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3 Ways Public Policies Can Impact Community Health

A person holding an elderly person's arm

Elected officials draft and enact legislation that shapes our society. Policies that directly impact healthcare, such as the Affordable Care Act, can transform people's access to medical care. However, the decisions community leaders and politicians make about public policies in other areas still have significant effects on people's health. Learn more about policymakers' impact on local communities and how Tulane School of Professional Advancement's renowned public administration program helps students take the next step toward becoming forward-thinking civic sector leaders.

Beyond Medical Care

When examining the intersection of community health and public policy, people often focus on the quality and accessibility of clinical care. Those are valuable indicators of health outcomes, but seemingly unrelated public policies are closely intertwined with other social determinants of health, which include:

  • Economic stability
  • Accessible public transportation
  • Quality public education options
  • Consistent housing
  • Protection from discrimination and violence

Here's a closer look at three examples of how public policies can impact community health.

Protecting Communities With Safety Policies and Mandates

An example of public policy that protects people’s wellbeing is the Safe Drinking Water Act. It dictates the minimum standards for drinking water quality and holds states, municipalities, and drinking water suppliers to those requirements. Also, federal agencies, such as the Fair Trade Commission, Food & Drug Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, establish regulations on having warning labels on medicine, cigarettes, and other products that can affect people’s health.

Creating and Maintaining Public Services

Directly and indirectly, highways, schools, police forces, and flood control systems are all examples of public services that impact people’s health and wellbeing. Policies that direct funding away from critical infrastructure place a greater burden on citizens, which has knock-on effects on their health. For example, most people who don’t have a car rely on public transportation. If a city cuts back on funding for public buses, it becomes more difficult for these citizens to visit their doctors. Additionally, they will have less access to grocery stores to buy healthy foods, as well as parks and gyms for exercise.

Establishing Accessibility to a Higher Quality of Life

Simply promoting healthy choices won't necessarily change people's lives and habits. Public officials can fund initiatives to address these disparities and issues more directly. Politicians and community leaders can influence policies that have significant impacts on people's lives, such as:

  • Determining whether to build an industrial plant close enough to a neighborhood to affect its air and water quality
  • Funding child care programs for parents who work multiple jobs
  • Organizing events for free flu shots and dental checkups

Put your passion and skills to good use by taking the first step toward becoming a leader in the public sector. At the Tulane School of Professional Advancement, our Master of Public Administration was designed for people who see opportunities for change. Our MPA program can be completed entirely online so that you can keep working and taking care of any other responsibilities you have. We also offer several scholarships and other financial aid options to ensure that anyone who wants to earn a degree from Tulane SoPA can afford to do so. Request more information about our online MPA program today and start working toward a new, more fulfilling career.

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