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What is Public Health?



Public health is ultimately and essentially an ethical enterprise committed to the notion that all persons are entitled to protection against the hazards of this world and to the minimization of death and disability in society.


—Dan Beauchamp, 1976.



Unique features of public health


  • Basis in social justice
  • Inherently political in nature
  • Dynamic, ever-expanding agenda
  • Links with government
  • Grounded in the sciences
  • Use of prevention as a prime strategy
  • Uncommon culture and bond


—Turnock, 1997


The 10 Essential Public Health Services


  1. Monitor health status to identify common problems.
  2. Diagnose and investigate health problems and hazards in the community.
  3. Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues.
  4. Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
  5. Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.
  6. Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
  7. Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise available.
  8. Assure a competent public health and personal health care workforce.
  9. Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
  10. Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.



Common misperceptions about Public Health


According to a 1998 Harris poll:


  • Only 4% of 1,000 people polled knew what public health was.
  • People equate public health with health care for the indigent.
  • The majority (often as high as 93%) rated each of the 10 essential functions
    as “very important.”



Greatest Public Health Achievements
Of The 20th Century


  1. Vaccination
  2. Motor vehicle safety
  3. Safer workplaces
  4. Infectious disease control
  5. Decline in Coronary Heart Disease and stroke deaths
  6. Safer and healthier foods
  7. Healthier mothers and babies
  8. Family planning
  9. Fluoridation of drinking water
  10. Recognition of tobacco as health hazard



“The Ripple Effect has raised my awareness of the problem of abuse in our world.”

—a community member
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“The Ripple Effect is a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence. We believe that everyone deserves a life free from abuse.”


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