The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define the role of public health as the active protection of the nation's health and safety, the distribution of credible information to enhance health decisions, and the establishment of partnerships with local communities and organizations to promote health. Public health comprises all activities that society does collectively to ensure conditions in which people can be healthy. This includes organized international (e.g., World Health Organization), national, state, and community efforts to prevent, identify, preempt, and counter threats to the public'shealth. Public health departments/districts include local (county or multicounty) health agencies, operated by local governments, with oversight and direction from a local board of health, which provides public health services throughout a defined geographic area.
Public health activities have increased the life expectancy of Americans in this century by 25 years, but few Americans are aware of their importance because most public health achievements involve prevention rather than cures. Tocite an example, in 1900 tuberculosis (TB) was the primary cause of death inthe United States and its cause was still under investigation. Once it becameclear that TB was a contagious bacterial disease, public health control measures were implemented to stop the spread of this disease. Americans used to worry on a daily basis about infections, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and rubella, that are now largely unheard of. Additionally there would still be a smoking rate in this country of nearly 60% of men and women, without itsrelation to health hazards and premature death, were it not for public healthinitiatives.
Examples of other activities that currently fall under public health controlinclude the maintenance of clean air by monitoring radiation levels and developing strategies to keep them low, the maintenance of safe drinking water andits fluoridation, the inspection of dairy products to ensure consumer safety, the placement of doctors in rural areas, the assurance that children get proper nutrition to prevent sickness later in life, the demonstration of the efficacy on automobile seatbelt use in protecting human life, the licensing ofchild care centers, the provision of immunizations against life-threatening diseases, the demonstration of the role of exercise in reducing the risks of chronic disease, the promotion of cigarette-smoke-free environments for workers, the regulation of and the licensing of food service businesses, the protection of public water supplies from pollution, and overseeing the care provided by hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency medical services.
Other areas of interest among public health professionals include alternativemedicine, asthma, bioethics, biological warfare, biometry, blindness, cardiology, child abuse, chronic disease, communicable disease control, communicable diseases, consumer health, contraception, dentistry, diabetes, disasters, domestic violence, drug resistance, emergencies, emergency medicine, environment, environmental exposure, environmental health, epidemiology, family planning, family practice, food poisoning, genetics, gynecology, health, health care reform, health education, health policy, health promotion, hearing disorders, heart diseases, hepatitis, history of medicine, HIV infections, hospitals, immunization, immunology, influenza, leprosy, leptospirosis, lung diseases, lyme disease, malaria, measles, medical indigency, medical informatics, medical oncology, medical societies, medical substance, medical technology, microbiology, nursing, nutrition, occupational health, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, parasitology, pediatrics, pharmacology, plague, poliomyelitis, preventive medicine, primary health care, psychiatry, publishing, pulmonary disease, rabies, radiation, reproductive medicine, rheumatology, risk assessment, rural health, rural medicine, safety, schools, scientific sociology, sexually transmitted diseases, smoking, social medicine, standards, statistics, telemedicine, tinnitus, toxicology, traditional mental health, travel, tropical medicine, trypanosomiasis, tuberculosis, urban health, vaccines, veterinary medicine, violence, virology, virus diseases, vitalstatistics, women's health, world health, and wounds and injuries.