Understanding the mass media is a prerequisite to gaining the cooperation of those who control access to media time and space to improve the coverage of health issues about which the public needs, and often wants, to know. To address the complexities of the mass media and how they influence the public's health, a group of Public Health Service agencies, foundations, and research institutions collaborated to review recent changes in the mass media and public health sectors and to recommend steps for increased interaction. These included broadening strategies to include paid advertising, media advocacy, and other tactics beyond public service campaigns; increasing awareness within the public health sector of the media's perspective on health; working collaboratively with media professionals and organizations, including the minority media; and developing guidelines for public-private sector partnerships. These recommendations, and factors affecting the roles of the media and public health communities in informing the public about health, are described in this paper. A complete discussion of these recommendations and related issues can be found in "Mass Media and Health," edited by Caroline McNeil and Elaine Bratic Arkin, a forthcoming publication of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Public Health Service.