Public health activities to prevent and control disease have produced an extraordinary decline in mortality rates during the last century. This phenomenon has widespread implications, not the least of which is that death often occurs at a later age and frequently after a protracted illness. With a prolonged death due to technological advances now common in developed countries, quality of life at the end of life has become a societal concern. It is logical that public health should embrace the end of life as an area worthy of study and intervention. After all, the end of life has three characteristics of other public health priorities: high burden, major impact, and a potential for preventing the suffering associated with illness. In this paper, we propose three initial roles for the public health profession and a process for developing a public health agenda for the end of life.