Public health

Public HealthPublic health professionals recognize that individual actions promoting health translate into healthy communities. Without basic public health services, positive changes cannot be created or maintained (Keck & Scutchfield, 1997). Based on this premise, public health professionals consistently seek ways to strengthen the public health system and improve service delivery.

In 1988 the IOM publication The Future of Public Health highlighted positive and negative aspects of the nation’s public health system. The report described public health as a “system in disarray” (p.135), uncoordinated and characterized by a patchwork of programs. To address the perceived “disarray” in the public health system, the IOM’s Committee for the Study of the Future of Public Health specified a set of core functions to be provided by all public health agencies. The functions include assessment, policy development, and assurance (Keck & Scutchfield, 1997; Turnock, 2001).

Assessment includes regular and systematic collection and analysis of community health data, including health status, community health needs, and related health problems. Policy development describes a responsibility of public health agencies in promoting use of scientific knowledge when making decisions affecting public health policy. Assurance charges public health agencies with making services available and accessible, either directly or indirectly, to their constituents (Keck & Scutchfield, 1997; Turnock, 2001).

In addition to the core functions, the Committee identified 10 essential services for a healthy population: