“the science and art of promoting and protecting health and wellbeing, preventing ill-health and prolonging life through the organised efforts of society” – quote comes from the Acheson report, and is cited by WHO. (In fact, the form of words goes back to Charles Winslow in 1920!)
Public health is the belief that health – where ‘health’ reflects the breadth of our physical, mental, social and spiritual capacity to flourish – can be improved, promoted and protected through the collective efforts of people working together. This recognises the multi-agency, multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary nature of the public health endeavour. This reflects that public health is a collaborative endeavour, not the work of ‘public health’ people alone, but by everyone – governments, public, private, third sector, communities and people – working collectively with the potential to improve population health and well being’. Referring to the “three domains” model, namely health improvement, health protection (communicable disease, environmental health, emergency planning), and healthcare public health (healthcare needs assessments, clinical guidance – think SIGN or NICE, commissioning processes). These are all supported by health intelligence (surveillance systems and data analytics).
Before coming to any of the priorities or context ahead, it is relevant to say we still make reference to the Ottawa Charter from 1986, with its five key action areas (for public health), namely to enable, mediate, and advocate for:
1. Building healthy public policy (i.e. health in all policies)
2. Create supportive environments (e.g. upstream determinants)
3. Strengthen community action (e.g. community development and empowerment)
4. Develop people’s personal skills (e.g. health literacy, practical skills)
5. Reorient health services (in the context of 1986, develop primary care services and community based services, and invest in prevention and person-centred care –These all remain relevant to our efforts today.