Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What is Public Health?

“To promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.”  
¾ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Mission Statement

“Healthy People in Healthy Communities”

Healthy People 2010, managed by Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, identifies preventable threats to health and establishes national goals to reduce these threats. Goal 1: Increase Quality and Years of Healthy Life:  The first goal is to help people of all ages increase life expectancy and improve their quality of life. Goal 2: Eliminate Health Disparities: The second goal is to eliminate health disparities among different segments of the population.

Definitions of Public Health 

In 1923, C.E.A. Winslow defined public health as the science and art of

1.       Preventing disease. 

2.      Prolonging life.

  1. Organizing community efforts for the:
  •  Sanitation of the environment.
  • Control of communicable diseases.
  • Education of the individual in personal hygiene.
  •  Organization of medical and nursing services for the early diagnosis and preventive treatment of disease.
  • Development of the social machinery to ensure everyone a standard of living adequate for the maintenance of health.

Photo courtesy Yale University at

More Contemporary Definitions

  • "the organized application of resources to achieve the greatest health for the greatest number" (Brotherton, 1967)

  • “the application of scientific and medical knowledge to the protection and improvement of the health of the group” (Brockington, 1968)

  • "effort organized by society to protect, promote and restore other people's health. The programs, services and institutions involved emphasize the prevention of disease and the health needs of the population as a whole. Public health activities change with changing technology and social values, but the goals remain the same: to reduce the amount of disease, premature death and disease-produced discomfort and disability“ (report on Higher Education for Public Health, 1976)

  • "the fulfillment of society's interest in assuring the conditions in which people can be healthy” and "organized community efforts aimed at the prevention of disease and promotion of health. It links many disciplines and rests upon the scientific core of epidemiology." (Institute of Medicine, The Future of Public Health, 1988)

  • “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” (Acheson Report in the UK, Committee of Inquiry, 1988)

  • “a state of complete well-being, physical, social, and mental, and not merely the absence of disease” (World Health Organization as quoted in The Future of Public Health, 1988)

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