Public health services

Public health is defined as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” (Acheson, 1988; WHO).

The overall vision is to promote greater health and well-being in a sustainable way, while strengthening integrated public health services and reducing inequalities. In order to achieve this vision, the public health approach involves working with other sectors to address the wider determinants of health, and with health professionals: primary health care professionals can play a key role in preventing illness and promoting health, as outlined in the Alma Ata declaration.

 Across the WHO European Region, the main challenges facing public health in the twenty-first century include:

  • economic crisis;
  • widening inequalities;
  • ageing population;
  • increasing levels of chronic disease;
  • migration and urbanization; and
  • environmental damage and climate change.

As a result of these challenges, the WHO Regional Office for Europe has adopted the European Action Plan (EAP) for Strengthening Public Health Capacities and Services and a resolution.