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Health improvement, or health promotion, means what we can do to improve health at individual and population levels. This covers a wide range of activities including improving health behaviors over the life course as well as improving the social determinants of health and reducing inequalities, improving education, and addressing housing, employment, and social relationships as well as monitoring of specific diseases and risk factors.

All patterns of lifestyle and illness become targets of new prevention and harm reduction campaigns that are part of so many of our recent health promotion initiatives. The basic principle here is that health, after all, is our best protection against disease and illness. Nevertheless, the fundamental point that we continually overlook in our public health literature is that no public health initiative is designed to prevent death itself. All public health policy and practice is designed to maximize the social and health service conditions that prevent disease and premature death. Our public health concerns are ‘not,’ nor ever have been, a thinly veiled pursuit of immortality.