Fundamentals Briefing

Health Policy Essentials: Improving the Nation's Health: Spotlight on Public Health
March 22, 2013


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 health care services. This briefing discussed the evolving definition of public health, the structure and organization of the U.S. public health system, the basis of public health legal authorities, public health funding mechanisms, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) provisions and their implementation status, and hot topics such as the ACA Prevention and Public Health Fund, research on gun-related injury, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the impact of prevention on health care costs.


Sarah A. Lister, DVM, MPH (bio)
Specialist in Public Health & Epidemiology
Domestic Social Policy Division
Congressional Research Service

Related Materials

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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