Key aspects of public health in the uk

Authors Avatar


The official definition of public health “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society”

(Derek Wanless)

This definition was coined in 1988 in the Public Health in England report by Sir Donald Acheson.

Public health works across communities and populations rather than being targeted at an individual level. Public health is a collective responsibility linked to the concern for the underlying socio-economic and under determinants of health as well as disease. Professionals working in Public Health monitor the health status of the community, identify health needs, develop programmes to reduce risk and screen for early disease, control communicable disease, foster policies which promote health, plan and evaluate the provision of health care and manage and implement change.


In Northern Ireland the Chief Medical Officer advices government departments on public health matters including monitoring of the health of the public, communicable disease control, environmental hazards and the management of major incidents. Directors of Public Health within the 4 health and social services boards lead the public health function within their geographical areas.

Specific responsibilities of the directors of public health include:

  • Assessment of health needs
  • Advice on commissioning
  • Development and implementation of local health strategies.
  • Development and implementation of local health promotion strategies
  • Leading the work on clinical effectiveness
  • The surveillance, monitoring and control of communicable disease and non communicable environmental incidents.

The Public Health strategy “Investing for Health” launched in March 2002 contains a broad framework for the action to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities. This strategy is based on a partnership approach and builds on existing networks such as “Health Cities Projects”, “Health Action zones”, “Healthy living Centres” and Local Strategy Partnerships. This partnership approach takes into consideration known determinants of health and health inequalities, any historical trends and other health improvement programmes and strategies.

Join now!

The strategy is being implemented locally for 4 investing for health partnerships comprising of statutory community and voluntary organisations in each area. Theses partnerships are responsible for developing health improvement plans to address identified needs of people in their area in line with priorities set out in the strategy. Existing or forthcoming HPSS strategies which support the Investing for Health agenda include:

  • Drug and alcohol strategy
  • Nutrition strategy
  • Physical activity strategy
  • Teenage pregnancy and Parenthood strategy
  • Sexual health promotion strategy
  • Home accident prevention strategy
  • Tobacco action plan
  • Mental health promotion strategy

Other relevant strategies ...

This is a preview of the whole essay