Writing Guide

Writing serves as a useful skill for anyone in the field of public health — students and professionals alike. Public health students must enroll in writing-intensive courses that require essays and research papers. Once students graduate, they put their skills to use writing reports on community health. They may compose presentations, research studies, or press releases, depending on their jobs. Those who stay in academia continue to write research papers throughout their careers.

Students should begin cultivating a clear and concise writing style long before they graduate.

They should also learn how to use standardized citations. Understanding how to properly cite sources will help students as they conduct research and publish their findings. Citations also help students and researchers avoid plagiarism.

This guide explains how to write a public health report, a research paper, and an exam essay. The page also advises students on how to conduct research online and find trustworthy sources. Students can review citation style guides and public health writing samples.

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Types of writing public health students will do in school, personal statements.

When applying to a public health program, schools often require students to submit personal statements. Schools may either ask students to write a general personal essay answer a certain prompt. Usually, prompts center around applicants’ interest in public health or about the public health field in general. Students might come across a prompt similar to this one: “Identify a public health issue in the U.S., and how you would work to rectify it as a public health professional.” Alternately, students may encounter this common topic: “What drove you to pursue a career in public health?”

Schools look for essays that are honest, well-written, and well-organized. Students should get the reader’s attention with an anecdote illustrating their commitment to public health. Was it an experience with adversity or discrimination that prompted you to pursue this career? Did you learn about the importance of public health while volunteering or traveling? Include those details in the story.

Students should also demonstrate their current knowledge of public health. They may write about their career goals as well. However, students should avoid writing exaggerations, falsehoods, or superlatives. People who read admissions essays can typically sense when applicants are stretching the truth. If the school makes the personal statement optional, students should still consider writing one. A personal statement demonstrates commitment and hard work, and may help make up for flawed or weak admissions materials.

In some public health courses, professors require students to answer essay questions during exams. This can be intimidating since students do not usually know the prompt until they actually start the exam. Students have a limited amount of time to write the essay, typically one or two hours. Students should allot their time accordingly. Some students do not plan their work before they begin writing; this can lead to sloppy essays with weak supporting points, disorganized information, and tangents unrelated to the prompt.

For a 60-minute time frame, students may give themselves 10 minutes to brainstorm, plan, and outline.

During the brainstorming process, students should write their thesis statement.

Then they should jot down three points that support the thesis. These ideas will serve as the three body paragraphs. Students may give themselves five minutes to write the introduction, 30 minutes to write the body, and then five minutes to write the conclusion. They then have 10 minutes to proofread. Students often inadvertently miss this step, but proofreading may make or break the essay.

Students should begin planning long before the day of the essay. Students ought to review the material well enough to be prepared for any prompt. They should carefully look over their lecture notes to determine which points the professor emphasized during classes. These points will likely prove significant when it comes time for the exam. Students should also make sure that they actually answer the prompt instead of rushing and jumping to assumptions.

Research Papers

In a research paper, students examine the existing research, theories, case studies, and ideas about a particular topic. Students have several weeks to write research papers, which may seem like a huge amount of time. However, research papers demand a lot of work, so students should start early. Professors rarely assign strict, narrow prompts for research papers. Instead, they usually give students a topic or range of topics, and students choose their focus. Public health topics may include how poverty or race affects access to healthcare; opioid abuse; the social consequences of HIV/AIDS; childhood obesity; or maternal mortality in third world countries.

Students should start by brainstorming a list of points and ideas they will investigate. Then comes the most time-intensive and significant part of a research paper: the research itself. Students ought to use multiple different resources to help them craft their arguments. Options include online databases, academic journals, and their college library. Make sure you keep track of citations and sources as you go.

Students should also make sure their essays are well-structured. A well-written thesis unites the main points of the paper. Unlike essays, research papers usually include more than five paragraphs. Students may break down their arguments into different sections. A research paper must include a works cited or bibliography that credits all sources. The exact length of the paper and number of sources depends on the professor’s expectations.

Over the course of their academic careers, public health students write many kinds of essays. Professors often assign persuasive essays, in which the student must make a convincing argument; expository essays, in which the student explores and explains an idea; narrative essays, in which the student tells a story; comparative essays, in which the students analyzes two different viewpoints; and cause and effect essays, in which the student must explain the logic behind why certain events or phenomena occur.

