases, other potential pandemics may be halted before they have the opportunity to wreck mass havoc.

Bioterrorism is a real threat that the infrequent outbreaks of anthrax over the years. Public health research is focused on the rapid identification and quarantine of these microbes if they are used, as well as various methods of vaccinating the general public against them. The smallpox vaccine was the first vaccine to be successfully created, and the hope is that eventually public health will evolve to the point where the whole population will be able to be successfully vaccinated against bioterrorism.


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