What is Public Health?

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“So… what IS ‘public health’ anyway?”

I’ve worked in the field of public health for almost 20 years, and I still hear this question often.

The short answer is: “Public health is everything!”

Public health is the science and art of protecting and improving the health of communities where people live, learn, work and play. While the goals of medicine are to diagnose illness and treat those who are sick, the goals of public health are to promote health and prevent disease.

Public health works to prevent health problems before they occur, promote health and wellness and analyze how our genetics, behaviors and environment affect our health.

Whether you know it or not, you benefit from the work of public health and practice public health every day. The health choices we make every day are science-based solutions to health problems.

When you woke up this morning and brushed your teeth, you were preventing cavities and tooth decay. That’s public health.

When you got into your car and put on your seatbelt, you protected yourself from injury. That’s public health.

When you took a break from your computer to walk around the block, you were increasing your physical activity. That’s public health.

When you got your flu shot, you were preventing the spread of disease. That’s public health.

The health topics and issues addressed by public health are numerous and diverse, including tobacco, HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity, mental health, vaccinations, employee health and safety, nutrition, health care reform and many more.

Public health professionals focus on preventing disease and injury and promoting health by:

  • Implementing health education programs
  • Tracking and monitoring disease outbreaks
  • Developing policies
  • Administering health care services
  • Conducting research
  • Regulating health care systems

Public health professionals come from a variety of backgrounds and training, but the Master of Public Health (MPH) is the flagship degree for those interested in working in public health.

Now you know what public health is and what public health does. Spread the word, because knowledge is contagious!

Grand Canyon University offers public health degrees from the context of our Christian heritage through our College of Nursing and Health Care Professions. Interested in learning more? Contact us today!


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
American Public Health Association (APHA)
Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health (ASPPH)

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