  • Narrative: In a narrative essay, the author tells a meaningful story. Studying public health, you probably won’t write many narratives. However, narrative essays can support an argument or prove a point. For instance, if you argue that every community should have a free clinic, you might tell a personal story about your experience growing up in a low-income neighborhood with no access to healthcare. Make sure your essay demonstrates a clear plot, follows an organized structure, and includes many details.
  • Expository: When professors assign expository essays, they expect students to explain or describe a concept. These essays help professors evaluate whether students have a firm grasp on a topic. Expository essay often include five paragraphs: an introduction with a thesis statement, three main points backing that thesis statement, and a conclusion. Students should do plenty of planning and research before writing to ensure they adequately address the prompt and include enough evidence.
  • Persuasive: Persuasive essays appear commonly in academic assignments. Students first develop an argument as a thesis statement. Then, they generate a cogent defense of that argument by researching supporting evidence. Students should be able to anticipate arguments against their thesis statement and include counterpoints. In persuasive essays, students not only demonstrate their knowledge of the course material, but also prove their critical thinking skills by developing their case.
  • Comparative: A comparative essay requires students to compare and contrast two ideas, viewpoints, or things. For example, public health students may compare two texts, theories, public health systems, or positions on an issue. First of all, students should create a list of similarities and differences between the two items. After that, they can develop a thesis statement on whether the similarities outweigh the differences or vice versa. Finally, they should organize the essay. They can either defend their thesis statement by listing each point of comparison, or they can split the essay in half by discussing subject one and then subject two.
  • Cause and Effect: These essays require students to explain how one event or theory leads to a specific consequence. For instance, a public health student might argue that abstinence-only education in public schools leads to a higher rate of teenage pregnancies. Students should remember that just because one event follows another, those two events do not necessarily influence one another. In other words, correlation does not equal causation. In the analysis portion of the essay, students must explain specific reasons why they think the two events are connected using data and other evidence.

Citations Guide for Public Health Students

In public health writing, just as any other discipline, students must cite their sources. If students use ideas, theories, or research without crediting the original source — even unintentionally — then they have plagiarised. An accusation of plagiarism could follow the student throughout their education and professional career. Professors may fail students who plagiarise, sinking their GPA. Plagiarism accusations can also ruin a student’s credibility. Fortunately, students can avoid plagiarism by properly giving credit for their data and ideas. Common citation styles include those listed below.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style

Students in the social sciences use APA style when writing their essays and research papers. Business and nursing students also commonly use APA style. APA prefers active voice over passive voice, as well as concise language over flowery words. Research papers written in APA style should include a title page, abstract, and a reference page. In-text citations list the author’s name, year of publication, and page number if applicable. Below is an example of how to cite a source using APA style.

In-text citation:

In Milwaukee, poor neighbourhoods were segregated by design (Desmond, 2017, p. 249).

On the works cited page:

Desmond, M. (2017). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city . London: Penguin Books.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)

History students and students of the natural sciences typically use Chicago, or Turabian, style in their research. Papers written in Chicago style include three sections: the title page, the main body, and a references page. This style also uses footnotes to source information and provide more context. In-text citations list the author’s name, the date of publication, and the page where the student found the data. Unlike APA style, though, the in-text citation does not use a “p.” before the page number. See the example below:

In Milwaukee, poor neighbourhoods were segregated by design (Desmond 2017, 249).

Desmond, Matthew. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City . London: Penguin Books, 2017.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Format

Students of the humanities — including literature, foreign languages, and cultural studies — use MLA style in their research papers. Unlike APA and Chicago style, MLA style does not require students to add a title page. MLA papers also do not include an abstract. Students only need to include the paper itself and a works cited page that corresponds with in-text citations. When adding citations in the body of the text, MLA includes the author’s last name and the page number in parentheses. This style does not list the publication year. You can find an example of MLA citation below:

In Milwaukee, poor neighbourhoods were segregated by design (Desmond 249).

Associated Press (AP) Style

Journalists use Associated Press, or AP style, in their work. AP style standardizes grammar and spelling usage across news media and mass communications. Students rarely use AP style, unless they are writing an article in their subject area for a newspaper or magazine. AP style prioritizes brevity and conciseness above all else. Therefore, it includes several rules that differ from other writing styles. For instance, AP style eliminates the last comma in a list of items (for example: “She dressed in capris, a tank top and sandals”). Since students and professors do not use AP style for academic papers, AP style does not include a reference page like other style guides. Instead, AP style simply uses non-parenthetical in-text citations.

“People who live in low-income communities lack opportunities to exercise,” said Lydia Homerton, professor of public health at Hero College.

The Best Writing Style for Public Health Majors

Professionals in the public health field use APA, the most common style in the social sciences. Professors expect students to use APA style as well. Public health research follows a standardized system of citing sources, making it easier for students and professionals in the field to conduct further research. Students should add a title page and abstract before the essay, as well as a list of references in the back.

Common Writing Mistakes Students Make

Active vs. passive voice.

When writing essays and research papers, students should use active voice and avoid passive voice. Learning the difference between passive and active constructions can be tricky. First of all, students should be able to identify the subject in a sentence. The subject is the noun performing an action. Take this sentence: “The woman catches the keys.” In this case, the woman is the subject of the sentence because she is the one performing the action, catching. The sentence “The woman catches the keys” is active because it focuses on the subject and the action. You can identify an active sentence by checking if the first noun is a subject performing an action.

By contrast, examine this sentence: “The keys were caught by the woman.” The first noun, “keys,” is not performing an action. Instead, it is being acted upon. The subject performing the action — the woman — is at the end of the sentence and not the beginning. This sentence uses passive voice instead of active voice. Some passive sentences do not include a subject at all. For example, “The keys were caught.”

