Whereas medicine primarily focuses on treating disease in individuals, public health focuses on preventing disease and improving health in communities. Public health activities are far-reaching and varied. They include health promotion campaigns, infectious disease surveillance and control, ensuring access to clean air, water and safe food, screening for disease, community health interventions and policy and planning activities.
Results of the survey (published 2002) of the health status of people living in 175 countries revealed that Belgium is the healthiest country in the world. Eight of the nine remaining top ten countries went to Iceland, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Italy and Norway, while the only non-European country to achieve top-ten status was Australia who ranked joint tenth with Germany and Denmark. The USA only managed 17th place and the UK came 23rd. To calculate the rankings researchers assessed the health status of citizens by determining how much the country spent on health and examining health indicators such a life expectancy, maternal and infant death rates, and immunization rates. The findings suggest that spending large amounts of money on health does not always lead to a healthy population. The researchers behind the survey believe that this is because people in richer countries tend to opt for curative rather than preventative medicine.