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Public Health: A Conceptual Framework, 2nd Edition

Cette ressource est disponible aussi en français.

To define what is meant by a public health “lens” or “perspective,” the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) developed a working paper that outlines a conceptual framework for public health.  This framework offers two things:

  1. A structure for the foundations of public health
  2. A model for the essential components of population health strategies

The CPHA plans to use elements of this framework to define its policy options in the coming years.

The framework starts with the foundations of public health practice and moves on to the amalgamation of activities that constitute the field.

The three foundations that guide public health action include social justice, health equity and the social and ecological determinants of health.

The key activities that stem from the foundation fall into one of five connected areas:

  1. Evidence base: Research (qualitative and quantitative), community consultations and surveillance/epidemiology
  2. Risk assessment: Informed by the evidence base and includes hazard identification and characterization, exposure assessment and estimate of risk on a population level
  3. Policy: Informed by the evidence base and risk assessment, with considerations for financial, economic, social and legal/jurisdictional issues
  4. Program: If or when the policy is put into action, which is most often implemented through multisector collaboration and includes those who are directly affected by the health issue
  5. Evaluation: Critical to assessing whether the program is meeting its goals, based on qualitative and quantitative data that can inform further public health program development

Though this framework was developed to guide CPHA policy options, it is also meant to capture the complex and dynamic nature of the public health system and, more broadly, the populations it serves. The working paper can be used in its current form by public health practitioners to give context to the complexity of their work and the elements needed to enact change. 

Use this resource to

  • facilitate discussion about public health practice that is rooted in social justice and health equity;
  • explore the role of public health in contributing to the evidence base that informs the other building blocks of public health practice;
  • compare current public health actions with the framework and identify areas for change; and
  • support the shifting of public health attention away from lifestyle and charity based strategies and towards addressing root causes of health inequities.


Canadian Public Health Association (2017). Public Health: A Conceptual Framework, 2nd Edition. Canadian Public Health Association: Ottawa.

Tags: Key concepts, Public Health Association, Document

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