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    Objectives: Upon completion of the chapter and exercises, the student pharmacist will be able to
  1. Define public health.

  2. Identify areas in public health where pharmacists are leading participants of the health-care team.

  3. Identify partners for pharmacists in order to promote the health of their communities.

  4. Describe collaborative pharmacy practice models that can be implemented to manage and prevent disease.

  5. Identify public health content in your curriculum.


Pharmacists play an important role in the public's health but often think of their activities in the narrower framework of traditional pharmacy practice. This chapter provides an overview and background on public health specialty areas and organizations. While progressing through your school or college curriculum, take note of all of the areas of practice that now address promotion of wellness, and positive healthy behaviors. Think how the practice of pharmacy will continue to address public health issues. Take action now to become involved to improve the health of Americans, and others around the globe. An Internet search for a definition of public health results in a large number of returns. In general, a definition of public health includes such terms as protecting and improving the health of a community, disease prevention, health education, control of communicable diseases, application of sanitary measures, and monitoring of environmental hazards. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health's (ASPPH)1 web site ( provides a comprehensive definition. Overall, public health professionals are concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood, or as big as an entire country. Public health professionals work to prevent problems from happening or reoccurring through implementing educational programs, developing policies, administering services, and conducting research, in contrast to clinical professionals, such as physicians and nurses, and pharmacists who focus primarily on treating individuals after they become sick or injured. Public health practitioners are concerned with limiting health disparities and a large part of public health practice is the fight for health-care equity, quality, and accessibility. Based on the definition of public health, it is clear that all pharmacists are now in a position to support, and add to, the role that public health pharmacists have been engaged in for many years.

The study of public health is highly varied and encompasses many academic disciplines and is comprised of five core areas:

  1. Biostatistics

  2. Epidemiology

  3. Environmental Health

  4. Health Services Administration/Management

  5. Social and Behavioral Science/Health Education

In addition to the five core topics, other areas of public health where pharmacists make an impact include:

  • Maternal and Child Health

  • Nutrition

  • International/Global Health

  • Public Health Laboratory Practice

  • Public Health Policy

  • Public Health Practice

The following sections provide an introduction to each of the areas with respect to what topics are relevant, and the impact of public health professionals in that area.

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