Active voice makes writing more concise and easy to understand. Active sentences often include more information, especially about the subject performing an action. In research papers, students should use active voice whenever possible. However, sometimes it is clear that the author is the one performing the action, so active voice is not necessary. For instance, a researcher might write “the experiment was conducted Friday” instead of “I conducted the experiment Friday.”


Incorrect punctuation confuses readers. The wrong punctuation can change or obfuscate the meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or the entire essay. Publishers, professors, and other researchers often look down on papers with incorrect grammar, even if the content includes important or accurate research. Consequently, students should always use proper grammar in their essays.

The wrong punctuation can change or obfuscate the meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or the entire essay.

While students make many different errors with punctuation, most common errors revolve around colons and commas. Understand the difference between colons and semicolons. Both punctuation marks separate two parts of a sentence. Students should use colons when introducing a list. (“He ate lots of meat: pork, chicken, steak, veal, and duck.”) Colons can also introduce an appositive or new idea. (“She finally gave him the gift: a new computer.”) Semicolons, on the other hand, connect two complete, independent sentences. These sentences should be separate but related. (“He ate a lot of meat; he was ravenous.”)

Students should also take care to avoid comma splices. A comma splice occurs when writers connect two independent sentences using a comma. The following sentence includes a comma splice: “She danced with her boyfriend, he was very clumsy.” Instead, students could add an “and” to connect the two sentences. (“She danced with her boyfriend, and he was very clumsy.”) Alternately, writers could connect the sentences with a semicolon. (“She danced with her boyfriend; he was very clumsy.”) Lastly, writers could separate the two sentences with a period.

Proper grammar helps readers understand your essays. Proper grammar also gives your essay credibility. If you have a perfectly-argued essay, but your paper includes multiple grammar mistakes, the reader will likely be skeptical of the entire argument.

Understand the difference between there/their/they’re. “There” refers to a place. (“The dog is over there.”) Their shows possession. (“This is their house.”) “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.” (“They’re eating at the diner.”)

Also learn the difference between it’s and its. “It’s” is the contraction for “it is.” (“It’s hot outside.”) “Its” shows possession. (“The bird eats in its cage.”)

Make sure your sentences include proper subject-verb agreement. In other words, if the subject of a sentence is plural, the verb should also be plural. For example, use “The boy and his sisters are eating breakfast” instead of “The boy and his sisters is eating breakfast.”

Writing Resources for Public Health Students

  • Guide to Improving Scientific Writing in Public Health : This guide from the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization teaches students how to write about complicated scientific material in a way that’s easy for readers to understand. The guide includes tips on vocabulary and format.
  • Argument, Structure, and Credibility in Public Health Writing : Written by a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, this essay breaks down how to make effective arguments in public health writing. The page includes flow charts and figures to help illustrate exactly how public health essays should be organized.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab APA Style Guide : Purdue’s Online Writing Lab includes style guides for all writing and citation styles, including APA. The style guides help students understand how to format papers, use in-text citations, and create reference pages.
  • Award-Winning Health Articles : One of the best ways to improve your writing is to read good examples. This page lists nine award-winning public health writing samples.
  • The Women’s and Children’s Health Policy Center Writing Skills Guide : This website links to several modules on writing public health documents. Lessons include policy briefs and memos.

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Public Health - Essay Samples And Topic Ideas For Free

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Advancing Through Drug Court Phases

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essay about public health

Public Health Essay Sample

Public health is a discipline that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. This includes an understanding of how to create healthy environments for people to live in, as well as preventative measures to keep them from getting sick. In recent years there has been a shift from traditional public health programs focusing on individual behaviors, such as smoking cessation or obesity management, towards one that also incorporates community-wide approaches. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) defines public health as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting human welfare.”

