Global epidemics—from smallpox, to influenza, to AIDS—have been one of the greatest challenges to the health of large populations. About 39 million people have died from AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic, and millions contract cholera every year. Public health professionals play vital roles in researching these diseases, containing them, and working toward eradication. Professionals in public health craft policies to prepare populations for epidemic outbreaks, facilitate medicine distribution, and educate communities about effective treatment.

Spotlight

Developing countries bear the burden of HIV infections.

More than 39 million people around the world have died from AIDS, with a disproportionate number of those deaths in developing countries. The World Health Organization reports that sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for two-thirds of total HIV infections. To help mitigate the effects of HIV/AIDS, public health professionals work in developing nations to educate populations about HIV prevention and facilitate state-of-the-art treatment methods. While many are still hoping for a cure, public health officials have made significant progress by distributing condoms, educating communities about the transmission of HIV, increasing access to antiretroviral medications, and encouraging circumcisions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

What’s an epidemic? When prevalence of a disease in a given geographic area exceeds the normally expected rate.

Spotlight

Millennium Development Goals made strides in reducing infant mortality, but there is still work to be done.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), put forth by the United Nations in the early 2000’s, set eight development goals to be completed by 2015, ranging from reducing extreme poverty to improving environmental sustainability. The fourth MDG, to reduce child mortality by two thirds by 2015, has made great strides, but there is still work to be done. Child mortality, refers to the death of infants and children under the age of five, has decreased by 47 percent since 1990. The first 40 days after birth are the most dangerous for a newborn, and of the approximately 18,000 child deaths a day, most are from preventable disease. Public health professionals, community health workers, and national health systems all contribute to the continuing efforts to reduce child mortality.