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Why work in public health?

Health Trainer and client at swimming poolWorking in public health is a fantastically rewarding career.

Here is what some people say about what they do:

  • "This is a really rewarding job. I get such a buzz from seeing people’s health improve."

  • “My proudest accomplishment is the development of a client-centred service that is making men’s health matter.”

  • “I really enjoy contributing to improving and protecting health by impacting on the local built and natural environment in which people live, work and play.”

  • “Working as a doctor to bring government departments and organisations together has been rewarding.”


Key Definitions

Health: Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. (WHO 1948).

Wellbeing: A wider concept which embraces fulfilling our desires, reaching our potential and subjective wellbeing that combines the pleasures in life with our interpretation of how we think and feel about our life (Natural England 2008).

Public Health: The science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society. (Acheson 1988).

Population Health: the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group (Kindig and Stoddard 2003).

Epidemiology: the science concerned with the study of the factors determining and influencing the frequency and distribution of disease, injury, and other health-related events and their causes in a defined human population. (Dorland’s Medical Dictionary 2007).











Working in public health means working to improve everyone’s health, to prevent ill-health, and to make a real difference to people’s lives.

You can do this in many different ways:

At local levels:

  • with individuals and families
  • with and for local communities
  • with organisations that deliver services to individuals, families and communities (eg health services and local authorities, charities and independent organisations)

At regional or national levels:

  • with organisations that plan services and develop policy (eg government departments, head offices for health services, social care organisations, charitable organisations, large companies)

At international levels:

  • with organisations whose main focus is improving health outcomes in low or middle income settings (e.g. charitable organisations, UN organisations). More information.


You will be developing knowledge on:

  • differing health needs
  • what influences our health and wellbeing
  • how to prevent ill health and promote health

You will be developing skills in:

  • analysing and interpreting information on people and health
  • reviewing literature on what works to make a difference
  • effective communication
  • joint working and leadership


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