Improving health in WA

Public health

Picture of Tarun Weeramanthri
Professor Tarun Weeramanthri, Chief Health Officer

Public health is concerned with the big picture of how society is organised to maximise health and well-being - about what people can do for themselves as well as the role of institutions and government to ensure good health in our communities.

Our primary focus is prevention and early detection, rather than on clinical services. We look at the whole population, rather than the individual, and seek to manage risks. In this way, public health complements and works with clinical services.

In Western Australia, we are fortunate to enjoy a standard of living and a standard of health amongst the highest in the world. We use a range of evidence-based, targeted programs to keep our communities healthy including:

  • immunisation
  • safe food and water
  • safer workplaces and communities
  • seatbelts and other road safety measures
  • water fluoridation
  • organised cancer screening
  • sun safety campaigns
  • control of tobacco.

Structure of public health

Office of the Chief Health Officer

Professor Tarun Weeramanthri is the Chief Health Officer for Western Australia. The functions of this office include:

  • fulfilling legislative responsibilities pursuant to the Health Act 2016 (external site) and related Acts 
  • advising the Director General and Minister for Health on public health matters and emerging issues
  • providing strategic and operational direction for public health services in WA Health
  • monitoring trends in population health status in WA
  • representing Western Australia on national committees, including Australian Health Protection Principal Committee
  • engaging with, and establishing strong relationships with major public health stakeholders external to the WA Health Department
  • managing the human and financial resources within the Public Health Division in order to gain maximum health benefits.
At WA Health, our public health divisions feature six key areas: 
Enabling legislation

In Western Australia there are over 100 pieces of legislation that relate to public health, including the Food Act 2008 (external site) and the Radiation Safety Act 1975 (external site), which are regulated by the Department of Health.

The Public Health Act 2016 (external site) addresses contemporary issues and provides a modern, flexible and proactive risk-based framework for the regulation of public health in Western Australia into the future.   

The Department has produced a video (external site) and presentation (external site) to help stakeholders learn about the impacts of the new legislation.  

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Public Health