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Discussion: The Basic Science of Public Health

Transformation of Genetics in Public Health

 In previous years, the primary emphasis on genetic medicine was relatively rare single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease, and chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome, categories of disease primarily involving obstetrics and pediatrics (Battle, 2009). It was believed that the science behind genetics was not proven to validate its correlation to other diseases and disciplines. Conversely, Battle (2009) suggests, that virtually all diseases have genetic basis, including those that occupy the everyday activities of primary care providers and public health professionals. Current studies indicate that genetics increasingly will provide insights into genetic contributions to the common chronic diseases that constitute the major causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide (Battle, 2009). This will enable health care and public health professionals to extract information from studying genetics to avert potential inherent diseases that can lead to mortality and morbidity.

            One challenge the public health sector faces in result of genetic diseases are individuals living well beyond childhood, and the healthcare community struggling with the transition of care from pediatrics to specialties such as internal medicine and family medicine (Battle, 2009). Many internist are novice to these disorders, and are not competent with appropriate tertiary care for these patients. An additional problem according to Battle (2009), is that more children with genetic and chromosomal disorders are beginning to outlive their parents. Consequently, some of these children will not be able to function independently and will require continuous support, resulting in financial challenges for an array of public health agencies. To assist with allowing health care and public health professionals to become more knowledgeable about the impact of genetics and diseases; the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG) has produced a set of core competencies in genetics for health professionals. This type of approach would be categorized under the core public health function of assurance.

Medication Errors

 All drugs are associated with some degree of risk of an adverse event that may be enhanced in patients with specific risk factors. Additionally, the inappropriate handling of usage of medications may result in medication errors and contribute to the occurrence of drug induced diseases or an adverse drug event (ADE) (Battle, 2009). Medication errors leading to adverse drug events and drug-induced diseases are now the fourth leading cause of death in this country (Battle, 2009). This pervasive issue can have a deleterious effect on the public health sector as medication errors can increase hospital admissions resulting in higher health care expenditures across the country. Battle (2009) reports that the IOM stated that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in hospitals annually due to preventable medical errors with an associated estimated cost as much as $29 billion.

            To combat this issue relative to medication errors, there must be an improvement in the systems from drug ordering, dispensing, and administration. In-depth counseling should be provided to the patients prior to hospital discharges. The federal government should allocate funding dedicated to research relating to safe medication use. Health care professionals and patients should be intentional about working as an interdisciplinary team to organize the medication utilization process. Public health agencies should erect a committee to perfect a system so that it will be safe for every patient, and ensure health care professionals are adequately trained to administer medications safely to reduce errors.

My Objective for Critical Thinking as a Public Health Professional

 I consider my critical thinking skills an integral component to thriving as a practitioner. Critical thinking is pivotal in public health due to the barriers faced by this field, including disease prevention, illness management, economic forces, and continuous changes in the health system. Utilizing my critical thinking skills can be used to help people make informed decisions about their health. Implementing my critical thinking skills will induce the capacity to develop new innovative ideas and frameworks that will mobilize and augment improvements in creating healthier lifestyles.

            Understanding genetics is integral in becoming an effective public health practitioner. Comprehending the diseases at the molecular level, the mutations, the damaged DNA and its repair will be instrumental in providing patients with explanations of how particular diseases are inherited genetically. Learning the core essentials of biochemistry are pertinent to demonstrating the cellular and organismal levels of disease, and how the social issues of these diseases permeate at their fundamental levels.

Reference

Battle, C.U. (2009). Essentials of public health biology: A guide for the study of pathophysiology. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. 

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