Essay Sample On Public Health

  • Thesis Statement – Public Health Essay
  • Introduction – Public Health Essay
  • Main Body – Public Health Essay
  • Conclusion – Public Health Essay
Thesis Statement – Public Health Essay Public health in a society is getting disturbed due to expensive healthcare treatment and lack of awareness about the health-related problems of poor people. Introduction – Public Health Essay The plight of poor people in developing economies is very miserable especially when we observe them in context to their health. The public is going through several healthcare problems that they cannot overcome due to the lack of money and general awareness about the health problems. Those who are aware of them cannot afford the expensive health checkups. As a result of which the poor public is supposed to accept the fact that they have no right to live and get healthcare facilities like that of rich people of the society. Here we will discuss the different facts related to the loopholes and reasons that are responsible for poor public health and at the same time solutions will also be suggested to get rid of these issues from society. Get Non-Plagiarized Custom Essay on Public Health in USA Order Now Main Body – Public Health Essay Cause of poor public health in undeveloped economies of the world The major cause of lack of health facilities in poor countries can be given to the low funds from the government to improve the health of the common public. Social welfare is very crucial in poor countries that the government have to look after and most of the budget gets divided into various social welfare schemes. As a result of which the grant that is received for the health care sector is not sufficient to fulfill the needs of health facilities in a better way. Owing to these reasons many people have to die unnatural death in such places. On the contrary, no such plight can be seen in the developed countries of the world where people are well off from their pocket to avail the medical treatment for any diseases. Drawbacks of the poor health of masses in a given country When the population of a country is suffering from various health problems it is very difficult for the nation to grow in any aspect of development. For example, people with ill health cannot contribute their part to the gross domestic products of the country. At the same time, the morale of the other people at the workplace also dies off when two or three people are showing their lazy behavior. So we can say that a nation with poor health also remains poor on economic grounds and it is very important to deal with this drastic problem on time. Problems faced by the people to acquire health care treatment When there is no money in the pocket it becomes difficult to go for the expensive treatment in the healthcare sector. Doctors are charging very high fees and at the same time, healthcare facilities are also not affordable to the common man. More the government’s initiative to give social healthcare facilities to the poor people is a mere show off in front of the public. In reality, there is no such provision that help these poor to avail the of better treatment for their ailments. That is why most people fail to come out of their illness for their entire life. How to eradicate the problem of miserable healthcare facilities in poor nations? Talking about the solutions that can help people to deal with their problems related to their health in countries where no social welfare for health is available few actions can be taken. For example, we can try the social responsibility of the and other healthcare providers to serve for the welfare of poor people on a part-time basis after their working hours. This is the most genuine and practical solution which can work at all levels of doctors and nurses are ready to devote their time as social responsibility. Rich people can open trusts and charitable hospitals to provide free health care solutions to those who cannot afford it even after trying their best. That is how we can make a crucial step towards a world free from health-related problems. International health conventions should also look after this matter to come up with genuine solutions for the people. Buy Customized Essay on Public Health At Cheapest Price Order Now Conclusion – Public Health Essay The conclusion can be drawn from the above essay that poor public health can ruin the life of people without proper treatment for their ailments. At the same time, the essay gives us various ideas to overcome the issue of the miserable health of the public in countries that are low on economic grounds. Well, you can also draw an idea from the essay that how the poor health of the citizens in a given country affects the growth of the economy to great extent in that specific nation. To cap it all we can say that every effort must be given to solve the problem of lingering health scenarios in countries having less awareness about the importance of healthy citizens. Hire USA Experts for Public Health Essay Order Now

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Public Health Essay Examples

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Good Essay About Public Health

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Health , Public , Medicine , Disease , World , History , Organization , People

Words: 1100

Published: 11/11/2021


Public Health has resulted in longer and more fulfilling lives for many people all over the world. The profession has now developed at both the local and international level. Ancient societies were aware of public health issues and attempted to prevent disease through religious practice however historical phenomena such as Black Death caused the very early formation of modern public health in the 15th century. This has continued beyond the industrial revolution. Disease has been one of the most significant issues that has shaped the profession of public health. The profession has now grown into one that includes many different professions and organisations that often work collaboratively to solve some of the world’s most difficult illnesses and diseases. Modern Public Health has contributed to an improvement in the health status and quality of life as a result of Non-Governmental Organisations like The World Health Organization. There have also been many governmental agencies at the local, state and national level of all countries that are responsible for the improvement of health. These organizations often work collaboratively to prevent and treat some of the world’s biggest health problems. The work requires the expertise of various professionals such as doctors, nurses, public health officers, occupational health and safety as well as many others. They participate in educational campaigns, treat the actual disease or work on ways of preventing illness and health problems. For example, if a person came from the past back into the future, they would notice a significant decline in the number of smoking related illnesses in western countries. This is not only as a result of better medicine but also because of education campaigns and arguably the taxing of cigarettes. The modern public health system has replaced traditional ways for societies to address public health concerns. Before the modern public health system that most people are now accustomed to, it was the church that would often advise of proper sexual practices or those behaviours that inhibit human health like the drinking of alcohol, eating excessively and many other destructive behaviours. Ancient societies also were tied to religion but also attempted to explain the spread of disease through scientific means. For example, in Ancient Greece Hippocrates wrote ‘Air, Water and Places’; a book showing the relationship between disease and what was going on around the individual. Disease was one of the most important historical phenomena responsible for the development of public health responses. Many ancient societies like the Greeks and Romans were aware of the need to provide sanitation for the prevention of disease and health problems. This is evident by the number of large engineering projects that included sewers and drainage in these societies. Better organized public health started to become prevalent after black death caused widespread deaths throughout Europe. For example, in 1485 the Republic of Venice established a Permanent Court of Health Supervisors in order to stop epidemics in the territory. A Grand Council was also established in 1537 and two judges were appointed to oversee it. Later epidemics like cholera also resulted in a better organization of public health that devastated England in the 1800’s that focused on the management of the disease by looking at the spread in public areas where the disease could circulate. Modern Public Health also reacted to the spread of disease throughout the Industrial Revolution. Poor housing and sanitation resulted in advice from prominent writers such as Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Malthus. They warned officials of illness and disease due to overpopulation of the slums. The result was new engineering and public health policies created by the Poor Law Commission that began to deal with the effects of disease in the slums due to poor sanitation. Later legislation such as the Public Health Act of 1848 continued to improve sanitation throughout towns in England. Public health is a multidisciplinary area of health that uses the expertise of various professions including doctors, nurses, educators, sociologists, dentists and many more. It also collaborates local and international efforts to address areas of public health. For example, the World Health Organisation recognizes that smoking related illnesses are ending the life of millions of people early due to associated diseases. Countries have worked with The World Health Organization to educate their citizens about the harmful effects of smoking. Public Health is unique because it attempts to solves issues that are beyond the capabilities of one health discipline. Stopping people smoking requires research, attempts to prevent and educate citizens of the dangers before they arise. This is unlike traditional health disciplines like medicine that are often more reactive than proactive by treating patients but having little to do with the prevention of health issues unless the patient has a long relationship with those in the medical profession. Public Health also monitors the health of large amounts of people in communities, regions or countries unlike many health professions. For example, there has been a recent breakout of STDs in a community and there are concerns that there will be an increase. Public Health officials from the government may try proactive strategies of dealing with the outbreak such as educating, conducting studies and distributing condoms. At the same time public health officials prepare those in the medical profession by dispersing information to those responsible for treatment. Without coordinated public health in this situation it may result in sporadic treatment of individuals and a lack of knowledge about how to deal with an outbreak of STDs in a designated area resulting in more cases that are severe and long lasting. Public Health has been responsible for longer life expectancies and an improvement in the health of individuals throughout the world. Some examples include better sexual health through safe sex practices that can prevent HIV and aids. Other examples include but are not limited to education about the harmful effects of smoking on individuals from the World Health Organization in coordination with governments throughout the world. Many events throughout history have shaped the development of public health and the most significant has been the spread of incurable diseases such as black death and cholera resulting from poor sanitation or slum housing. Public Health differs to other health disciplines in that it is an expansive discipline that uses the expertise of many health professions and uses proactive strategies to prevent diseases through collaborative efforts from the local to global level. It coordinates health experts and can react to research of health problems in certain areas quickly by preparing health officials with information so that they can react to health problems efficiently.

