Public Health Resources
The Relationship Between Public Health and Health Education
In 1920, Yale professor and respected health figure C.E.A. Winslow defined public health as:
“...the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health and efficiency through organized community effort for the sanitation of the environment, the control of communicable infections, the education of the individual in personal hygiene, the organization of medical and nursing services for the early diagnosis and preventive treatment of disease, and for the development of the social machinery to insure everyone a standard of living adequate for the maintenance of health, so organizing these benefits as to enable every citizen to realize his birthright of health and longevity.”
Since Winslow’s definition, several other definitions and characterizations of “public health” have been put forward. Winslow’s definition, however, has stood the test of time and arguably remains the most comprehensive and articulate definition today. The field of public health draws on and incorporates the expertise and skills of many other disciplines -- including biology, psychology, sociology, education, medicine, public policy and others. There are many specialties within the field of public health, yet all begin with training in the five foundations of public health: behavioral sciences/health education, bio-statistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, and health services administration.
In 1988, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a critical assessment of the status of public health in the United States. In this report, “The Future of Public Health,” IOM identified three core functions that encompass the purpose of public health – assessment, policy development, and assurance – and went on to report that the public health system was in a state of “disarray” and the public health agencies lacked the capacity to fulfill these core functions.
By the early 1990s, a health care reform movement was in full swing in the United States, and public health professionals and agencies mobilized to ensure that the role of public health was included in reform plans and proposals. While the core functions of public health identified in the IOM report had been widely accepted by the profession, they clearly did not resonate with the public or policy makers in a meaningful or understandable way. In the Spring of 1994 a working group on the core functions of public health took on the task of developing a consensus list of “essential services of public health” that would provide one voice for public health professionals and simultaneously clearly articulate to the public and policy makers the important role of public health in health care. The outcome of their work was a consensus statement that provided a vision for public health in America, identified what public health seeks to accomplish through the essential services, and describes how those activities are conducted.
As identified by the Essential Services Work Group, the 10 Essential Services of Public Health are:
- Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems
- Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community
- Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues
- Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems
- Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts
- Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety
- Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable
- Assure a competent public and personal health care workforce
- Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services
- Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.