The health of individuals and populations can be jeopardized by serious threats to wellness particular to the modern world. Processed foods, tobacco products, and sedentary lifestyles contribute to the increase in chronic illness in many of today’s communities. Rapidly increasing rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are often indicative of how communities are suffering from challenges to their collective health. In response, local and federal governments have passed laws regulating dangerous fats, limiting the sale of cigarettes, and promoting healthier habits to ensure the long-term well being of large populations in the U.S. and abroad.

Spotlight

With its influence dimmed in the U.S., smoking remains a global problem.

Tobacco use is responsible for almost six million deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Public health efforts have made progress in reducing tobacco use in the U.S. – including a $200 billion settlement with the major tobacco companies – but almost 80 percent of smokers now live in low- and middle-income nations. Educating populations in these lower-income nations about the health hazards of tobacco use remains a priority for public health professionals. WHO also notes that there is significant lag between tobacco use start and fatal health effects – this means that, in some younger populations, the epidemic is just beginning. The public health field is committed to solving the global tobacco problem head on  – by developing educational resources for smoking cessation, advocating for bans and restrictions on tobacco products, and studying patterns of tobacco use in large populations to better understand how individuals are becoming addicted and what can be done to increase prevention.

1/3 The proportion of the world’s population over 12 who are smokers, according to the American Lung Association.

Spotlight

Tackling the obesity crisis by improving access to healthy lifestyles.

The risks for chronic disease—such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease—increases significantly in populations where obesity is prevalent. The World Health Organization projects that by 2015, approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese. Once considered problems only in high-income countries, being overweight is now significantly more common in low- and middle-income countries. Public health professionals work to educate populations about healthy eating and active lifestyles to ensure access to nutritious foods while seeking to restrict damaging ones like trans-fat.