Core Functions of Public Health and the 10 Essential Public Health Services

This post describes important updates to the framework for the core functions of public health, including 10 essential public health services.

Cartoon of people reaching toward the heart with a stethoscope

Organized public health efforts began in seventeenth-century Europe in response to the plague. Modern western public health systems, including hospitals for the ill and public sanitation services, started developing alongside scientific advances in the early nineteenth century and continue to evolve alongside science and culture today.1

Over time, public health professionals arrived at a consensus about the essential services of public health. This post describes the evolution of The 10 Essential Public Health Services, the widely adopted U.S. framework for public health delivery developed in the late twentieth century.

The Essential Public Health Services Model

In 1994, a national working group developed a framework for what is now known as the 10 Essential Public Health Services.This framework outlined the essential services of public health systems. Health departments, community partners, schools, and health programs around the nation adopted the model as the standard for public health services.2

The model divided 10 essential services of public health into three core functions of public health service, categorized as:

  • Assessment
  • Policy Development
  • Assurance

In the original model familiar to public health professionals, nine discrete functions surround the tenth function, research. The model was a circular, iterative framework appropriate in any public health context.

After using the framework for 25 years, a new public health task force convened to update the model. The Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI), with the help of the de Beaumont Foundation, took on this project and created an updated version of the 10 Essential Public Health Services. This revised version was released on September 9, 2020, and is “intended to bring the framework in line with the current and future public health practice.”3

How the 10 Essential Public Health Services Model Has Evolved

The conception of the three core functions of public health remains the same, but the updated model shifts individual service goals from a process orientation to a goal orientation. Research was at the center of the model in the original framework, supported by system management and nine functional service areas.

In the updated model, equity is at the hub of the wheel, with research moved to one of the spokes. The recharacterized 10 essential public health services emphasize context and the human element. The primary focus is to “protect and promote the health of all people in all communities.

“To achieve equity, the Essential Public Health Services actively promote policies, systems, and overall community conditions that enable optimal health for all and seek to remove systemic and structural barriers that have resulted in health inequities. Such barriers include poverty, racism, gender discrimination, ableism, and other forms of oppression.”3

Standards and goals in the 10 Essential Public Health Services framework interactively support the three core functions of public health and the central purpose of creating health equity. They can also be considered independently. A synopsis of the updated service framework and its presentation at a 2020 launch event follows.4

Core Public Health Function 1: Assessment

Essential Public Health Service 1: Assess and Monitor

The goal for service one is to “assess and monitor population health status, factors that influence health, and community needs and assets.”3

This involves gathering and analyzing data. An example is collecting, monitoring, and analyzing data on health factors to identify threats, patterns, and potential issues. This data can then be used to determine the root causes of health disparities and help engage community members and key partners. There is an emphasis on using various methods and innovative technology to ensure the entire community is assessed.

Essential Public Health Service 2: Investigate, Diagnose, and Address

Service two seeks to “investigate, diagnose, and address health problems and hazards affecting the population.”3

This step moves from analysis to action, using the collected data to anticipate and mitigate emerging health threats.

Core Public Health Function 2: Policy Development

Essential Public Health Service 3: Communicate Effectively

Service goal three uses effective communication “to inform and educate people about health, factors that influence it, and how to improve it.”3

Making health information and resources accessible could involve working with key health partners and using appropriate communication channels to disseminate important information to community audiences. Facilitation two-way communication with your audiences also builds trust in public health services.

Essential Public Health Service 4: Strengthen, Support, and Mobilize

The goal for service four is to “mobilize communities and partnerships to improve health.”3

Partnerships and coalitions are essential to promoting public health, and this service involves strengthening those partnerships. Foster and build genuine relationships with a diverse group of partners. Learn from and support these public health partners and use their expertise to improve community health.

Essential Public Health Service 5: Create, Champion, and Implement

Service goal five covers “policies, plans, and laws that impact health.”3

Policies, plans, and laws guide people’s decisions and determine the impact of your public health goals. Seeking diverse input for public health regulations improves relevance and compliance.

Essential Public Health Service 6: Utilize Legal and Regulatory Actions

The goal of service six is to ensure that “laws are equitably applied to protect the public’s health.”3

Tools for ensuring equity include enforcement activities such as sanitary codes, protection of drinking water supplies, and timely follow-up on hazards, preventable injuries, and exposure-related diseases. Licensing and monitoring the quality of health-related services is also part of this service.

Core Public Health Function 3: Assurance

Essential Public Health Service 7: Assure an Effective System

The goal of service seven is to enable “equitable access to the individual services and care needed to be healthy.”3

This goal requires ensuring the public has access to preventive services and cost-effective health care and social services through culturally or linguistically appropriate health delivery systems administered by a competent health care workforce.

Essential Public Health Service 8: Build and Support

Service goal eight aims to build “a diverse and skilled public health workforce.”3

Education and training for the public health workforce support a healthy community. This goal encompasses building a culturally competent workforce that reflects the community, is the appropriate size to meet the public’s needs and promotes a culture of lifelong learning.

Essential Public Health Service 9: Improve and Innovate

In service nine, the goal is to improve “public health functions through ongoing evaluation, research, and continuous quality improvement.”3

Public health needs will continually change, and this step involves teaching public health service providers to recognize and analyze these changes from an evidence-based perspective. This perspective builds and fosters a culture of quality. Using research, evidence, practice-based insights, and other forms of innovation to inform decision-making will promote quality and prevent undue harm.

Essential Public Health Service 10: Strengthen Organizational Infrastructure

This service goal seeks to ensure that appropriate, needed resources are allocated equitably for the public’s health. It encompasses strategic and effective leadership, governance, planning, and the management of human and financial resources. The standard is to be accountable, transparent, and inclusive with all partners and the community in all aspects of practice.

Your Essential Next Step

Take your next step toward a fulfilling career in public health. An online Bachelor of Science in Public Health, Master of Public Health, or Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology from Kent State will help you redefine your career in this dynamic field. Expert practitioner faculty in these accredited programs prepare healthcare professionals to lead public health services. In addition to the salary boost you can expect upon graduation, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to improve lives and excel in the public health field. Reach out to one of our Admissions Advisors today to learn more.


  1. Retrieved on March 2, 2022,
  2. Retrieved on March 2, 2022, from
  3. Retrieved on January 27, 2022, from
  4. Retrieved on March 2, 2022, from
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He is an Associate Professor in the Evaluation and Measurement program within the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University. He is also the program coordinator for the online Master of Education degree in Research, Measurement, and Statistics.
Dr. Astrid N. Sambolín Morales is an Assistant Professor in Kent State Online’s 100% Online Master of Education degree in Cultural Foundations. She received her PhD in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity from the University of Colorado Boulder and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research provides a more nuanced picture of the agency, resistance, and empowerment enacted by displaced Puerto Rican m(others) in the U.S., and her work was funded by several grants, including the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center, the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education, the URBAN Research Network, and the NAEd Spencer Foundation.
Felesia McDonald, ’14 is an adjunct instructor in the iSchool, teaching courses in the 100% Online Master of Science in User Experience. McDonald is also the Sr Manager UX Design at Optum, a branch of UnitedHealth Group.