A recent Institute of Medicine report defined "public health" as what society must do to keep people healthy and further defined it as involving the collection of data, assessment of problems, and assurance of health protection. Public health professionals include physicians, nurses, sanitarians, biostatisticians, engineers, and administrators, and epidemiology is public health's basic science. Past successes in the United States, such as increases in longevity and decreases in infant mortality and cardiovascular death rates, demonstrate that progress is possible; however, inequalities persist, for example, in infant mortality rates and availability of medical care to lower socioeconomic groups. The major responsibilities of public health departments include leading and coordinating public health efforts, controlling epidemics, carrying out disease and injury surveillance, collecting vital statistics, ensuring good medical and dental care for the indigent, environmental control, health education, and laboratory services.
The IOM Report and Public Health. JAMA. 1990;264(4):503-506. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450040099039