Britannica, E. (2016). Public health . Fraser, B. (1975). World Health. Fraser, D. (2009). The Evolution of the British Welfare State: A History of Social Policy Since the Industrial Revolution. United Kingdom: Macmillian Education.


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Guest Essay

The Public Health Crisis in Gaza That Could Devastate a Generation

Palestinians, mostly children, crowd together with buckets and containers waiting for food distribution in Rafah at the southern Gaza Strip.

By Catherine Russell

Ms. Russell is the executive director of UNICEF.

It is hard to describe what it means for someone to be “severely wasted,” but when you hold a child who is suffering from this most lethal form of acute malnutrition, you understand, and you never forget. In Afghanistan last year, I met a 3-month-old girl named Wahida who was so malnourished I could barely feel the weight of her in my arms. Her suffering has left an indelible mark on my heart.

Now the suffering in Gaza is leaving a similar mark on me. Last week, I visited the al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. Inside, I was met with a sea of patients, health care workers and the displaced. And there were children everywhere: girls and boys running through the corridors, resting on mattresses with their families and recovering in hospital beds. I met a 16-year-old being treated for injuries sustained when her neighborhood was bombed. Though she survived, the doctors say she will never be able to walk again.

The medical staffers were mounting truly heroic efforts to provide lifesaving care to their patients, including dozens of children. But with their supplies of fuel, medicines and water nearly depleted, it is unclear how long they can continue to provide even the most basic of interventions. In the hospital’s neonatal ward, for example, tiny babies were clinging to life in incubators, as doctors worried about how they could keep the machines running without fuel.

These children, Gaza’s youngest — as well as those in utero — are especially vulnerable to the burgeoning crisis of malnutrition and the prospect of starvation. After more than six weeks of war amid bombs and gunfire, a lack of electricity and the near-total closure of all border crossings, Gaza’s one million children are now food insecure, facing what could soon become a public health catastrophe.

Supplies of nutritious food have virtually run out. Shops are closed, and in the streets of Khan Younis I saw piles of garbage where there once were food stands. Last week, the al-Salam Mill in Deir al-Balah was reportedly hit in an attack and forced to shut down. This was Gaza’s last functional flour mill. All local flour production is now effectively halted.

The hostage release deal outlined on Tuesday would include a cease-fire of at least four days and would reportedly allow for some new shipments of basic humanitarian aid to go to the people of Gaza who desperately need it. But to save lives and ensure that Gaza’s people, especially its children, remain healthy and stave off looming health issues, we as humanitarian partners must be permitted to bring quality food, essential nutrition supplies, water and fuel into Gaza, at levels that are sufficient to meet the surging needs. And we must be permitted to continue safely delivering these resources after hostilities resume.

