What is Public Health?

Public Health -- What Is It?

In 1920, C-E.A. Winslow defined public health as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals.”  The optimization of health across communities and populations requires expertise from many disciplines including the core disciplines of biostatistics, environmental and occupational health, epidemiology, health education, and health systems and policy. Other important expertise is needed in maternal and child health, gerontology, nutrition, engineering, genetics, bioinformatics and data processing.  There is general agreement that most of the extraordinary 25-30 year increase in life expectancy that occurred in the United States in the 20th Century is due to public health efforts.

The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is a useful introduction to the growing health care sector of our economy and provides additional breadth of understanding for persons who may be trained in a particular clinical profession but who would like to broaden their responsibilities and interests beyond the provision of patient care.

For more information about Public Health as a field, visit the following resources:

Orientation to Public Health, a free web-based course on public health

What is Public Health?, a website developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health