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Public health physicians are qualified medical doctors who choose to specialise in the health of groups or whole communities rather than working in individual healthcare.

Public health physicians are involved in promoting health and preventing disease by assessing a community's health needs and providing services to these communities. Partnerships with the communities they serve are key to successful outcomes.

Most public health physicians are involved in:

  • Planning, funding and managing health services
  • The delivery of public health projects and communicable disease control
  • Academic areas such as research and teaching

Like other public health roles, the focus is on population health and prevention and on the underlying social factors that affect people's health and wellbeing.


  • Lecture on public health at tertiary institutions
  • Plan, deliver and monitor for the health needs identified in that research
  • Provide advice to senior managers and politicians on major health issues and initiatives
  • Research the health of a particular population or health issue
  • Set up key public health projects and programmes, for example in cardiovascular (heart) health or immunisation

Who employs public health physicians?

Many public health physicians are employed by the Ministry of Health or district health boards. Others are employed with universities as researchers or teachers.

Public health physicians also provide services under contract as independent consultants.

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