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Who is the public health workforce?

We define public health as:   "The science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organised efforts of society." (Sir Donald Acheson) and our primary objective is to provide public protection by ensuring that only competent public health professionals are registered and that high standards of practice are maintained. 


Many people contribute to improving the public’s health through their job and therefore form part of the public health workforce. The Report of the Chief Medical Officer’s Project to Strengthen the Public Health Function (2001) provided a framework for assessing the contribution of the broader public health workforce. The document referred to three categories of workers:


Wider Workforce, individuals that have an impact on public health as part of their work, but not the main purpose of their job.  These individuals are important because they can reach people who are not in direct contact with health services and can refer them on to sources of advice and support.


Practitioners, spend the majority or all of their time, in public health practice.  These professionals are a vital part of the workforce and have in-depth knowledge and skills in specific areas of public health


Specialists, come from a variety of backgrounds but all will have a common core of knowledge, skills and experience, and work at a strategic or senior management level developing the public health agenda.