Public health — the science of protecting and improving the health of a population — includes everything from setting pollution limits to urging women to get mammograms. It’s investigating salmonella outbreaks, tracking Lyme disease, defining drunk driving, fighting climate change, tackling systemic racism, inspecting restaurants, distributing condoms, and every other activity that affects health.
This broad array of activities reflects our modern-day understanding that myriad factors influence people’s health. It’s a long evolution from public health’s origins, which were squarely focused on fighting infectious diseases, starting with the bubonic plague in the 1300s. Things that many people take for granted, like clean drinking water and garbage collection, exist because of public health.