Without sufficient quantities of nutritious food, people will quickly become malnourished and could eventually starve. The risks associated with food insecurity are compounded by the extreme scarcity of safe drinking water. According to international humanitarian standards , one person needs a minimum of almost four gallons of clean water per day for drinking and to meet basic personal needs.

In Gaza, this standard is far from being met: About 96 percent of the water supply is considered unfit for human consumption . Water pumping and wastewater treatment have all ceased to function because of the lack of fuel. People have resorted to accessing water from unsafe sources that are salty or polluted .

These conditions, when combined with displacement and overcrowding in shelters, can quickly lead to disease outbreaks that threaten everyone, especially malnourished children. Since mid-October , more than 71,000 total cases of acute respiratory infections have been reported, while over 22,000 cases of diarrheal infections have been reported in children under the age of 5. And without clean water, health care facilities cannot provide effective treatment to those in need, nor can they maintain basic infection prevention and control measures.

The consequences of this crisis extend not just to survivors of the war but also to those who will be born in its aftermath. The United Nations estimates that 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza — 5,500 of whom are expected to deliver in the next month — can no longer obtain basic antenatal health and nutrition services. Malnourished women are more likely to die and face complications during pregnancy and childbirth. They are more likely to have children born too small, too thin and vulnerable to undernutrition, illness and death. More than 105,000 breastfeeding mothers in Gaza are now struggling to feed themselves and breastfeed their babies . Our analyses show that about half of all stunting in early childhood originates during pregnancy or in the first six months of life — a time when (in the absence of baby formula, which is in extremely short supply in Gaza right now) children are entirely dependent on their mothers for nutrition.

We project that over the next few months, child wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition in children, could increase by nearly 30 percent in Gaza. Up to 5,000 of these children could experience severe wasting, in which dangerous weight loss and acutely weakened immune systems put them at imminent risk of death — even from illnesses like the common cold, other respiratory infections and diarrhea. These are conservative projections; the longer the conflict and siege continue, the higher these figures will rise.

Without urgent therapeutic feeding and care, severely malnourished children may not survive. Even if they do survive, their condition may disrupt their physical growth and cognitive development , with irreversible long-term effects for the vast majority of them. Undernourished and stunted children are more likely to develop chronic health problems as adults, and more likely to have lower educational achievement and economic security .

Even before the current crisis , approximately 30,000 children under the age of 5 in Gaza were experiencing stunted growth, while more than 7,600 suffered from wasting. Now the violence has shut down lifesaving prevention, screening and treatment services for malnutrition that were previously reaching the 340,000 children under 5 years of age in Gaza. With hospitals and health centers ceasing to function and nutrition programs nonoperational, we cannot get malnourished children the critical prevention and treatment services they urgently need.

In the humanitarian community, we use the phrase “time is of the essence” a lot, perhaps to the point where it has lost its ability to convey urgency. But that is exactly the situation we are in right now in Gaza. If we cannot get proper nutrition and care services, safe water and sanitation to children and women now, they will die.

Gaza’s children have endured far too much death and suffering already. In just the last seven weeks, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, at least 5,600 children have been killed and nearly 9,000 injured because of the ongoing conflict. We must not let this grim tally rise, especially when the solutions are so evident: sustained, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to civilians wherever they are, to bring essential food nutrition supplements, fuel and other humanitarian supplies into Gaza. Delays will cost lives.

The parties to this conflict have the power to stop this nutrition crisis from turning into a catastrophe for Gaza’s one million children. I urge them to give us the space to do our jobs so that we can get these kids the support they need and deserve.

Catherine Russell is the eighth executive director of UNICEF. She previously served as ambassador at large for global women’s issues at the U.S. State Department.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram .

Editor's Choice: The Growing Impact and Reach of JAMA Health Forum

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Ryan P. Knox, JD; Junyi Wang, MS; William B. Feldman, MD, DPhil, MPH; et al

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10 Teens Talk Mental Health, AI & What It’s Like to Be a Student in 2023

This essay was originally published as part of the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s 2023 “State of the American Student” report . As part of the effort, CRPE asked 14 experts from various sectors to offer up examples of innovations, solutions or possible paths forward as education leaders navigate the current crisis. Cara Pangelinan went straight to students to get their opinions — below are some of her key takeaways. ( See our full essay series ) 

Kesar Gaba, a rising sophomore at Queens College, was in high school when the pandemic hit.

“All I saw for two years was black screens on Zoom. It affected my mental health, it affected my relationships within my family, and it really overall affected the way I see the world.” 

Arshia Papari, a rising freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, had a slightly different attitude toward online schooling compared to Kesar.

Support The 74's year-end campaign. Make a tax-exempt donation now.

“What the pandemic did for me was that it really opened me up to a new opportunity in schooling, but it also took away the ability for me to do any sort of in-person connections and have a real high school experience. But I think it’s been a trade-off between the experiences you have during high school and also the convenience of online schooling.”

Many students had similar experiences during the pandemic. Whether they enjoyed online schooling or not, these stories have been published dozens of times in varying news outlets and reflected in student surveys. But older students in particular had less time to catch up before leaving the school system, creating concerns as to whether they had ample support emerging from the pandemic.

