BOX 4-1

Public Health Mission and Government Responsibilities

Mission: The mission of public health is to fulfill society’s interest in ensuring the existence of conditions in which people can be healthy.


Core Functions: All levels of government are responsible for conducting health assessments, health policy development, and the assurance of health. To accomplish its mission, public health agencies should establish operational linkages with other public sector agencies responsible for health-related functions. The execution of public health functions requires technical, political, management, program, and fiscal capacities at all levels. State government is the central force in public health and is the public-sector entity that bears primary responsibility for health.


Federal Government Responsibilities

  • Support knowledge development and dissemination through data collection, research, and information exchange

  • Establish national objectives and priorities on interstate and national health issues

  • Provide technical assistance to support states and localities in determining objectives and carrying out actions on national and regional objectiveness

  • Provide funds to states to strengthen their capacity for services to achieve adequate minimum health services and achieve national health objectives

  • Ensure that its actions and services are in the interest of the entire nation, as in the case of epidemics, interstate environmental actions, and food and drug inspections

State Government Responsibilities

  • Conduct health assessments based on statewide data

  • Ensure an adequate statutory base for health activities in the state

  • Establish health objectives, delegate responsibilities, and hold local governments accountable

prevention of obesity in children and youth” and an “increased level and sustained commitment of federal and state funds and resources are needed” to sufficiently address the childhood obesity epidemic. Additionally, the report recommended that state and local government should “provide coordinated leadership and support for childhood obesity efforts, particularly for populations at high risk of childhood obesity, by increasing resources and strengthening policies that promote opportunities for physical activity and healthful eating” (IOM, 2005a, p. 147–148).

Many of the efforts that have already been implemented by federal, state, and local governments play an essential role in the response to childhood obesity in the United States. The number of existing governmental



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