Despite the ever-increasing list of things that are known to cause health problems, there are many other "under-reported" public health issues that are essentially "time bombs looking for a chance to explode." This article will review five such issues that are usually overlooked by the mainstream press.

(1) Re-Emerging Diseases or New Strains of Old Pathogens

Many of the disease that once plagued the United States are but a memory now. But what if a once-epidemic disease were to suddenly reappear?

Everyone is familiar with the historical record of the “Great Influenza Pandemic” of 1918 and its reported morbidity rate (the probability that you would get sick) of 25% and a mortality rate (the probability that, once sick, you would die) of up to 1%. What would those numbers mean today?

Assuming that an epidemic would last 12 weeks, an epidemic of 1918 proportions would kill 10,000 out of every million people in a typical city, for an average of ~ 830 deaths per week. This is about 10 times the “normal” or "expected" death rate. The available supply of caskets would disappear in less than a week, and after 2 weeks it would become necessary to resort to either mass graves or open-pit cremation. In many cases, the dead would remain at their place of death for days on end. Additionally, at any given time, 2% of the workforce (including fire and police personnel as well as store clerks) would be too sick to work. Public safety and commercial operations would simply cease due to a lack of manpower.

(2) Low Childhood Immunization Rates

Childhood immunization had succeeded in dramatically reducing the number of cases of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, and for whatever reasons, some parents are refusing to protect their children against easily-preventable diseases. If this trend continues, the next generations will find themselves burdened by diseases that were once on the verge of eradication.

(3) Obesity

Obesity is a direct or contributing factor in diseases that range from arthritis to colon cancer, yet the average citizen could stand to lose a few pounds. If the current rate of obesity does not change, the next generation will either die prematurely or after years as invalids.

(4) "Migratory" Disease

It is known fact in public health that many disease that had been nearly eradicated in the United States are reappearing. The major culprit in this reappearance is that these diseases (including tuberculosis, diphtheria, and measles) are occurring in the legal and illegal immigrant populations. Tighter immigration control, and long-term public health monitoring, could help to reduce the reappearance of many formerly "rare" diseases.

(5) Lack of Research Funding

As one politician noted, "When the economy is healthy, money for health-related research is healthy. Let the economy go sour, watch as research money is the first thing to disappear." Although it is often dismissed as "unnecessary," continued health care research is more vital today than at any time since the days of Doctors Salk and Sabin.

To summarize, despite the many successes of public health in reducing the number of avoidable deaths, there are a number of situations that, if left unaddressed, have the potential to impact our lives in a way that would make the typical Hollywood "Doomsday Movie" seem optimistic.

Marie Wainscott is a public health administrator and guest author at Best Public Health Schools, a site with resources and information about getting a degree in public health.