What is Public Health?
Public health is the science and art of protecting and improving the health and well-being of people in local communities and across the country. It focuses on the health of the entire population or segments of it, such as high-risk groups, rather than individuals. Public health uses strategies to protect and promote health, and prevent disease and injury in the population. Because a population-based approach is employed, public health works with members of communities and community agencies to ensure long-term health for all.
- promotes health by advocating for public policy that promotes a healthy population, educating the public on healthy lifestyles, and by working with community partners; and
- protects health by controlling infectious diseases through regulatory inspections and enforcement, and by preventing or reducing exposure to environmental hazards; and
- prevents disease and injury by the surveillance of outbreaks, screening for cancer, immunization to control infectious disease, and conducting research on injury prevention.
In Ontario, public health programs and services are delivered in communities by the 36 local health units, each of which is governed by a Board of Health as defined by the Health Promotion and Protection Act (HPPA). Boards are made up of municipal members, either elected officials or community representatives, and provincial appointees where requested. Approximately two-thirds of Ontario's boards are autonomous bodies created to oversee the provision of public health services. The remaining one-third are part of regional municipal councils. Regional and municipal councils have the same function within their communities. The mandated public health services are described in the Ontario Public Health Standards.