“Public health practice” consists of activities and Programs managed by public health agencies to promote health and prevent disease, injury, and disability. Some of these activities might be deemed to fit within the broad definition of “research” under federal regulations, known as the Common Rule, designed to protect human research subjects. The Common Rule defines research as “a systeniatic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.” Public health activities that might under some circumstances be considered research include disease reporting, review of medical records, surveys, interviews, focus groups, specimen collection (blood, urine, etc.), and laboratory testing (both identifiable and anonymous).
There are questions about the extent to which the Common Rule applies or was intended to apply to public health practice: and it has been suggested in any case that Common Rule regulation of public health practice may not be socially optimal for both practical and principled reasons.