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What is Public Health?

Public health is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organised efforts of society. It also considers principles of social justice and equity, promoting and protecting better health for all, leaving no-one behind. This means that public health holds a resolute focus on tackling inequalities in health, including those driven by racism and discrimination.

Rather than focussing on the health of the individual, public health works to protect and improve the health of communities and populations at local, regional, national, and global level.

Public health is a shared responsibility requiring collective action. As well as the specialist public health workforce, initiatives to improve public health may be delivered by governments, charities, community leaders, and businesses.

Examples of public health work include controlling infections, programmes to diagnose disease as early as possible, programmes to support healthy behaviours, ensuring people have access to nutritious food and safe housing, tackling climate change, and responding to major incidents and disasters. 

The shared aim of the diverse range of public health work is to offer populations the best chance to live long lives in good health.

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Conversations with senior leaders

The Faculty of Public Health has partnered with the Training in Public Health podcast to produce a series of episodes asking senior public health leaders the question "What is Public Health?"

Jennifer Dixon

Jennifer is Chief Executive of The Health Foundation, an independent charity in the UK that works to improve health in the UK. Jennifer is a former paediatrician and a leading expert in health policy and research. She has been awarded a CBE and a DBE for her services to the NHS and public health.

Listen to the full podcast

Jonathan Van-Tam

Jonathan is a Professor of Health Protection at the University of Nottingham and the former Deputy Chief Medical Officer. He received an MBE in 1998 and was knighted in the 2022 New Years honours list. 

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Jenny Harries

Jenny is the Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency. With over 30 years' experience in public health, Jenny has played significant roles in the UK Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a range of public health crises. 

Listen to the full podcast

Yvonne Doyle

Yvonne is a medical doctor by background with over 30 years experience in public health and has worked across a range of senior leadership roles across the NHS, Department of Health, UKHSA and academia. She was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 2016 for her contribution to improving public health. 

Listen to the full podcast

Read our summary paper on 'What is Public Health?'
Read here
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Become a Member

FPH is the professional home for public health in the UK and abroad. We support over 5,000 members across all career stages enabling them to drive the profession forward and achieve our vision of improving public health.

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