Public health and community health are two pillars of a flourishing population, and they sound like they could be the same thing. It's true that public health and community health have a lot in common because they share the same goal: making sure that people are as healthy as possible. But there are some key differences in approach and methods that are important to understand.
Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals," according to Charles-Edward Amory Winslow, a bacteriologist and public health giant. Put simply, it puts the scientific study of disease to work to keep people and populations healthy.
Public health focuses on studying the diseases themselves, looking at how they spread within a particular group of people. That group - or population - could be as broad as an entire demographic or as focused as a neighborhood. Public health pays attention to preventing the spread of disease, which could involve community education programs or health plans. It also studies how diseases move through communities, gathering data on patterns to help scientists understand how illnesses circulate.
Community health is similar, with the same goal of preventing disease in communities. But while public health focuses on the science of disease, community health's focus is more social. It looks at factors like socioeconomic status and cultural standards to see how they impact the health of a more localized community. It seeks to find and heal health gaps resulting from location, social status, race and ethnicity, income, and other factors.
Like public health, community health commonly involves education programs and health plans, working with individuals at the local level to improve the health of the community.
Community health centers are facilities that receive government and private funding to give communities affordable healthcare options. They often include clinics and educational programs designed to offer holistic support.
Community health centers, like Community Health Partners, commonly offer preventative and primary care services—including medical and dental; preventative care offerings like vaccinations and screenings; behavioral health services that include counseling and screenings; and education programs, among other services.
Community Health Partners (CHP) is a community health center with multiple care delivery sites and community health professionals in Southwest Montana, committed to bringing affordable healthcare to any individual who needs it, without disparity. With a mission of enhancing community health and well-being, CHP offers its healthcare services on a sliding scale based on income to help give everyone access to care, regardless of their ability to pay.
To learn more about how to access community health programs or schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated healthcare providers, contact your nearest clinic to get started.