Health literacy isn’t just for doctors going to medical school, especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health is an extraordinarily complex topic, including not only the treatment of illness for individuals but also the links between individual wellness and society. As the current crisis is demonstrating so urgently, understanding those connections and the way that illness is spreading is critical to protecting public health.
Other links between individual health and society include the availability of health services, safety of the built environment, emissions of pollution and toxins, and other factors. Protecting the health of people and the communities in which they live is thus the work of professionals across a variety of fields, including medicine, public policy, engineering and design, social science, safety research, and more. For example, public health historians are playing an important role today in helping to highlight important differences between COVID-19 and more recent limited outbreaks like H1N1, as well as parallels to past global epidemics such as the Spanish Flu of 1918.
For this and other reasons, healthcare is a major growth industry, with a wide range of job opportunities. Major factors driving growth in health jobs include health crises, such as epidemics and pandemics, as well as long term factors such as rising life expectancy and incomes in countries around the world. This increases demand and expectations for quality healthcare. And as we gain more and more data on the connections between individual choices, external risks, and health outcomes, new opportunities are emerging at the intersection of healthcare and technology – or “healthtech” – to come up with innovative new approaches to stopping the spread of disease and improving wellness.