Public Health Professionals

Public health professionals come from a broad range of backgrounds and include specialists such as consultants, front line providers, and specialists from nursing, medicine, epidemiology, behavioural sciences, biostatistics, and social sciences. These individuals can be directly involved with the general public or indirectly involved through working in administration, monitoring, or surveillance.

Public health professionals vary in their training and academic backgrounds. Some complete training in registered health professions, while others receive Bachelor’s degrees with specializations in public health or health studies, or finish research-oriented or professional Master degrees.

Public Health Nurses

Nurses working in community health settings in Canada provide services in community health centers primary care, home care, or public health. They play crucial roles in health promotion and surveillance, disease prevention, community development, and emergency response. They deliver holistic care and consider the social determinants of health in their work.

The recognized categories of nurses include Licensed/Registered Practical Nurses (LPNs, 10% work in community health settings), Registered Nurses (RNs, 13% work in community settings), and Nurse Practitioners (NPs, >50% work in community health settings).

Public Health Physicians

There is a long history of physician engagement in public health and health promotion. Public health physicians are involved in governmental organizations at the federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal levels. They work in clinical practice, academic settings, non-governmental organizations, and health administration. Their roles focus on preventing illness, promoting health, identifying the health needs and problems in the population, developing policy, and developing public health programs.

The Chief Public Health Officer is responsible for public health nationally. Chief Medical Officers of Health (or equivalent) lead public health at the provincial and territorial levels.

Bielska IA, Drobot AC, Moir M, Nartowski RO, Lee R, Lukewich J, Lukewich MK. (2015). Public Health in Canada: An Overview. Public Health Management/Zdrowie Publiczne i Zarzadzanie; 13(2):165-179.

Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Family Health Teams., 2014.
Canadian Nurses Association, Optimizing the Role of Nurses in Primary Care in Canada., 2014.
Canadian Institute for Health Information, Regulated Nurses: Canadian Trends, 2007 to 2011., 2012.
Canadian Public Health Association, Public Health ~ Community Health Nursing Practice in Canada., 2010.
Henteleff A., Wall H., Public Health Nursing: Primary Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Community Health Nurses of Canada,, 2012.
Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, Sanitation, Public Hygiene, and the Fight Against Disease: 1882 to 1921., 2011.
Parliament of Canada. Bill C-5 - An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts., 2006.
Canadian Medical Association, Public Health and Preventive Medicine Profile., 2014.

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