University of Washington School of Public Health

What Is Public Health?

Ensuring clean air and water; disease prevention; screening for health risks; dealing with obesity, violence, and depression -- these are just some of the ways the students and faculty of the UW School of Public Health are making the world safer and healthier.

Public health mission

Public health carries out its mission through organized, interdisciplinary efforts that address the multiple determinants of health — biological; behavioral; environmental; cultural; social, family and community networks; living and working conditions; etc. — in communities and populations at risk for disease and injury. Its mission is achieved through the application of health promotion and disease prevention technologies and interventions designed to improve and enhance quality of life.

Health promotion and disease prevention technologies encompass a broad array of functions and expertise, including the three core public health functions:

  • identify health problems and priorities through assessment and monitoring of the health of communities and populations at risk;
  • formulating public policies, in collaboration with community and government leaders, designed to prioritize and solve identified local and national health problems;
  • assuring that all populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective care, including health promotion and disease prevention services, and evaluation of the effectiveness of that care.

Health care is vital to all of us some of the time, but public health is vital to all of us all of the time.

C. Everett Koop