Public health is dedicated to promoting and improving the health of people and their communities. Public health specialists work to research diseases, respond to epidemics, develop health programs, increase access to health services, and educate populations on proper health care. Public health may involve protecting individuals, communities, organizations, and entire populations.
There are certain, core functions that are fundamental to achieving the goals of public health. These are referred to as the essential public health functions (EPHF), and dictate the work of public health professionals everywhere. The core functions of public health include:
- Policy Development
Together, these functions work together to restore, improve, promote, and protect the health of the greater good, through collective action. The goals of public health, according to experts, are to:
- Prevent disease outbreaks and minimize the spread
- Protect against environmental hazards and threats
- Promote good health behaviors and prevention measures
- Respond to disasters and aid communities in recovery from them
- Assure the accessibility and quality of health services
Below, we delve into the three core functions of public health and what they mean – for the public and specifically for future public health professionals.
The Three Functions of Public Health, Explained
Assessment involves the collection and analysis of information regarding health problems. This means that public health professionals work to research health conditions, potential risks, and resources for communities related to health care and prevention. Assessment enables public health professionals to identify trends in disease, injury, and death, as well as the factors that cause these events. As cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the essential services of this function are to:
- Monitor environmental and health status, to further identify and resolve health problems
- Identify and investigate environmental health problems and health hazards in communities
2) Policy Development
With the information gathered by those assessing public health, policy development can begin. Policy development involves the process of information sharing, consulting, and citizen participation to decide on public health measures. Stakeholders in public health weigh the available information regarding health problems, programs, and threats – and further decide which interventions or policy decisions are appropriate to serve the public interest. As explained by the CDC, the essential functions of public health policy developers are to:
- Inform, educate, and further empower people about environmental health issues
- Mobilize community partnerships and actions to identify and solve health problems
- Develop policies that support individual and community environmental health efforts
The third core function of public health is assurance, which involves active pushes to ensure communities are healthy and protected. Those in public health assurance work to make health services available to people and their communities. They also make sure these health services are of high quality and easily accessible for community members. Additionally, assurance involves the promotion and protection of public health through dedicated programs, events, campaigns, and other strategies to safeguard health and wellness across populations. The CDC clarifies that these services are meant to:
- Enforce policies that protect environmental health and ensure safety
- Connect people to needed health services and assure the delivery of these health services when otherwise unavailable
- Assure a competent environmental health workforce to help communities
- Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of health services
- Research and identify innovative solutions to environmental health problems
Why Do the Core Functions of Public Health Matter?
The above three functions are essential to public health, as they are the guiding principles that define the careers within this sector. Public health professionals have the goal of promoting, protecting, restoring, and improving the health of those around them. The core functions of public health explain exactly what is needed in order to achieve these goals, including:
- Assessing health conditions and potential threats to communities
- Developing policies to protect the health of individuals and communities
- Assuring the health and safety of individuals and communities
If you work in public health, or aspiring to achieve a public health career, the three core functions of public health will come into play as you pave your career path. Ask yourself: Where do you fit into public health? Do you wish to:
- Assess and research of disease outbreaks, health threats, and natural disasters?
- Develop programs and policies at a higher level, to protect communities?
- Work within communities to teach them about health, or provide them with access to care?
Ask yourself why you want to pursue public health, and where your passions lie. Do any of the above functions of public health resonate more with you? The answers to these questions can help guide your education and future career.
Are you interested in studying public health? Goodwin University is a leading provider of public health education, with bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Public Health. Our programs offer online flexibility and career-oriented coursework to get you into a career you love. Learn more by visiting us online, or calling 800-889-3282 to speak with an admissions specialist.