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Public health medicine

Public health medicine is the specialty, which deals with the medical aspects of public health practice, and is described as "the art and science of improving the community''s health through the organised efforts of society".

Public health physicians tend to deal with the population's health needs rather than those of individual patients. Consultants in public health medicine work with colleagues in other disciplines and undertake many responsibilities. They tend to have a special interest in one of the following areas:

  • Communicable disease control and environmental health
  • Primary care issues, e.g. public health support to primary care organisations
  • Clinical governance and evidence based medicine
  • Planning and information
  • Academic public health, e.g. epidemiological research, critical appraisal and systematic review of evidence
  • Director of Public Health (head of the local department of public health).
Specialist training

Public health consultants need to have undertaken specialist training laid down by the Faculty of Public Health (FPH). However, this specialty is open not just to those with a  degree in medicine but to those with a relevant degree such as clinical psychology and pharmacology, environmental science or a health professional qualification, such as nursing.

A period of appropriate post-degree experience will be required and candidates must also be able to prove that they have a competence level equivalent to that of a medical applicant, who has completed a Foundation Programme. For further information, visit the FPH website and the Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) website.

Out of hours

Out of hours work is a component of public health medicine practice with regard to the clinical aspects of communicable disease control and environmental health hazard control. Out of hour's duties involve telephone advice from home apart from rare major outbreaks or incidents, which require ''all hands on deck''.

Personal qualities

Personal qualities should include:

  • Personal commitment to the goals of improving the publics health
  • Good communication skills, both oral and written
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to work as an individual as well as part of a team and alongside colleagues in other disciplines