What is Public Health?

Many diseases and health issues are preventable through non-medical means. Health education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and implementation of effective health policy are as important to disease prevention as medical intervention, and are each components of public health. Public health is concerned with the well-being of a population, be it a small community or an entire country. It is a far-reaching term that encompasses numerous aspects of a population’s health.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” and public health professionals work in tandem medical professionals to ensure a healthy society. But whereas doctors work with individual patients after they become sick or injured, public health workers focus on a population in general and are concerned with preventing threats.

Public health incorporates an interdisciplinary approach, utilizing an array of subject including epidemiology, biostatistics, health services, mental health, genetics, nutrition, and many others. The multifaceted approach aims to target any aspect of society that might impact the promotion of a population’s well-being. Important subfields include environmental health, community health, social and behavioral health, health economics, public policy, occupational health, and healthcare management.

Public Health is “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals.”

(C.E.A. Winslow, Founder, Yale Department of Public Health)

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