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What is public health?

Public health is the science and art of assuring and improving the health of communities through education about health issues, promotion of healthy lifestyles, protection from health threats, and research for disease and injury prevention. Public health also focuses on limiting health disparities.


Public health is proactive and focuses on the health of the population with a heavy emphasis on the PREVENTION of health problems. Public health is not the same as clinical medicine. Clinical medicine is reactive and focuses on the illness of an individual with a heavy emphasis on DIAGNOSIS and TREATMENT of that individual.


What public health does for the community

  • Public health makes sure the tap water you drink, the restaurant food you eat and the air you breathe are all safe.
  • Public health works to prevent disease outbreaks and respond to public health emergencies.
  • Public health gives you information to allow you to make healthy decisions every day, like exercising more, eating right, quitting smoking or washing your hands to keep from spreading illness.
  • Public health offers preventive care through health screenings and immunizations to help you avoid disease and maintain your health.
  • Public health also provides children with hearing and vision screening, lead poisoning screening and good nutrition to help them grow and learn.
  • Public health also plays a vital role in developing new policies and standards that address existing and emerging challenges to your community's health while enforcing a range of laws intended to keep you safe.


Ten Great Public Health Achievements - United States, 1900-1999

Source: MMWR, April 02, 1999 / 48(12);241-243

  1. Vaccination
  2. Motor-vehicle safety
  3. Safer workplaces
  4. Control of infectious diseases
  5. Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke
  6. Safer and healthier foods
  7. Healthier mothers and babies
  8. Family planning
  9. Fluoridation of drinking water
  10. Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard


What you can do to become a public health advocate

In our nation

  • Contact your elected officials and urge them to prioritize public health as part of health reform.
  • Thank public health officials for their hard work and ask what you can do to help.
  • Encourage students to consider a career in public health.


In your community

  • Talk to your elected officials and urge them to fund public health programs.
  • Praise smokefree restaurants for their concern for the health of their employees and patrons.
  • Take advantage of local bicycling paths.


In your workplace

  • Stress the importance of healthy meal choices in your company cafeteria.
  • Start a walking group with your work colleagues.
  • Encourage your workplace to offer tobacco-free policies and incentives for employees to quit smoking.


In our schools

  • Tell teachers, principals, administrators and school board members that you value health education.
  • Encourage your local schools to require physical education programs for grades K-12.
  • Meet with your school PTA to discuss healthier cafeteria and vending machine options.


In your home

  • Have your home inspected for lead.
  • Get recommended preventive health screenings and immunizations.
  • Encourage your family to spend less time watching TV and more time being active together.


Additional Information

Introduction to Local Public Health (MALPH)

What Is Public Health Campaign

This Is Public Health Campaign

Public Health Quiz

Public Health Crossword Puzzle