When can a disease be considered a public health problem? The answer depends on the nature of the problem. Some public health issues, such as epidemics, affect a large population. Other issues include mental health challenges and motor vehicle accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collect detailed information on causes of illness and mortality and risk factors. The data is then analyzed by epidemiologists and other health professionals to develop prevention strategies and educational materials for the target population.
A communicable disease can be a public health emergency if it poses an international threat to public health. To meet this criteria, the Director of the CDC must determine that the disease poses a threat to the American public. Once these criteria are met, HHS/CDC will make a decision based on the criteria of Annex 2 of the revised International Health Regulations. It will then be announced in the Federal Register.
CDC experts work with health educators to educate the general public about major health problems and healthy lifestyles. Typical health education initiatives focus on physical activity, healthy food, and avoiding tobacco use. However, persuading the general public to adopt these changes is often difficult, especially if they are unaware of the disease. This is because health education campaigns are often accompanied by high costs, which make the costs of prevention initiatives so much less affordable.