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What is Public Health?

Three dimensional picture of the map of the State of Delaware.In Delaware, if you:

  • have eaten at a restaurant
  • vacationed at a campground
  • swam at a public beach or pool
  • drank a glass of milk
  • got married or divorced
  • had a baby
  • required hospital or nursing home care
  • needed a flu shot
  • had a prescription filled
  • been treated by a paramedic

then the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has touched your life in some important way. This is public health in Delaware.

Assuring the quality of our food, checking the safety of restaurants, maintaining the state's vital records, screening newborns for hearing and genetic diseases and setting standards for emergency medical services are just some of the duties of  DPH in Delaware.

In fact, DPH has MANY different programs that benefit each state resident and visitor, although our daily activities of maintaining the public's health are rarely noticed unless a breakdown in the system occurs. These essential programs and services make up Delaware's public health system, a system that forms a frontline defense against disease through preventive measures and education.

In the past, DPH directed state efforts to control smallpox, cholera and typhoid, virtually eliminated polio, reduced dental decay through fluoridation of community water supplies, and corrected sanitary conditions that threatened water and food supplies. Public health has provided the foundation for remarkable gains in saving lives and reducing suffering.

Today, DPH has programs to deal with persistent problems that require continued vigilance – infectious diseases, such as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and meningococcal disease; foodborne and communicable diseases, such as E. coli 0157:H7, salmonella and West Nile virus; vaccine preventable diseases; lead poisoning; lack of health care in rural areas; health disparities among racial groups, breast, cervical and prostate cancer; and other health threats -- sexually transmitted diseases, tobacco use, poor nutrition and other conditions associated with high-risk behaviors.

Recently, DPH has been charged with improving public health preparedness to handle the state's response to threats against the health of Delawareans.