This paper examines the existing public health infrastructure, with an emphasis on the resources and activities necessary for public health emergency preparedness and response. It provides a brief historical overview of the evolution of public health and contrasts public health interventions with medicine and health care services. The paper summarizes the broad range of activities that constitute public health practice today and provides a more detailed review of functions and services that are critical to emergency response capabilities. It explores the legal foundation for public health authorities, discussing constitutional, federal, and state public health law. The paper also summarizes how public health is organized and structured at all levels of government and discusses the roles and responsibilities of the multiple organizations responsible for responding to a public health emergency.
For more information on emergency preparedness, see also a previous Background Paper.