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Public Health: A Very Short Introduction [#482]
Public Health: A Very Short Introduction [#482]
  • Places public health in its historical context, and analyses how the changing face of public health is essential to understanding its contemporary concerns
  • Discusses the demographic, institutional, scientific, political, and professional influences, which have shaped views about the health of the public
  • Considers the differences in approaches to public health across the globe, from biosecurity and the defence of the nation against terrorist attack in the US, to health promoting, and 'well-being' aspects of health in the UK

Public health is a term much used in the media, by health professionals, and by activists. At the national or the local level there are ministries or departments of public health, whilst international agencies such as the World Health Organisation promote public health policies, and regional organisations such as the European Union have public health funding and policies. But what do we mean when we speak about 'public health'? 

In this Very Short Introduction Virginia Berridge explores the areas which fall under the remit of public health, and explains how the individual histories of different countries have come to cause great differences in the perception of the role and responsibilities of public health organisations. Thus, in the United States litigation on public health issues is common, but state involvement is less, while some Scandinavian countries have a tradition of state involvement or even state ownership of industries such as alcohol in connection with public health. In its narrowest sense, public health can refer to the health of a population, the longevity of individual members, and their freedom from disease, but it can also be anticipatory, geared to the prevention of illness, rather than simply the provision of care and treatment. In the way public health deals with healthy as well as sick people it is therefore a separate concept from health services, which deal with the sick population. Drawing on a wide range of international examples, Berridge demonstrates the central role of history to understanding the amorphous nature of public health today.


1: What is public health?
2: Current challenges
3: The origins of public health into the 1700s
4: Sanitation to education 1800-1900s
5: The rise of lifestyle 1900-1980s
6: Tropical and international public health
7: Present and future in the light of history
Further Reading

About the author: 

Virginia Berridge, Director at the Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Virginia Berridge is Professor of History and Director of the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. She has edited or co-edited 12 books and is the sole author of 7 books including Marketing Health. Smoking and the Discourse of Public Health in Britain,1945-2000 (OUP, 2007) and Demons (OUP, 2013). She has written overviews of health and medicine for the Cambridge Social History of Britain and of contemporary history for the Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine. She has been Chair of the Society for the Social History of Medicine and President of the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health.

"This is an easy but thought-provoking read for anyone wishing to understand the scope and origins of public or global health policy. It is well referenced with suggestions for further reading." - Peter Noone, Occupational Medicine

Product details

ISBN : 9780199688463

Virginia Berridge
160 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Jul 2016
Very Short Introductions
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Public Health: A Very Short Introduction [#482]

Public Health: A Very Short Introduction [#482]

Public Health: A Very Short Introduction [#482]