Public health is a multidisciplinary field concerned with preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting the health of populations
This may be a small local community or an entire country, rather than on an individual level. Protecting and improving health can be achieved through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research for disease and injury prevention. Public health professionals may work on analysing the effect of genetics, lifestyle choices and environmental factors on health, in order to develop interventions to protect and improve health. Jobs are available in a range of settings including local authorities and government, the NHS, academic research, charities, private healthcare companies and international health organisations. There is a helpful introductory YouTube video on What is Public Health? and you can find out more about the range of employers in this sector through the NHS website.
Working in public health can be a very rewarding career. By looking at the health of the whole population, you can understand and eventually influence various social, environmental, cultural, economic and political factors affecting health and well being. While clinical medicine is vital for helping and supporting people when they fall ill, public health work provides opportunities to contribute to reducing the causes of ill health and improving people’s general well being. These opportunities include: developing systems to protect people’s health from environmental or human emergencies; helping people to improve their own health; and ensuring that our health services are the best and the most appropriate.
COVID-19 has hugely increased our awareness of the role of public health professionals as well as highlighting inequalities in health outcomes within the population. So whilst dementia, cancer and mental health continue to be big public health issues, the need to reduce health disparities, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, continues to be a priority.
Recent reforms to the public health system in England have seen Public Health England (PHE) transfer its health protection functions into the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and health improvement/ public health functions into the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), NHS Digital, NHS England and NHS Improvement.