What is Public Health?

What is Public Health?

Most of us don’t think twice about public health when we drink clean water from the tap, latch our seatbelt, or visit the doctor for a flu shot. Public health professionals work to improve all facets of daily living that we often take for granted. Protecting communities and preventing illness are the ultimate outcomes in the world of public health.

Public health is an interesting combination of five core areas of study: Biostatistics; Epidemiology; Environmental and Occupational Health; Management, Policy and Community Health; and Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences.

A biostatistician uses data to forecast trends and predict outcomes. Epidemiologists look at the root cause of disease, why it effects certain populations and how disease can be prevented. Environmental and occupational public health workers examine how to make our living and working areas safer. Policy experts work to ensure lawmakers, businesses and scientists work together to protect people, communities and nations. Health promotion and behavioral scientists study how our decisions good or bad affect our lives as we age.

A background in public health can be the springboard for a diverse and fulfilling career. Visit thisispublichealth.org, whatispublichealth.org or apha.org for more information.

The Ten Essential Public Health Services*

  • Monitor health status to identify community health problems
  • Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community
  • Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues
  • Mobilize community partnerships to identify and solve health problems
  • Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts
  • Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety
  • Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable
  • Assure a competent public health and personal health care workforce
  • Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services
  • Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems

*Adopted: Fall 1994, Source: Public Health Functions Steering Committee, Members (July 1995): American Public Health Association, Association of Schools of Public Health, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Environmental Council of the States, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Public Health Foundation, U.S. Public Health Service –Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, Indian Health Service, National Institutes of Health, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration