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What Is Public Health

Public health is about health promotion and disease and injury prevention through research, community intervention and education. It also is about eradicating health disparities.

Public health is a diverse and ever-expanding field. Among other things, it involves disseminating reliable information for policy decisions; identifying systemic inequalities and problems; protecting our health and safety through education and research; and fostering partnerships with individuals, communities and organizations to promote good health.

The elimination of smallpox, stricter automobile and workplace safety standards, increased awareness about the dangers of smoking and information on the nutritional value of foods are all attributable to work done in the field of public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advances in public health are responsible for lengthening the life expectancy of Americans by 25 years in the 20th century.

Practitioners of public health carry out their mission through organized efforts that draw upon knowledge from many disciplines to address the physical, mental and environmental health concerns of communities and populations. These disciplines include health policy and management, epidemiology, oral health, family health, behavioral science and health education, health communications, occupational safety, environmental health, public health preparedness and international and global health. Public health practitioners conduct research, teach in schools and colleges, help formulate government policy and work in a number of capacities out in the field.

Areas addressed by public health research and community-based programs at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, nutrition, exercise, violence prevention, environmental hazards, media literacy, bioterrorism and public health preparedness.

No matter what form public health assumes, its goal is always the same: to improve people’s quality of life by focusing on health promotion and disease and injury prevention.

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

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 Asociation of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Public Health.

Public Health Careers

Alumni from the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health make a difference worldwide. A few examples of positions held by our public health graduates are:

  • 17th Surgeon General of the United States
  • Diabetes Support, Education and Retention Coordinator for NIH
  • Tribal Utility Consultant for the Indian Health Service
  • Manager of Tobacco Control Programs for the American Lung Association®
  • Infection Control Specialist in a large metropolitan hospital
  • Industrial Hygienist for Intel Corporation®
  • Nurse Coordinator in Africa for Doctors Without Borders
  • Healthy People 2010 Coordinator for a Florida county health department
  • Director, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for the State of Vermont
  • Commander for Aerospace Medicine Flight (NASA Shuttle)
  • Humanitarian Assistance Liaison Officer for U.S. Air Force
  • Asst. Commissioner, Chicago Dept. of Public Health
  • Sr. Epidemiologist, State Health Department
  • State Public Health Veterinarian
  • Bioterrorism Preparedness Information Specialist for Hawaii State Health Department

For more information about Public Health, visit the ASPPH website:

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