This article presents the results of a study of mission statements in 42 state health departments. The statements were examined in an effort to verify the components previously found in the mission statements of hospitals and business firms. It was determined that state public health departments often identify their target clients and include more extensive lists of services provided, than either business firms or hospitals. Business firms and hospitals, on the other hand, often state an organizational philosophy and make explicit their desired public image. All three groups of organizations-business firms, hospitals, and state departments of public health-fail to include things like core technologies and geographical domains. The article concludes with a discussion of the indirect association between formal mission statements and organizational performance. Attention is also given to the need for public health managers to more carefully develop and communicate the organizational mission to all stakeholders. © 1994, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.