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What is public health

Public Health is about helping people to stay healthy and protecting them from threats to their health.

Sometimes public health activities involve helping individuals, at other times they involve dealing with wider factors that have an impact on the health of many people (for example an age-group, an ethnic group, a locality, or a country).

While medicine and nursing are vital for helping and supporting people when they fall ill, work in public health contributes to reducing the causes of ill-health and improving people's health and wellbeing.

It does this through its work in three main 'domains':

  • health protection - protecting people's health (for example from environmental or biological threats, such as food poisoning or radiation)
  • health improvement - improving people's health (for example by helping people quit smoking or improving their living conditions)
  • healthcare public health - ensuring that our health services are the most effective, most efficient and equally accessible

Public Health has been defined as "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting human health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals”.

Public Health is a clinical medical specialism that includes consultants who are both doctors and non-doctors. Public Health consultants go through a structured five year higher specialist training programme similar to the training for other medical specialties like general practice or surgery.

Public Health became a statutory function of the Council in 2013 through the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

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