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The scope and concerns of public health 

The scope and concerns of public health
Chapter:
The scope and concerns of public health
Author(s):

Roger Detels

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199218707.003.0001
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date: 19 December 2018

Public health is the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts of society. The goal of public health is the biologic, physical, and mental well-being of all members of society. Thus, unlike medicine, which focuses on the health of the individual patient, public health focuses on the health of the public in the aggregate. To achieve this broad, challenging goal, public health professionals engage in a wide range of functions involving technology, social sciences, and politics. Public health professionals utilize these functions to anticipate and prevent future problems, identify current problems, identify appropriate strategies to resolve these problems, implement these strategies, and finally, evaluate their effectiveness.

In this chapter, we introduce the reader to the scope and current major concerns of public health as we enter the twenty-first century, giving examples of each. It is the goal of the chapter to assist the readers in understanding the conceptual framework of the field, which will help them in placing the subsequent more detailed chapters in the context of the entire field of public health.

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