Public Health

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Public Health merit badge requires prior counselor and/or parent approval for requirement(s) #5 and 7.

Public Health merit badge
Status: Elective
Created: 1911
Discontinued: no
BSA Advancement ID: 089
Requirements revision: 2006
Latest pamphlet revision: 2008


The field of public health deals with maintaining and monitoring the health of communities, and with the detection, cure, and prevention of health risks and diseases. Although public health is generally seen as a community-oriented service, it actually starts with the individual. From a single individual to the family unit to the smallest isolated rural town to the worldwide global community, one person can influence the health of many.

Public Health is one of the elective merit badges for the William T. Hornaday awards for Scouts BSA. The Public Health merit badge was one of the original 57 merit badges issued by the Boy Scouts of America in 1911.

Public Health merit badge requirements

  1. Do the following:
    a. Explain what public health is. Explain how Escherichia coli (E. coli), tetanus, HIV/AIDS, malaria, salmonellosis, and Lyme disease are contracted
    b. Choose any FOUR of the following diseases or conditions, and explain how each one is contracted and possibly prevented: gonorrhea, West Nile virus, Zika, botulism, influenza, syphilis, hepatitis, emphysema, meningitis, herpes, lead poisoning.
    c. For each disease or condition in requirement 1b, explain:
    i. The type or form of the malady (viral, bacterial, environmental, toxin)
    ii. Any possible vectors for transmission
    iii. Ways to help prevent exposure or the spread of infection
    iv. Available treatments
  2. Do the following:
    a. Explain the meaning of immunization.
    b. Name eight diseases against which a young child should be immunized, two diseases against which everyone should be reimmunized periodically, and one immunization everyone should receive annually.
    c. Using the list of diseases and conditions in requirement 1b, discuss with your counselor those which currently have no immunization available.
  3. Discuss the importance of safe drinking water in terms of the spread of disease. Then, demonstrate two ways for making water safe to drink that can be used while at camp. In your demonstration, explain how dishes and utensils should be washed, dried, and kept sanitary at home and in camp.
  4. Explain what a vector is and how insects and rodents can be controlled in your home, in your community, and at camp. Tell why this is important. In your discussion, explain which vectors can be easily controlled by individuals and which ones require long-term, collective action.
  5. With your parent's and counselor's approval, do ONE of the following:
    a. Visit a municipal wastewater treatment facility OR a solid-waste management operation in your community.
    i. Describe how the facility safely treats and disposes of sewage or solid waste
    ii. Discuss your visit and what you learned with your counselor.
    iii. Describe how sewage and solid waste should be disposed of under wilderness camping conditions.
    b. Visit a food service facility, such as a restaurant or school cafeteria.
    i. Observe food preparation, handling, and storage. Learn how the facility keeps food from becoming contaminated.
    ii. Find out what conditions allow micro-organisms to multiply in food, what can be done to help prevent them from growing and spreading, and how to kill them.
    iii. Discuss the importance of using a thermometer to check food temperatures.
    iv. Discuss your visit and what you learned with your counselor.
  6. Do the following:
    a. Describe the health dangers from air, water, and noise pollution.
    b. Describe health dangers from tobacco use and alcohol and drug abuse.
    c. Describe the health dangers from abusing illegal and prescription drugs
  7. With your parent's and counselor's approval, Do ONE of the following:
    a. Visit your city, county, or state public health agency.
    b. Familiarize yourself with your city, county, or state health agency's website.
    After completing either 7a or 7b, do the following:
    i. Compare the four leading causes of mortality (death) in your community for any of the past five years with the four leading causes of disease in your community. Explain how the public health agency you visited is trying to reduce the mortality and morbidity rates of these leading causes of illness and death.
    ii. Explain the role of your health agency as it relates to the outbreak of diseases.
    iii. Discuss the kinds of public assistance the agency is able to provide in case of disasters such as floods, storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other acts of destruction. Your discussion can include the cleanup necessary after the disaster.
  8. Pick a profession in the public health sector that interests you. Find out the education, training, and experience required to work in this profession. Discuss what you learn with your counselor.

The official source for the information shown in this is:
Boy Scout Requirements, 2018 Edition (BSA Supply SKU #641568)

View the change list (history) of these requirements. The text of these requirements may be locked. In that case, they can only be edited
by an administrator.
Please note any errors found in the above requirements on this article's Talk Page.


Worksheet A FREE workbook for Public Health is available here! (PDF or Word) with the maps, charts, links, diagrams, and checklists you need! Or click here to print just the Public Health requirements. has PDF and Word versions of workbooks for Scouts BSA ranks and merit badges, Cub Scouting ranks and adventures, and STEM Nova awards.

  1. This badge is one of the merit badges required to earn one of the William T. Hornaday Awards for Boy Scouts.
  2. The BSA Health Care Troop Program Feature offers meeting and activity plans to include Public Health as one of your monthly themes.

Requirement resources

The Troop Health Care Monthly Theme includes meeting and activity materials.

Related awards

Emergency Preparedness-related awards

See also

Scouts BSA portal
Venturing portal
Sea Scout portal
General Merit Badge information

External links

Personal tools