Evidence

Public Health

What does public health mean?

Public health aims to help people and communities stay healthy. While doctors help people who are feeling sick, people who work in public health try to prevent people from getting sick or injured in the first place. For example, vaccinating children or encouraging communities to eat healthily can prevent illness in future.

Who looks after public health?

Historically, the 1848 Public Health Act was the first step to improving public health. It established a national board to manage public health issues like epidemics. But the Public Health Act also encouraged regions to set up local boards of health.

Nowadays, people working in public health may be employed in a range of different organisations. This includes local health departments, the civil service, the NHS, universities, charities and private companies.

Why is public health important?

Public health improves our quality of life. It can also save money, as preventing poor health is cheaper than treating it. Research on public health can help us to understand the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider impacts of new interventions. Important public health topics include reducing obesity, preventing substance misuse, making sure we’re prepared for epidemics, and promoting vaccination.

You can see some of the findings of NIHR-funded public health research below.