Public Health in Action

What is Public Health?

Public Health Connects Us All

Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. This work is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases. Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood, or as big as an entire country or region of the world.

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Why is public health important?

Public health professionals try to prevent problems from happening or recurring through implementing educational programs, recommending policies, administering services and conducting research—in contrast to clinical professionals like doctors and nurses, who focus primarily on treating individuals after they become sick or injured. Public health also works to limit health disparities. A large part of public health is promoting health care equity, quality and accessibility.

How does CDC Foundation work to promote public health for all?

The CDC Foundation constantly innovates and advances the art and science of collaboration and effective program management to bring all parties into open, beneficial partnerships that serve the greater good of people and communities. Many partnership ideas originate from CDC scientists and other staff who see the value in collaborating with partners to extend CDC’s public health priorities. Other times, organizations in the philanthropic and private sectors recognize they can better accomplish their own health goals by working with CDC through the CDC Foundation to improve the public’s health. The CDC Foundation facilitates collaboration between the private and government sector through open dialogue, developing partnerships to leverage cross-sector resources, and sharing expertise.




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Key Public Health Terms

What is clinical care?

The prevention, treatment and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by medical and allied health professions; also known as health care.

What is epidemiology?

Epidemiology is the method used to find the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations. In epidemiology, the patient is the community and individuals are viewed collectively. By definition, epidemiology is the study (scientific, systematic, and data-driven) of the distribution (frequency, pattern) and determinants (causes, risk factors) of health-related states and events (not just diseases) in specified populations (neighborhood, school, city, state, country, global). It is also the application of this study to the control of health problems.

What is an outbreak?

Occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior, or other health-related event clearly in excess of normal expectancy. Both terms are used interchangeably; however, epidemic usually refers to a larger geographic distribution of illness or health-related events.

What is a health outcome?

The result of a medical condition that directly affects the length or quality of a person’s life.

What is public health surveillance?

Public health surveillance is the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data essential to planning, implementation and evaluation of public health practice.

What are health disparities?

Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or in opportunities to achieve optimal health experienced by socially disadvantaged racial, ethnic and other population groups and communities. Achieving health equity, eliminating disparities and improving the health of all U.S. population groups are all goals of public health.