6 Public Health Predictions for 2017

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As chronic illnesses evolve, epidemics run their course, and environmental issues take hold, public health officials adjust their focus and resources as necessary. As you consider pursuing a master’s of public health degree or are currently working in the field, it’s essential to know the current trends and issues affecting communities around the globe. Take a look at six public health predictions for 2017, and learn how these issues could impact populations around the world.

Resistance to Antibiotics

As epidemics and illnesses reach unprecedented scope and scale, some have started to prove resistant to traditional antibiotics and entire categories of treatments. While these so-called superbugs are still relatively rare in the United States, Humanosphere reports that they kill about 700,000 people per year.

The United Nations has determined addressing these antibiotic-resistant bugs to be a priority in 2017, and public health officials will be on the forefront of this initiative. In addition to conducting research, public health officials will take responsibility for sharing information about treating and preventing superbugs and helping the affected communities stay as healthy as possible.

Prescription Drug Abuse

While illegal narcotics continue to cause global health problems, prescription drugs are quickly leading the way to a health crisis in the U.S. The American Public Health Association (APHA) reports an average of 40 people in the U.S. die from overdoses of prescription drugs like codeine, Valium, and Adderall every day.

Public health officials will have prominent roles in addressing the prescription drug abuse epidemic in 2017. In addition to championing the prescription drug monitoring programs that the APHA supports, public health professionals may need to promote increased education in their communities, advocate for addiction treatment programs, and devise new methods for dealing with this serious issue.

Emerging Diseases

In 2015 and 2016, the spread of communicable diseases like Ebola and Zika made headlines across the world. While they have not yet led to global epidemics, MediGain reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared emerging diseases, including Ebola, Zika, MERS respiratory syndrome, and Crimean-Congo fever, the most likely to cause pandemics.

Public health organizations are charged with developing vaccines for the most pressing diseases as they rush to research effective treatments and educate their communities about disease prevention.

As PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute explains, some of the biggest challenges for public health professionals include knowledge and resources. Many remain focused on their immediate communities, but they must find a way to apply a global context to their initiatives. Emergency funding allocated in 2016 may finally enable public health officials to build the workforce they need and expand laboratory capacity to the extent necessary to prevent these infectious diseases from spreading in the U.S.

Environmental Health Issues

In recent years, public health officials and health care providers have developed an evolving understanding of how the environment affects health and well being. According to the APHA, communities across the U.S. lack access to safe locations for exercise or places to buy nutritious food. In addition, many populations live in areas with heavy pollution or unsafe air or water. Flint, Michigan, where residents endured a drinking water crisis and continue to fight for clean water, serves as just one example.

Around the globe, countless communities deal with these environmental factors on a daily basis without knowledge of their effects. With the assistance of the APHA’s Environment Section, public health officials around the world must make strides to understand the effect of environmental health issues and develop solutions and policies based on research and science. In advocating for social and environmental justice, public health officials could greatly improve the quality of life and well being of at-risk populations.


For years, physicians and public health officials have struggled to address patients in underserved populations and those who live in remote locations. A growing shortage of physicians has made this issue more pressing, and 2017 appears to be the year that health care providers make much-needed changes to methods of delivering health care to patients in need.

As MediGain reports, telemedicine could provide an effective solution to this two-pronged problem. Telemedicine enables health care providers to diagnose, advise, and treat patients without sharing physical space. That means a smaller number of providers could treat a much larger number of patients, and location would not present a barrier to treatment.

If telemedicine proves to be effective, it could help to improve chronic health issues in underserved populations. Those who live in rural communities in the U.S., in developing countries, or in isolated corners of the world could finally receive the health care they need, improving the health of both individual communities and nations as a whole.

Stalled Progress on HIV Elimination

While most public health predictions for 2017 focus on emerging technology and methods for addressing critical diseases, not all news indicates a clear path forward. As Humanosphere reports, HIV treatment is one major area in which research and progress have stalled. For more than a decade, public health and research organizations have made significant progress developing effective treatments for and campaigns to end this dangerous virus. However, the road ahead appears less promising for HIV treatment and management.

In order to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, a date to which the United Nations’ global UNAIDS initiative has committed, public health officials must continue to push for progress. In the U.S. and around the globe, public health representatives must build the essential workforces and educational programs they need to treat and inform the public. They must also advocate for health care and public health organizations to invest the funding, time, and infrastructure necessary to combat HIV and AIDS.

When you pursue a career in public health, you can positively impact the health and well being of communities around the world. Find out how an online Master of Public Health degree from Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California can enable you to drive change in the world of public health.