Macroenvironmental analysis is the initial stage in comprehensive strategic planning. The authors examine the benefits of this type of analysis when applied to public health organizations and present a series of questions that should be answered prior to committing resources to scanning, monitoring, forecasting, and assessing components of the macroenvironment. Using illustrations from the public and private sectors, each question is examined with reference to specific challenges facing public health. Benefits are derived both from the process and the outcome of macroenvironmental analysis. Not only are data acquired that assist public health professionals to make decisions, but the analytical process required assures a better understanding of potential external threats and opportunities as well as an organisation's strengths and weaknesses. Although differences exist among private and public as well as profit and not-for-profit organizations, macroenvironmental analysis is seen as more essential to the public and not-for-profit sectors than the private and profit sectors. This conclusion results from the extreme dependency of those areas on external environmental forces that cannot be significantly influenced or controlled by public health decision makers.