Fundamentals Briefing

Health Policy Essentials: The Fundamentals of Public Health
March 11, 2011


Michele J. Orza, ScD & Jessamy Taylor, MPP


Public health can be broadly defined as what a society does collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. Narrower definitions may focus on the health infrastructure and activities of governments, on the subspecialty of medicine concerned primarily with community or population health, on the agencies charged with protecting and promoting the health of the public, or on publicly financed health programs and services. Driven in part by a desire to contain health care costs, policymakers are increasingly looking at public health strategies to reduce the need for expensive services. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) includes several significant public health provisions. This fundamentals session described: the evolving definition of public health, the structure and organization of public health in the United States, the basis of public health legal authorities, public health funding mechanisms, and several public health case studies to illustrate key concepts.


Sarah A. Lister, DVM, MPH, Specialist in Public Health and Epidemiology at the Congressional Research Service

The slides from Dr. Lister's presentation are available for download.

Related Materials

The Forum background paper "High Hopes: Public Health Approaches to Reducing the Need for Health Care" (Background Paper No. 78, September 27, 2010) was distributed at the session.

In 2015, a new version of the Forum's Health Policy Essentials series was conducted; please see its briefing book here.

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