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Medical Experts for Healthy Communities

Canada’s Public Health Physicians are specialty-trained medical professionals focused on promoting, protecting and improving our communities’ health and well-being.

While other physicians concentrate on diagnosing and treating individual patients, Public Health Physicians see entire communities as their patients. Their expertise and focus help ensure that all Canadians can live healthier, safer lives.

Governments, communities and organizations rely on Public Health Physicians’ unique training and expertise to inform fair public health policies, evaluate data, develop programs to prevent illness and injuries, and respond in times of emergencies such as outbreaks and natural disasters. When a Medical Officer of Health speaks to decision-makers, in public or to the media, it is a Public Health Physician speaking.

Public Health Physicians Identify Causes and Deliver Solutions to Prevent Illness and Improve Health

Public Health Physicians use data, evidence, public engagement, research, education and more, all toward the ultimate goal of building healthier communities for all Canadians. Communities where fewer people get sick, get hurt, live with chronic diseases or are forced to depend on an already overburdened health and social support system for their care and wellbeing.

Public Health Physicians focus on identifying, responding, and addressing the contributors that negatively affect our populations’ health, such as people living in poverty, with addictions, in isolation, in marginalized and remote communities. While their work is frequently not high profile, it has often had an enormous impact, adding years to life and life to years for many Canadians.

Public Health Physicians Protect the Health of Populations

Public Health Physicians are primarily concerned with the social and environmental factors that impact health within specific communities, calling upon their unique population health training and expertise. They identify and work to prevent the root causes of poor health, disease, injuries and premature death instead of calling on costly medical treatment and hospital care as the go-to response. Their tireless work behind the scenes can reduce other healthcare professionals’ workload and lower the need for hospital stays and emergency room visits.

Certified Experts in Public Health and Preventive Medicine

After completing medical school, those pursuing a career as a Public Health and Preventive Medicine Physician must complete an additional five years of residency that includes clinic and hospital training, courses in public health sciences and clinical experience in public health settings. Once certified, these medical specialists work in public health departments at all government levels, hospitals, universities, family practice settings, industry and non-governmental organizations. They use their medical training differently from many physicians, as most Public Health Physicians work principally behind the scenes, having limited contact with individual patients in clinics and hospitals.

Public Health Emergencies Need the Voices of Public Health

Public Health Physicians bring unique and valuable perspectives, specialized training, and relevant expertise during public health emergencies. Expertise in population health is very different from expertise in one-to-one health. That’s why political leaders and decision-makers turn to Public Health Physicians for guidance during large-scale disasters and outbreaks. Ensuring that Public Health Physicians’ perspectives, knowledge, expertise, and voices are present in the media and other public forums reduces confusion and speculation and ultimately leads to a better-informed public during large-scale public emergencies. 

Public Health Is an Area Where Resources and Investments Pay Off

Supporting Public Health Physicians and others working in public health is key to improving Canadians’ health and well-being. A stronger, more vibrant public health infrastructure and healthier communities will be realized when Public Health Physicians’ expertise is consistently part of discussions and decisions that assess and adopt public health policies and community health programs.

This page is part of PHPC's public awareness campaign to clarify the role and impact of public health physicians in Canada.

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Did you know?   

Public Health Physicians Address Substance Abuse, Harm Reduction and Stigma.

Public Health Physicians are working to address a serious issue that is impacting the health, wellbeing and life expectancy of Canadians, particularly younger Canadians.

Did you know?  

Public Health Physicians Have Made Canada a Healthier Country.

Public Health Physicians were central in planning, implementing, and evaluating non-smoking by-laws and promoting smoking prevention.

Did you know?   

Public Health Physicians Help Address Inequities in Society.

Public Health Physicians are helping to shine a light on and striving to eliminate Tuberculosis, which is a social disease with a medical aspect and demonstrates the inequities in our societies.

Did you know?   

Public Health Physicians Balance the Health of Populations and Public Health Measures.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and other outbreaks, Public Health Physicians have been often behind the scenes but central to managing outbreaks, identifying priorities, tracking infection rates, supporting large-scale public testing and vaccinations.

Did you know?

Investing in Public Health Has Always Been an Investment with Healthy Returns.

Investing in public health has long-term benefits and returns on investments far more comprehensive than investments in healthcare. Public health helped to contain smallpox, cholera, typhoid and yellow fever and introduced water testing, rodent elimination, seatbelts, vaccinations and much more. Public health has added decades to life expectancy and saved millions of lives.

Copyright 2017 - Public Health Physicians of Canada  /  Médecins de santé publique du Canada

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