Skip to Main Content

PHSC 1: Introduction to Public Health

Biological, environmental, socioeconomic impacts on health

Welcome to Introduction to Public Health

Brussels marathon runners taken by Martins Zemlicks. 

Resources for Research Topic and Geography Selection

When you have a geographic area in mind, and are not sure what public health topic to choose for your research project, use these:


When you have a public health topic in mind, and are not sure what city, state, region, or even what country has a prevalence of this issue, use these:

What is Public Health? -- National and International

What is public health? These excerpts from the websites of various public health associations and organizations will help you come to a working definition of public health. Follow the links to each website for more information.


According to the American Public Health Association, "Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. While a doctor treats people who are sick, those of us working in public health try to prevent people from getting sick or injured in the first place. We also promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors."


The World Health Organization is the "directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations’ system." According to their website, they "accomplish this by:

  • providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed;
  • shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge;
  • setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation;
  • articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options;
  • providing technical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
  • monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends."


The mission of the nation’s health protection agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is "to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same."

They do this by: 

  • Detecting and responding to new and emerging health threats
  • Tackling the biggest health problems causing death and disability for Americans
  • Putting science and advanced technology into action to prevent disease
  • Promoting healthy and safe behaviors, communities and environment
  • Developing leaders and training the public health workforce, including disease detectives
  • Taking the health pulse of our nation

The Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, uses a definition of public health from an Institutes of Medicine report from 1988: "Public health focuses on safeguarding and improving the physical, mental, and social well-being of the community as a whole. It is ... What we as a society do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy."

What is Public Health? - State

From the California Department of Public Health:

Our Core Values
  In carrying out our Mission, we embrace the following values:

We value our partners.  We reach out to diverse groups and external stakeholders.  We foster both internal and external collaboration.  We empower and engage our staff.

We strive for excellence in all that we do.  We invest in our staff and value and reward competence.

We foster policies and programs that promote fairness, social justice, equity, and cultural competence.

We adhere to high ethical and professional standards in our work and relationships.  We are honest in our interactions and conscientious stewards of the resources entrusted to us.

We treat all people with respect, courtesy, and understanding.

We follow through on commitments.  We hold ourselves and others accountable for results. 

We foster an atmosphere of trust by modeling consistent and professional behaviors and valuing them in others.  We strive for transparency in our actions and communications.

We seek new information and progressive solutions.  We encourage innovation and creativity.  We work in the present and focus on the future.

Our Core Activities
CDPH achieves its mission through the following core activities:

  • Promoting healthy lifestyles for individuals and families in their communities and workplaces.
  • Preventing disease, disability, and premature death and reducing or eliminating health disparities.
  • Protecting the public from unhealthy and unsafe environments.
  • Providing or ensuring access to quality, population-based health services.
  • Preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.
  • Producing and disseminating data to inform and evaluate public health status, strategies and programs.