Category Archives: Public Health Theory

Prescription for Chronic Disease: Rx Exercise!

I remember the very first day of a public health program design class I took. The professor asked the class to stand in different corners of the room to demonstrate whether we agreed or disagreed that exercise was beneficial to health. Everyone stood in the ‘agree’ corner. Then she asked us to stand in separate […]

Civic Engagement and Civic Representation in the Culture of Health

RWJF Culture of Health rubric

In 2005 Stephanie and Chris Chambers, an African-American couple in their 50s, finally achieved their long-cherished dream of buying a home. But because the home they could afford was miles from any job that would pay well, they found themselves commuting 4-6 hours a day—each. After three years of waking their 3 kids at O-Dark-Thirty for […]

A Very Danish Vibrancy

Many of Bernie Sanders’ policies would make America a lot more like Denmark, and David Brooks complains that the country would become “a lot less vibrant” as a result.  This tired canard came in for a lot of well-earned criticism on the NYT letters page:  it turns out that America’s current vibrancy doesn’t look so hot to […]

Cognitive Habits and Public Health

When people make decisions about health—their own or the public’s—they’re not thinking rationally, and that’s a very good thing. The standard model of decision-making in economics and elsewhere claims that people have stable preferences and perfect information about the world, and that they rationally choose actions that maximize the match between the world and their […]

Does the L.A. Food Environment Matter for Obesity?

Since the introduction of the term ‘food desert’ in the 1990s, public health efforts have increasingly focused on providing mostly low-income neighborhoods with access to fresh, healthy foods. The logic is that if people live or work in an area that lacks food outlets with healthy options, they are more likely to eat foods high […]

Fuzzy Logic

We can’t do good public health if we don’t recognize it when we see it. Without an adequate definition, the unique lens of public health is fuzzy.   In writing about the future of public health in 1988, an IOM committee pronounced public health to be “in disarray.” Part of the problem was a generally fuzzy […]

Upstream Health and Susan Linn

image from:

You hear a lot of talk about upstream factors in public health, and there is a strong shared belief in their importance. So what are these upstream factors that drive population health?   I recently read the original article by John McKinlay, which remains not only fresh, but radical. There is a lot to say […]