We at CRPE were interested in learning about these students’ current hopes, fears, and ideas for how to strengthen the U.S. education system. To that end, we spoke with 10 older youth— that is, high schoolers nearing graduation or students who have already graduated—to get their perspective on the data in our report as well as on life as an American teenager, their take on rising mental illness rates among peers their age, and what it would take to change the current education system.

Why the kids are not all right

“If the world around you is giving you stimuli that the world is falling apart or the world’s on fire, and that repeats every day on TikTok or on YouTube … I think that’s what’s leading to the [rising mental health problems] trend of going up, up, up, and up.” –Arshia Papari, rising freshman, The University of Texas at Austin

By now, it is common knowledge that students’ mental illness rates are, and have been, worsening. The pandemic is often blamed. In reality, the pandemic is just part of a bigger picture. Students had concerns around their well-being and safety—both inside and outside of schools—long before Covid-19. The pandemic just created an opportunity to bring these issues to light.

“I feel like the pandemic gave us this gateway to just talk about [feelings of helplessness and depression] in a more normalized setting. This has been a problem for some time, but I don’t think that it’s just because the pandemic happened.” –Abigail Singh, rising freshman, Bennington College, Vermont

Students had a lot to say about what they believe is contributing to these rising trends.

First and foremost, these students are concerned about their safety and security in schools, physically and emotionally. They named political and cultural tensions — Title IX scandals, bans on Pride flags, anti-trans legislation, and reckless gun violence, among others — as harmful to their wellbeing. Even if these events were not happening in their schools or didn’t affect them directly, these issues still impact the mental health of the COVID generation.

Lazuli Clark, a transgender female student, remarked on how difficult it can be to focus on school when some policymakers are passing laws against her identity.

“Going to school is the least of people’s concerns at this point for a lot of people. There are days where I’m like, oh yeah, I have to worry about my AP U.S. history project and yesterday another state basically made it so that I can never exist in that state. And it’s like, how’s anyone supposed to think about anything at all when there’s all of that going on? Even if you’re not directly impacted by it. Most people in my generation know somebody who’s impacted in one way or the other.”

Other students felt vulnerable in their own communities. Liv Birnstad, a recent graduate from a public charter school in Washington, D.C., explained how school resource officers (SROs) were meant to be replaced with mental health professionals in school buildings:

“But what ended up happening is they took [SROs] away and then didn’t replace them [with mental health professionals]. And so now they’re putting [SROs] back into schools because they thought that the problem was that we didn’t have SROs. But the real problem is that we didn’t have inter-community support. At my school we have school resource officers, but we also have a lot of police. And so a lot of students feel really uncomfortable receiving support at school because it feels like a really kind of carceral space.”

Liv is not alone. Arivumani Srivastava, who attended a high school in rural Kentucky, described a similar initiative in his state as a “give-and-take” bill. After the Marshall County High School shooting, the bill mandated a mental health professional be present in schools, but also required a certain number of police officers on campuses. Similarly, Abigail Singh, a graduate of a charter school in Brooklyn, New York, described how it felt to go through scanners at school meant to check for weapons: “It just makes us all feel villainized.”

The students made it clear that in-school mental health supports are not enough to improve their well-being. First, they need to feel safe enough to use these supports.

“If students aren’t able to freely explore themselves in a safe and supported way in schools, then all they’re doing is looking at a future where they’ll have less guidance and probably equal, if not more scrutiny. And so it makes sense for me that they would be hopeless or sad.” –Jaylen Adams, rising freshman, Columbia University, New York

“I feel like mental health is something that we’re still growing in society. We’re advocating on [it] because it is a really big issue that students face. And if it’s not tackled, it just keeps becoming an issue and it could lead to more severe factors on a student’s life. It’s just something that needs to continue to be touched upon in a school setting.” –Alejandro Blanco, rising sophomore, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign

Key quotes from students:

Social media: a double-edged sword.

We cannot underestimate the influence social media platforms and apps have on youth. For instance, Georgia’s Brady Phan benefited from school closures. He used the free time during lockdown to reflect on his goals and double down on his academic aspirations. But he also saw how school closures adversely affected many of his peers, especially those who were drawn to influential people on social media.

“A lot of these entrepreneurs [on social media] are saying that you should not go to college, that there’s a lot of easier ways to make money. And especially during the pandemic where they’re the most vulnerable–that’s where I see them influence [youth] a lot. And that would maybe change [my peers’] minds about pursuing or excelling in an academic career.” –Brady Phan, rising senior, DeKalb County School District, Georgia

“We saw a lot more people who were more radicalized [during the pandemic]. They’d fallen down certain rabbit holes because they were just like locked up on their own. And they also lost a lot of empathy because, well, we gain empathy by talking to people who are different from us. But if you’re just alone for a year, a year and a half, two years, then you do tend to lose that sense of compassion for people who are different than you.” –Maya Murali, rising senior, Lewisville Independent School District, Texas

While there is ample evidence of the harmful effects of social media, including the spread of misinformation, the students also highlighted the opportunities these platforms provide. Abigail Singh, for example, has an interest in social justice and wants to pursue a career in journalism. In her eyes, social media is a powerful tool for advocacy.

