National Public Health Week – Celebrating Ten Great Public Health Achievements
Since 1900, the average lifespan of persons in the United States has lengthened by greater than 30 years; 25 years of this gain are attributable to advances in public health (1). Much of that 25-year increase in life expectancy attributed to public health can be tied the 10 of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. These achievements were highlighted in an April 1999, report issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and include the following advancements.
Ten Great Public Health Achievements — United States, 1900-1999
- Vaccinations resulted in the eradication of smallpox; elimination of poliomyelitis in the Americas; and control of measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenza type b, and other infectious diseases in the United States and other parts of the world.
- Improvements in motor-vehicle safety have resulted from engineering efforts to make both vehicles and highways safer and from successful efforts to change personal behavior (e.g., increased use of safety belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets and decreased drinking and driving). These efforts have contributed to large reductions in motor-vehicle-related deaths (2).
- Work-related health problems, such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung), and silicosis — common at the beginning of the century — have come under better control. Severe injuries and deaths related to mining, manufacturing, construction, and transportation also have decreased; since 1980, safer workplaces have resulted in a reduction of approximately 40% in the rate of fatal occupational injuries (3).