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July 14, 1993

Preventive Medicine and Public Health

Author Affiliations

The Carter Center of Emory University, Atlanta, Ga

JAMA. 1993;270(2):251-252. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510020119042

The two foundation stones of public health have not changed. The philosophical base continues to be social justice in the application of scientific knowledge. The science base for defining problems, developing interventions, and measuring results is still epidemiology. However, as preventive medicine and public health make contributions in areas that were beyond our comprehension a professional lifetime ago, it is now not only accepted, but expected, that state and local health departments will respond to problems such as lead exposure, occupational hazards, tobacco, dietary fat, suicide clusters, violence, birth defects, and alcohol and other drug abuse.

While the logic is inescapable, public health was slow to accept and even seek out the expertise of the social and behavioral sciences. Whether dealing with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and its prevention, the treatment of tuberculosis, smoking cessation, or child abuse, the major intervention strategies require understanding human behavior, motivations, incentives, and thought