This paper focuses on the implications of an inadequate public health/ preventive health care system for emergency medicine (EM), the role that EM providers can play in remedying critical health problems, and the benefits gained from a public health approach to EM. A broad definition of public health is adopted, suggesting shared goals of public health and EM. Critical problems posed for EM include alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse; injury; violence; sexually transmitted diseases and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; occupational and environmental exposures; and the unmet health needs of minorities and women. A blueprint for future merging of public health issues with EM is presented that includes the application of public health principles to 1) clinical practice; 2) public education, community involvement, and public policy advocacy; 3) development of medical school and residency public health/ prevention curricula and teaching methods; and 4) research opportunities and surveillance. Finally, recommendations are proposed that require restructuring the present health care system to provide resources, incentives, and organizational changes that promote an integration of public health and preventive services in the practice of EM.