The term "public health" has been somewhat loosely applied to everything which has to do with keeping people well, preventing disease and caring for the sick. Although care of the sick is not considered as a health activity, activities organized for the prevention of disease grow out of the movement for the care of the sick.
The care of the sick was carried on by religious orders during the middle ages and later by private organizations, particularly in England. The colonies and the United States followed the English tradition in organizing private hospitals and later dispensaries for the care of the sick. There were relatively few efforts made by governmental authority in this country for the care of the sick until the middle of the last century. Health departments were organized primarily for the suppression of epidemics; and as the knowledge of disease became more definite, their efforts were also
WILLIAMS LR. RELATION OF VOLUNTARY HEALTH AGENCY TO PHYSICIANS AND HEALTH DEPARTMENTS. JAMA. 1927;89(2):82-84. doi:10.1001/jama.1927.02690020006002