Public health is a branch of medicine that’s dedicated to the overall goal of improving the health of communities. It typically focuses on three aspects of community health: the promotion of healthy lifestyles, research into preventing disease and injury and educational initiatives to achieve both of these goals. The overall purpose of public health in general is to focus on preventing disease.
Work done in the field of public health has had a significant impact on the lives of Americans and others around the globe. Vaccination programs have significantly reduced and even eliminated a number of communicable diseases in the United States and elsewhere. Infant and child death rates have also dropped significantly thanks to public health efforts.
Public health programs and initiatives often stem from efforts by federal, state and local governments, though a number of private companies are also active in the public health arena. In the United States, the primary organization involved with public health is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has a program called Healthy People 2020, which outlines a number of 10-year objectives for improving the health of Americans. Some of the goals of this program are to promote longer lives and less disease for all, as well as to eliminate some of the disparities in access to health care and good health information among people of different classes and income levels.
A variety of professional careers fall under the umbrella of public health, including researchers, environmental scientists, educators and analysts. Most public health professionals work for government agencies, for nonprofit groups or in the private sector for companies like insurance corporations.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Association of Schools of Public Health