# Probability Applied to Public Health Practice

## Description and example of how probability is used in public health practice

Probability is the quantitative evaluation of uncertainty. It also measures the level of a problem in a particular belief. Probability is being used in the world today to formulate intellectual decisions in different fields such as Physics, Management, Sociology, Genetics, Operation Research, Physics, Astronomy, Healthcare and Engineering (Schneider & David 2008). These are fields where uncertainty and menace are involved to make conclusions concerning the possibility of values or certain events.

In public health practice, probability helps in everyday decision making and this applies in other fields too. Probability can also be used in public health practice to determine whether a particular disease may or may not spread in a given area or population. This paper gives a description and an original example of how probability can be used and applied in public health practice. It also explains why using probabilities and statistics derived from a population could cause problems when applied to individuals in a clinical setting. Lastly it differentiates between focus of clinical practices and focus of public health practitioners.

## Statistic, probability and clinical setting

There are many ways in which probability can be used in public health practice. One good and original example is when determining the probability of cancer development. Based on 2009 Canadian Cancer Society census report, 40% of women and 45% of men in Canada are likely to get diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime (Sullivan 2009). Probability falls between 0 and 1. If the probability is 1 then it means that the likelihood of acquiring the disease is hundred percent. On the other hand, if probability is zero then it means that there is no likelihood of acquiring the disease.

Researchers have also determined the probability of getting cancer among particular group of people while putting into consideration individual factors. Researchers obtained that those people who come from families with one or more members diagnosed with breast cancer are having a higher probability of acquiring cancer. Another original example involves smokers. Those people who smoke have higher probability of acquiring cancer as compared to those people who do not smoke. Smoking is always estimated by health practitioners to count for almost 90 percent of cases of lung cancer. These are some examples of risks factors that public health practitioners normally incorporate probability calculations.

## Difference between focus of clinical practices and focus of public health practitioners

Using statistics and probabilities derived from a population (as is the practice in public health) could cause problems when applied to individuals in a clinical setting because probabilities and statistics are majorly based on reality that either an individual has a condition or not while in the clinical setting, rough estimations are always made and that is why problems usually occur. In the clinical setting, it is certain that the condition is either absent or present based on signs and symptoms portrayed.

## How probability can be applied in public health

The main focus of clinical practice such as those of therapists, MD, Pharmacist or RN is to ensure patient safety and efficiency in operation. They actually focus towards improving quality of patient care. On the other hand, public health practitioners mainly focus on improving the health and quality of patient life through treatment and prevention of the disease including mental and physical health conditions. They do this by surveying the promotions and cases of patients with healthy behaviors. Public health practitioners ensure that condoms are distributed to society; they deliver vaccinations and promote hand washing campaigns with an aim to control particular diseases like diarrhea, STIs and measles (Cates 2009).

Probability can be applied in public health in everyday decision making of uncertain and menace conditions concerning the possibility of values or certain events. Probability can also be applied in public health to determine whether a particular disease may or may not spread in a given area or population.

## References

Cates, W. (2009). Epidemiology: Applying principles to clinical practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schneider, D. & David, L. (2008). Public Health: the Development of a Discipline. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Sullivan, L. (2009). Essentials of Biostatistics in Public Health. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.