The public health workforce
Public health professionals play a crucial role in promoting and protecting the health and wellbeing of the population.
The primary responsibilities of the public health workforce are to prevent disease, prolong life, and improve the overall health of communities.
The public health workforce
Public health professionals come from a diverse range of backgrounds and all walks of life with the aim of improving and protecting the public’s health.
The roles of public health professionals can range from a Chief Medical Officer who advocates for public health in government; a public health consultant leading an evaluation of a sexual health service; doctors and nurses who provide healthcare; epidemiologists, statisticians and researchers who use data to inform action; environmental health officers who prevent and control environmental factors that affect our health; emergency service staff who save lives; and teachers and community champions who educate parents, children and citizens.
Though public health initiatives may arise from a wide range of individuals and organisations, there is a professional public health workforce who deliver activities to promote public health.
You can watch our 'day in the life' videos to find out more about what a typical day as a public health professional looks like.
Composition of the public health workforce
World Health Organisation 2022
This group have received professional training and/or registration with public health professional bodies.
Examples include public health specialists, public health practitioners, academics, public health consultants, and directors of public health.
Find out more about public health specialty training.
Health and care workers who contribute to one or more public health functions within their roles.
Nurses, social workers, GPs, pharmacists, and other allied health professionals fall into this category.
You can find out more about the NHS' role in preventing ill-health via the NHS website.
Individuals from various backgrounds and walks of life who are not public health specialists or practitioners but have the opportunity or ability to contribute to improving public health.
The professionals who make up this wider workforce are many and varied, ranging from unpaid volunteers and community champions, to professionals working across police and fire services, housing and education, sports and leisure, as well as some Allied Health Professionals, social care providers, and community pharmacists.
You can find out more about the wider public health workforce via the Royal Society for Public Health.
Central to leading the collective efforts to improve public health is the specialist public health workforce.
Public health specialists are senior public health leaders who have either completed the five-year specialty training programme in public health, or gathered equivalent experience and gained specialist registration via the UK Public Health Register.
Public health specialists are strategists, senior managers, or senior scientists in public health who could work in a variety of settings including local government, central government, national agencies, the NHS, universities, the defence services, the private sector, or the voluntary and social enterprise sector.
This group of specialists deal with complex public health issues, leading work with senior colleagues to plan and deliver policies and programmes to maximise the potential for people to lead healthy, happy, and productive lives.