Emergent Public Health

Intro photos

This is a blog for those interested in finding public health in unexpected places.


An American maize researcher in Mexico is working with New York chefs to get specialty strains of maize into restaurant use. Activists in Indianapolis are transforming a public square from car-dominated to people-friendly.  After-school music education programs in New York and Los Angeles give kids real opportunities to engage with the arts. These are the faces of an emerging new public health.


Two great strands have animated research and practice in public health for over a Century.


One is a social justice strand that reaches back to Rudolf Virchow’s observation of socioeconomic disparities in health outcomes and cries out at the injustice.  The other is a practical, nuts-and-bolts tradition that starts with the immediate causes of poor health and says that we should be safeguarding the water supply, conducting restaurant inspections and also urging individuals to eat healthy and quit smoking.


These two strands will be much stronger if they can be braided together with a third strand, a strand that recognizes both the importance of upstream factors—as the social justice strand has done—but also the need for concrete interventions that can actually make a difference—as the public health action has done.  This is work that needs to be done at the level of culture and policy–not at the individual level.  Because culture and policy emerge out of efforts at change in many disparate domains.  That’s what this blog is about.


Our belief is that the way to change behavior is by changing opportunity. And the way to change opportunity is to show how fun it is.


Because let’s face it. Whether we’re decrying disparities in access to primary healthcare or urging people to quit smoking already, public health can be a little scoldy. Maybe even a bit humorless.


It shouldn’t be this way. A field dedicated to ensuring the conditions in which everyone can pursue well-being should have room for some fun.  And if health is a resource for everyday living, surely an appreciation of life’s serendipity is a big part of that resource.


We’ll be putting up new posts every Monday and Thursday morning.


So enjoy the blog. And let us know if you find anything unexpected.


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