Growing up in a family with doctors, I have always been vaccinated properly, and luckily enough, I had never experienced serious epidemics in China… until the last summer of my middle school in 2002. Schools were off for over a month because of the nationwide outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). People were checked morning and night to ensure that they were not infected, and those who showed even a little symptom of infection were immediately separated for further treatment. Even in my hometown, where there were only few cases of infections, horrors still spread quickly as reports of death caused by SARS increased across the country. Recalling this intimidating period, I cannot ignore how the government helped to control the long-term influence of SARS, including advising citizens to stay inside, wash hands thoroughly and report any suspicious cases, and even setting up the separation area to provide infected patients appropriate care and treatment.

Just like me, seldom would people in current days think of public health issues unless facing an epidemic, especially in U.S., a nation seems to be immune from major epidemics outbreaks in recent centuries . It is indisputable that plague, yellow fever and small pox, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people earlier in human history, have almost disappeared on earth. Yet, new viruses have continued to add to the global history of epidemics, killing people in less developed countries with insufficient public health interventions. Taking Ebola as an example—it has already taken away thousands of lives in Africa.

These cases may seem too far away from people’s daily life, and we as average citizens cannot address these significant problems that are subject to multi-national efforts. We can, however, take a look at the public health situation inside the U.S. Although not threatened by deadly disease, America bears a high rate of obesity among its total population. Air quality used to be a great concern in LA, and Flint, MI, was hit by the polluted water crisis in the past year. None of these incidents are just incidental and irrelevant to our lives. According to ENCompass, an OSU student organization that thrives to “to empower individuals by connecting them with resources that address social determinants of health ”, people may suffer from insufficient health care due to their limited access to social resources, such as housing, foods and supplemental medical care. The “public” in public health clearly implies the non-discriminative nature of this discipline, thus health interventions that are taken to accommodate the public’s interests. It also tends to address social disparities, by defaulting everyone as a beneficiary of its intervention. To this point, public health efforts are largely distributed amongst finding cures for common disease like cancer, providing people services and access to resources as well as controlling water and air qualities, etc.

As an interdisciplinary field, OSU College of Public Health aims to create new knowledge to improve overall wellbeing of the people in Ohio and around the world. With the diligent work of faculty and students, the department of public health often conducts significant projects that are closely related to our daily life, quite contrary to our negligence of it. You would learn more about the amazing things public health professionals do to benefit the community in TEDxOhioStateUniversity’s first satellite event coming up on September 21st, featuring speaker Mindy Hoang, is a junior studying public health in the Environmental Public Health specialization at Ohio State. We’re so exciTED to see you tomorrow!

-Yifan Xu