“Being someone with so many intersectional identities, it’s hard to find a community where I feel represented and exist. And so social media is definitely somewhere where I feel like I’ve been given the platform to help other students like me.” –Abigail Singh, rising freshman, Bennington College, Vermont

Liv sees a similar opportunity. As someone who attended a small school and identifies as Jewish and queer, she praised social media for helping connect her to like-minded peers. It is a “reminder that there’s life outside of [school] … social media can kind of help you find your niche group when you don’t have access at a school.”

While there is cause to be wary of harmful users who can influence youth negatively, the benefits social media bestows are also notable. For teenagers like Abigail, Liv, and others who use these platforms to connect to one another and find community where they may not otherwise have the opportunity to do so, social media can be enlightening.

“I definitely think that social media helps in addition to the ways it harms. It definitely is harmful and I don’t want to understate that, but I also really feel like that the way social media is reported about overshadows the good that it can do.” –Arivumani Srivastava, rising sophomore, Pomona College, California

Ideas for the future of education

Although youth have serious concerns about deteriorating mental health and social conflicts, they are also optimistic about how schooling can be improved. They are especially intrigued about the potential of AI and peer mentoring.

Similar to social media, students acknowledge how AI can be harmful for those that rely too much on technology like ChatGPT. Rather than dwelling on these concerns, however, students were more excited to share the possibilities it can offer.

“I think the education system as a whole is concerned more about how [ChatGPT] can be used for cheating and not really seeing it for what it can be, which is a really powerful tool.” –Maya Murali, rising senior, Lewisville Independent School District, Texas

“I hope that things like ChatGPT and text-to-speech [tools] can continue to advance in a way that provides more accessibility for people. As someone who is not neurotypical, a lot of times I do benefit from different approaches to how lessons are taught, and it can be a lot of work for a teacher to have to create multiple different ways for something to be taught. So if we can find a way for artificial intelligence to be used in terms of accessibility, it’ll be a lot less work on the behalf of the teacher and the student.” –Lazuli Clark, rising senior, KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate, Massachusetts

Other students also commented on how they use ChatGPT to compare their own writing to it, or as a jumping-off point for assignments. But they warned that AI cannot be the end-all be-all. As one student put it, “You still need to know what you’re doing. You need to be able to think critically and be able to edit essays or whatever it’s generating for you.”

Students also want schools to provide more mentoring support and help navigating college and career pathways.

“[Having] a set structure in schools to just have one-on-one talks with each student: see where they’re at, see how they’re feeling, what they want to pursue. Just have that intensive nature to each student to make sure they’re feeling heard, they’re feeling shown attention. And I feel like that’s really helpful, especially in a high school setting where there’s a lot of kids and being heard goes a long way.” –Alejandro Blanco, rising sophomore, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

When we asked students what they found to be most helpful in considering postsecondary options, nearly all of them mentioned talking with an older peer or adult. For instance, Jaylen will be attending Columbia University this fall on a full scholarship. But she was no expert at the college application process. Instead, she relied on help from various college readiness programs to research the application, financial aid, and negotiation processes. Brady, who wants to study computer science at Georgia Tech, has been getting advice about the admissions process from his football coach (an alumni) and his uncle (a current student).

Continuing the conversation

The students also spoke of the increasing external pressure they feel for their generation to attend college, rectify key issues like climate change, and generally “do well.” If we put expectations like these onto youth, it’s only fair that we also provide the necessary supports for them to succeed.

Bottom line: educators must listen to students now more than ever. As they are currently navigating the educational system, they have the best understanding of its strengths, and more importantly, what it still lacks. Older youth who were forced out of the education system during a global health crisis were especially vulnerable to its flaws. They deserve better. They want to be heard. And they expect adults to act on their advice.

“I’m on the DC State Board of Education, and they were so excited to have student members of the board. My first term, we couldn’t get anything done. I’d ask [for help] at public meetings and instead of even saying no, they just would not respond. Everyone would just go silent for a minute and move on. I give 10 hours a week, I’m on two committees of the board, and they can’t even listen to me.” –Liv Birnstad, rising freshman, Harvard University, Massachusetts

“It feels like a lot more people want to hear what [students] say, but even though they hear what we say, that doesn’t mean they take it into account at all. It really feels like they just said, ‘Oh we listened to the kids but they’re young, they’re stupid, they don’t know.’ So we’ll just add it as an appendix to what we’re doing and then move on with what we think. And I guess that’s just really infuriating to me because I feel like I’d rather just not be listened to than to be tokenized.” –Arivumani Srivastava, rising sophomore, Pomona College, California

See more from the Center on Reinventing Public Education and its 2023 “State of the American Student” report .

Future of High School: Engaging Students & Careers Via Modern Apprenticeships

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