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About Public Health

What is Public Health?

The Purpose of Public Health

"The art and science of public health practice in Australia today seeks to improve health and wellbeing through approaches which focus on whole populations. Priorities are to reduce disparities in health status between social groups and to influence the underlying social, economic, physical and biological determinants. Public health practice informs and empowers individuals and communities, and creates healthy environments through the use of evidence-based strategies, best practice and quality improvement approaches, and effective governance and accountability mechanisms."

Core Functions*:
  1. Assess, analyse & communicate population health needs & community expectations;
  2. Prevent & control communicable & non-communicable diseases & injuries through risk factor reduction, education, screening, immunisation & other interventions; 
  3. Promote & support healthy lifestyles & behaviours through action with individuals, families, communities & wider society; 
  4. Promote, develop & support healthy public policy, including legislation, regulation & fiscal measures; 
  5. Plan, fund, manage & evaluate health gain & capacity building programmes designed to achieve measurable improvements in health status, & to strengthen skills, competencies, systems & infrastructure; 
  6. Strengthen communities & build social capital through consultation, participation & empowerment; 
  7. Promote, develop, support & initiate actions which ensure safe & healthy environments; 
  8. Promote, develop & support healthy growth & development throughout all life stages; and 
  9. Promote, develop & support actions to improve the health status of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people & other vulnerable groups


*Source: National Public Health Partnership (NPHP) (2000) Public Health Practice in Australia today: A statement of core functions. Melbourne: National Public Health Partnership. p. 2. 

This is Public Health - Short Version

What do Public Health Clinicians Do?

Multidimensional public health – descriptive axes

The multidimensional nature of public health and the importance of different descriptive axes is recognised in the following listing (not exclusive). Detailed examination of a few selected axes will form part of the development of the unified classification. [* indicates selected axes]


* Public Health Functions (e.g. public health core functions, management or overhead functions) and Activities/programs that funds buy (e.g. public health expenditure activities).

* Determinants of Health / Risk and Protective Factors (e.g. socio-environmental determinants, behavioural factors, early life factors) and Disease/injury areas (e.g. vaccine preventable diseases) that determine Intervention targets.

* Toolkit: bodies of knowledge, methods and tools – specific to public health (e.g. surveillance, health promotion, epidemiology); or used by, but not specific to, public health (e.g. management, policy development).
Geography/ Access to health services (e.g. Urban/Rural/Remote geographic classification).
Intervention target or focus (e.g. target population defined by age, sex, ethnicity).
Performance measures (e.g. the National Health Performance Framework).
Precepts, Principles, Philosophy (e.g. 'harm minimisation', 'equity', 'user pays').
Service production / provision (where produced/provided e.g. institutional health services, non-institutional health services), Service delivery/ Settings (where service delivered e.g. school, workplace, community).
Sources of funds (e.g. Health/Non-health; levels of government).
Time (e.g. time-lag, investment period, break-even point).
Workforce (e.g. public health specialists, local council workers, school nurses).

The Deadly History of Public Health


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