Public health medicine is known under a number of different names over the years: Preventive medicine, Social medicine, Public health and hygiene, Community medicine and Public health medicine. It is a branch of clinical medicine concerned with improving the health of the population rather than practicing curative medicine. Public health medicine specialist work with other professional groups to monitor the health status of the community, identify health needs, develop programmes to reduce risk and screen for early disease, control communicable disease, foster policies which promote health, plan and evaluate the provision of health care, and manage and implement change. They are also actively involved in preventive care in many countries.
Public health medicine (or preventive medicine) has been recognised as a separate discipline since the middle of the last century when the first Medical Officers of Health were appointed in the UK (FPHM, undated). History of this speciality dated back to 19th century. In 1855, eight years after the appointment of the first medical officer of health, a leading article in The Lancet recommended that “each Medical Officer of Health in UK ought to be well versed in vital statistics and hygiene, a well-educated and practical physician, and acquainted with at least the general principles of chemical and physical science; above all he should possess sufficient logical acumen to enable him rightly to distinguish the post hoc from the propter hoc, and enough judgement to decide between coincidences and consequences” (Leading Article, 1855; Warren, 2000). The speciality was first recognised in the UK in 1971.