What Is Public Health and Why Do We Need It?

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You may have heard the term “public health” and wondered “what is public health?” Public health is defined as the science and art of protecting and improving the health of communities where people live, learn, work, play and pray.1 Public health works to prevent health problems before they occur, promotes health and wellness, and analyzes how our genetics, behaviors and environment affect our health. 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.

Each of us puts public health principles into practice every day, whether we are aware of it or not. The health choices we make every day are science-based solutions to health problems.2 Brushing your teeth every day helps to prevent cavities and tooth decay. Putting on your seatbelt every time you get into a car protects you from injury in the event of an accident. Taking a break from your computer to walk around the block increases your physical activity. Getting your flu shot helps to prevents the spread of disease. All these actions affect public health.

The health topics and issues involved in public health are numerous and diverse, including tobacco use, 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

A primary focus of public health is detecting, monitoring and responding to issues and threats. We need public health in order to prepare for health emergencies. The field of public health is also grounded in prevention and health promotion. This means it is more cost effective and less expensive to prevent illness than to treat it. We need public health to promote healthy behaviors to prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Many communities do not benefit from advances in medicine and science because services are too expensive or not available to them. We need public health to advocate for policy changes to improve access to needed health services. Public health helps us to live healthier, longer and better quality lives. Public health is important, necessary and makes good sense.

Public health professionals come from a variety of backgrounds and training, but Grand Canyon University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is the flagship degree for those interested in working in public health. Is public health the profession for you? To learn more about the College of Nursing and Public Health Professions, visit our website or click on the Request Info button on this page.


1 https://www.cdcfoundation.org/what-public-health

2 https://www.apha.org/what-is-public-health

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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