Introducing public health
Introducing public health

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Introducing public health

3 Scope of public health

The case study of Coventry also indicated the breadth of public health today. Indeed, it is usually termed ‘multidisciplinary public health’ to highlight its growing importance to all professions, whether they work in healthcare, social care, the independent or voluntary sector, local government, education or almost any other sector in the UK. But the case study also signalled that public health is an issue for all citizens too, whether they live alone or in a family. It seems to have become ‘everybody’s business’.

Activity 3 What is multidisciplinary public health?

40 minutes

Read the document, What is multidisciplinary public health? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   It is an extract from Chapter 1 of Theory and Research in Promoting Health (eds. Earle et al, 2007).

Now answer the following questions:

  1. Which terms were you already familiar with and which terms are new to you?
  2. If you are a public health practitioner, where would you place yourself in the range of activities outlined in Figure 1?
  3. Why might it be wise not to see these different areas of action as all diistinct from each other and mutually exclusive?


All of these terms might be new to you and they certainly signal the scope of modern public health. If you work in health and social care, however, you may know about ‘health improvement’, ‘health protection’ and ‘health education’ and already be involved in one of these areas. Other activities may be less familiar, for example ‘new public health’ which has focused on tackling the wider determinants of ill health.

The statement from the Chief Medical Officer for England and others quoted in the extract indicates that terms overlap, change over time and we should not assume that a focus on one excludes work on another. Health education, for example, might feature as a valued part of health promotion or ill-health prevention.

Activity 4 Terms used in multidisciplinary public health

20 minutes

Review the table Promoting public health, which outlines the range of terms used within multidisciplinary public health. For each term, try to think of at least one further example.


You may have found that some examples are easier to think of than others. It is worth noting that some activities occur at individual level, whereas others take place at group or community level. Further activities occur at the level of local government as well as regionally, nationally and internationally.


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