President of the Association of Directors of Public Health Tim Crayford said the new minister should capitalise on the smoking ban to get rates of smoking down.
She should also put an infrastructure in place to deal with the obesity epidemic and use her leverage to push for an increase in the tax on alcohol and better restrictions on its sale.
Mr Crayford welcomed Ms Primarolo's appointment and said her experience in the Treasury would be useful as many public health policies will be linked to fiscal measures.
The association's priorities were echoed by newly appointed president of the Faculty of Public Health Professor Alan Maryon Davis, who added sustainable development to the list.
He said: 'With the smoking ban, the profile of public health has never been higher, but there is a real issue of supporting the demoralised workforce following the reconfiguration of primary care trusts.'