Overview of the Public Health Field

The field of public health entails prevention and education of the general public to help improve the overall health and reduce risks to a population, as opposed to the provision of individual medical treatment to one patient at a time.

A group of doctors listening in a room together
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In other words, people who work in public health do not diagnose or treat patients on an individual basis like doctors and nurses do in a clinical setting.


Public health professionals research and track health trends including behavioral, biological, and environmental factors. They then utilize that research to help predict and prevent future health events or problems that could impact the health of the general population. Public health also includes the education of the public on ways to defend themselves against health risks.

Many public health workers have desk jobs in an office setting, while others may be dispatched out into the community for hands-on work with a given population. Workers may travel to outbreak areas or other events to help manage the spread and prevention of a disease on the front lines.

Types of Jobs Available

Public health combines many other disciplines and skills within the healthcare industry to offer a variety of occupations.

Within the public health organizations and government health agencies, there are hundreds of professionals such as scientists, medical lab workers, biostatisticians, medical researchers, epidemiologists, medical doctors, and more, all working together to help fight the next threat to the nation’s health. Additionally, there are many non-medical positions such as administrators, human resources, accounting, public relations/communications professionals, who all help the public health organization to work effectively and efficiently.

A few examples of organizations that are involved in public health are:

Is the Public Health Industry Right for You?

If you are interested in how diseases spread throughout the community and the world, or if you are fascinated with the outbreak or eradication of various diseases on a global scale, a career in public health may be for you. One thing that sets public health apart from many other medical careers is the impact public health workers can have on an entire population. Additionally, because it combines so many different disciplines, outside of clinical medicine, public health is a good field for people who also have an interest in anthropology, science, biology, mathematics, statistics, and epidemiology.

If you closely followed the Ebola outbreak minute by minute, are fascinated by the vaccine controversy, and are riveted by the news updates of flu season each year when the virus is tracked and reported, you may want to look more closely into the field of public health.

By Andrea Clement Santiago
Andrea Clement Santiago is a medical staffing expert and communications executive. She's a writer with a background in healthcare recruiting.