An Introduction to Public Health and Epidemiology
by Susan Carr, Nigel Unwin
Edition: 2nd., 2007
People who practise public health come from many walks of life:
• nurses and doctors running screening programmes;
• local residents campaigning for better housing;
• engineers drilling bore holes to provide clean water for villagers in a developing
• politicians introducing legislation to ban cigarette smoking in public places;
• ‘pop stars’ who speak to school children on the dangers of drug misuse.
These are a few examples. Many people will not identify their activities as ‘public health’. What links these and similar activities together is improving the health of populations or communities. Such a broad range of activities illustrates that the factors which influence health are complex and wide-ranging. Any attempt to understand
and change them must involve many disciplines, and the study of public health draws on the expertise of people from a variety of backgrounds. Statistics, psychology, sociology, microbiology, politics and management are some of the specialities which contribute to the study of public health. Epidemiology has a central role. It can be defined as the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states and the application of this study to the control of health problems. Knowing the extent of health problems, who suffers from them and what causes them within a
population is the information needed for organized public health groups to address them, as well as the measure of whether the efforts were successful.