What is Public Health?

What is Public Health?

C.E.A. Winslow in 1923 defined Public Health as the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting physical health and efficiency through organized community efforts for the sanitation of the environment, the control of community infections, the education of the individual in principles of personal hygiene, the organization of medical and nursing services for the early diagnosis and preventive treatment disease, and the development of the social machinery which will ensure to every individual in the community a standard of living adequate for the maintenance of health.

John M. Last’s Dictionary of Public Health (2001) gives the following:

Public Health is one of the efforts organized by society to protect, promote, and restore the peoples’ health. Public health is the combination of sciences, skills, and beliefs that is directed to the maintenance and improvement of the health of all the people through collective or social actions. The programs, services, and institutions involved emphasize the prevention of disease and the health needs of the population as a whole.

Public health activities change with changing technology and social values, but the goals remain the same: to reduce the amount of disease, premature death, and disease-produced discomfort and disability in the population. Public health is thus a social institution, a discipline, and a practice.

Distinctions between Public Health and Clinical Health Professions


Public Health

Clinical Health





Prevention and Health Promotion

Diagnosis and Treatment


This information on this page is courtesy of Glyn G. Caldwell, M.D. Assistant Professor, Vice Chairman, Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, and University of Kentucky