Why is public health important?
An Introduction to Public Health is about the discipline of public health, the nature and scope of public health activity, and the challenges that face public health in the twenty-first century. The book is designed as an introductory text to the principles and practice of public health. This is a complex and multifaceted area. What we have tried to do in this book is make public health easy to understand without making it simplistic. As many authors have stated, public health is essentially about the organised efforts of society to promote, protect and restore the public’s health (Brownson 2011, Last 2001, Schneider 2011, Turnock 2012, Winslow 1920). It is multidisciplinary in nature, and it is influenced by genetic, physical, social, cultural, economic and political determinants of health.
How do we define public health, and what are the disciplines that contribute to public health? How has the area changed over time? Are there health issues in the twenty-first century that change the focus and activity of public health? Yes, there are! There are many challenges facing public health now and in the future, just as there have been over the course of the history of organised public health efforts, dating from around 1850 in the Western world.
Of what relevance is public health to the many health disciplines that contribute to it? How might an understanding of public health contribute to a range of health professionals who use the principles and practices of public health in their professional activities? These are the questions that this book addresses. Introduction to Public Health leads the reader on a journey of discovery that concludes with an understanding of the nature and scope of public health and the challenges facing the field into the future. In this edition we have included one new chapter, ‘Public health and social policy’, in order to broaden our understanding of the policy influences on public health.
The book is designed for a range of students undertaking health courses where there is a focus on advancing the health of the population. While it is imperative that people wanting to be public health professionals understand the theory and practice of public health, many other health workers contribute to effective public health practice. The book would also be relevant to a range of undergraduate students who want an introductory understanding of public health and its practice.