What are the 10 essential public health services?

If you've ever seen the 2011 movie Contagion, you know this is a real nail. In it, you see a devastating epidemic spreading across the globe as health officials rush to stop it. The movie is terrifying at times. This is also quite plausible.

Public health professionals monitor epidemics every day and, while their work is not always as glamorous as Hollywood imagined, it is an important public health service; in fact, one of the 10 essential services.


Clinical medicine and public health are often linked, but they approach health from two very different perspectives. While physicians often focus on diagnosing, treating, and caring for the individual patient in front of them, public health sees the broader perspective as the entire community. When done right, public health can achieve something wonderful: nothing. No sprouts. No health problems. No one died prematurely. This is a lofty and perhaps unattainable goal, but it covers the most important aspect of public health. This is prevention.

The ten essential services emerged in the early 1990s along with the debate on health care reform. At the time, only three 'core functions' of public health were widely recognized: assessment, policy development, and assurance. Public health leaders wanted to provide more specific guidance to health departments and legislators charged with protecting the health of their communities. The result was a consensus statement that identified 10 basic services within the general framework of three initial basic functions that everyone working in public health should strive for.

This is what they came up with.

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