Public Health

The role of public health is to promote and protect the health and well-being of British Columbians.

The term "public health" is often confused with the publicly-funded health care system in Canada. Public health is one important part of this publicly-funded health care system.

People who work in public health include doctors, nurses, public health inspectors, nutritionists, dental hygienists, vision screening technologists, mental health and addictions specialists, and a wide variety of other health care professionals.

Public health carries out a wide variety of activities in B.C. For example:

  • Ensuring people have access to safe drinking water and food.
  • Developing and delivering provincial vaccination programs.
  • Reporting on the health of British Columbians.
  • Managing outbreaks of disease.
  • Encouraging people to use healthy behaviours to prevent chronic diseases and injuries.

These public health activities are based on the best available evidence and best practices. Action in public health is organized under the following seven visionary goals in Promote, Protect, Prevent: Our Health Begins Here. BC’s Guiding Framework for Public Health (PDF, 2.1MB):

Action on public health is also guided by the following strategy:

Under each goal (and the Health Assessment and Disease Surveillance strategy) are a number of core public health programs. These are the public health programs health authorities provide as they seek to improve the overall health of their population. There are currently 20 core public health programs.

Population Health

Improving the health of any population is referred to as population health. A population can be a small community, a group or the entire province. The health of a population is influenced by key physical, social, economic and cultural factors (called "determinants of health"). Population health looks at things like chronic disease, which influence the health of a population. It considers reasons why some populations are healthier than others and uses that information to develop and implement strategies to improve the health and well-being of populations.

Related Legislation

Public Health 101