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What is Public Health?

Public health as a profession is becoming more and more popular—but what exactly is it?

Here's a good way to describe the essence of public health.

In the medical field, clinicians treat diseases and injuries one patient at a time. But in public health, we prevent disease and injury. Public health researchers, practitioners and educators work with communities and populations. We identify the causes of disease and disability, and we implement largescale solutions.

For example, instead of treating a gunshot wound, we work to identify the causes of gun violence and develop interventions. Instead of treating premature or low birth-weight babies, we investigate the factors at work and we develop programs to keep babies healthy. And instead of prescribing medication for high blood pressure, we examine the links among obesity, diabetes and heart disease—and we use our data to influence policy aimed at reducing all three conditions.

Today, public health encompasses areas as wideranging as epigenetics, chronic disease, the science of aging, mental health, disaster response, refugee health, injury prevention and tobacco control.

In public health, our microbiologists work to find a vaccine for malaria, while our behavioral scientists research ways to discourage populations from smoking. Our environmental health scientists work to discover which foods prevent cancer, while our health policy analysts evaluate health insurance programs and make recommendations. And our epidemiologists identify trends in health and illness, looking for links, causes and interventions in areas such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and infant mortality.

Need more examples of real-life public health work? Recent projects here at the Bloomberg School include:

For more information about public health, you can visit the websites of Bloomberg School's many centers and institutes, or learn more about each of our 10 departments which span the many diverse areas of this exciting field.