Building Public Health System Capacity is crucial in order to meet the challenges of improving population health and well-being and reducing health inequities. Sustainable capacity development is required in a number of key areas, including leadership and governance, organizational structures, workforce, financial resources, partnerships, knowledge development and translation and public health education and pedagogy.
First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Communities face unique cultural, social, economic and environmental issues that impact their health and well-being. These communities demonstrate strength and resilience in the face of daunting challenges and historical inequities. Some communities have experienced remarkable holistic improvements in some aspects of their health, even though much remains to be done.
Health Assessment and Disease Surveillance monitors the population health status, detects and responds to outbreaks of disease or other health-related issues, and contributes to assessing the effectiveness of public health programs and services.
Health Promotion, defined as “the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health” (WHO, 1986), creates living and working conditions that enable people to make healthy life choices, and then supports them in that choice. The focus tends to be on groups or communities, rather than on individuals, and on changing the social norms that ultimately shape behaviour and have the potential to promote health equity. Health promotion action means building healthy public policy, creating supportive environments, strengthening community actions, developing personal skills and reorienting health services.
Health Protection protects people from involuntary risk posed by both natural and human-created hazards that are an actual or potential threat to their health. This can include risks related to the ecological determinants of health as well as communicable and non-communicable diseases. It does so by invoking the power of the state to legislate, regulate, tax, inspect, enforce, sanction and, if need be, punish those who put the health of their fellow citizens at risk. Again, the focus tends to be both population-wide and on protecting identified populations at high risk living in vulnerable contexts.
Partnerships and Collaborations with health and other sectors (e.g., education, social services, housing) are essential to public health programs and services. Public health promotes community capacity-building by fostering meaningful and respectful engagement with Indigenous community and other partners. Such capacity building requires commitment from partners as well as a range of skills and processes to ensure that partnerships and collaborators are functional and effective in achieving their goals. Collaboration provides the mechanism for designing comprehensive strategies that strengthen the health system.
Policy and Program Interventions include the implementation of population health and prevention actions to reduce health risk. These interventions, and their evaluation, address the underlying social, economic and environmental conditions that are needed to build the evidence base. They might be designed and developed in the health sector, in other sectors such as education, housing or employment or in collaboration with a number of sectors and partners. Interventions (and evaluations) that are relevant for public health comprise strategies designed to prevent disease, illness or health problems from developing (primary prevention) or to reduce or slow the progress of the condition after it has developed (secondary prevention).