What is public health?

Woman in wheelchair

Health is more than the absence of disease; it is a resource for living well and comes about through interactions between biological, environmental, emotional, spiritual and social relationship factors. 

While such an understanding of health can be applied to individuals, public health is concerned with the health of populations. When thinking about populations, public health can be viewed as the result of interactions between people and their environments. Environments include where we work, our homes, our towns and cities, the ecosystem and our social environments. 

Public health is also created by the interaction between resources and people. Resources can include the money we have, access to clean water, access to health care, access to transport, our friends and family, our cultural resources and the knowledge we have. 

To improve the health of populations, public health seeks to:

  • Promote wellbeing
  • Prevent disease
  • Reduce health inequalities

 The tools used in public health to improve the health of populations include:

  • Creating safe and healthy workplaces, homes, towns and cities
  • Working with communities to identify and address barriers to health
  • Healthy public policy
  • Measuring and monitoring trends in health across the population
  • Improving access to health-promoting resources, like good food, opportunities for physical activity, communities accessible to those with disability, and effective health care services.

Teaching programmes in the School of Public Health

Teaching programmes in the School of Public Health equip students with a range of these tools, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Our areas of specialisation include:

  • Environmental health
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Rehabilitation and disability studies
  • Public health and health promotion

These complement teaching programmes at Massey University around nutrition, sports and exercise, Māori health and social policy, among others.

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