‘The New Public Health’ – as ‘gripping as a novel’ and relevant as ever

Fran Baum, Jennie Popay and Colin MacDougall_FlindersWP
Flinders University’s Professor Fran Baum and Professor Colin MacDougall, with Lancaster University’s Professor Jennie Popay at the launch of their books today.

In spite of “challenging times for policy and practice that seeks to improve population health and reduce health inequalities”, Professor Fran Baum’s The New Public Health offers some optimism for the future, said Lancaster University’s Professor Jennie Popay during the book’s launch at Flinders today.

Professor Popay, who was also launching Professor Helen Keleher and Flinders’ Professor Colin MacDougall’s Understanding Health, said both books mapped the “complex, diverse knowledge and practice terrain of the New Public Health – locally, nationally and internationally”.

She said that while much had changed since the The New Public Health was first published 17 years ago in 1998, Professor Baum’s book was still as “gripping as a good novel” and Understanding Health brings the messy world of public health to life for new entrants to the field – covering topics such as victim blaming, ethics for social marketing, neoliberalism, globalisation and health wellbeing and equity.

“All of the material is informative and I was particularly drawn to the case studies of Theory to Practice and Research to Practice spread liberally through the pages of Understanding Health.

“Some material also prompted personal reflections on my own practice of public health – old and new – and on the current context for people earlier on in their careers in this field.”

Professor Popay, who is one of the UK’s leading authorities on Sociology and Public Health, said she had spent much of her career researching, writing about and advocating for epistemic equity – the equal treatment of different forms of knowledge to inform policy and practice to promote greater social justice and health equity.

She said both books highlighted the importance of that issue and the role of qualitative research in providing much needed evidence.

“This is a particularly important issue here where the wisdom of Indigenous Australian’s is routinely devalued and when the knowledge gained from the experience of inequality and disadvantage by ordinary people around the world  – a rich resource for action if we could but see it – continues to be discounted as pre-scientific belief or ignorance,” she said.

Speaking to neoliberalism in particular, Professor Popay said both books presented balanced and insightful discussions of its implications for population health and health inequities.

She said all three authors had never shied away from addressing the challenges facing public health and they hadn’t done so in the updated versions.

“But both these books do more than that,” she said. “They provide a diverse and accessible knowledge base and practice examples of action that those working in the New Public Health – as academics, policy makers, practitioners and activists can use to ‘re–imagine’ a positive more equitable future and act more effectively in its pursuit.”

Professor Fran Baum is Director of the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University.

About The New Public Health

The New Public Health is widely used in public health course in Australia and overseas. It is highly cited (over 900 times) and has been described as the “bible” of the new public health.

The “new” public health stresses not just medical and behavioural approaches to health but also the importance of the social and economic causes of ill health.

The book is full of practical examples of how to improve health. It challenges the idea that our health is just about health care and demonstrates that health is more about the things that happen in our everyday life like the quality of our jobs, whether we have good secure housing, the quality of our social relationships and the extent of our income and wealth.

About Understanding Health

Understanding Health introduces students to the social determinants of health and the importance of health equity.

It examines public health, primary health care health promotion and disease prevention, and explores measurement, models and action on social determinants to improve health and wellbeing.

The new structure of the book easily guides students through the concepts covered. It begins by discussing the over-arching principles of health and health promotion and continues on to explore how health status and the determinants of health are measured. The book then covers how health is shaped by the determinants of health, and finally, how to use that knowledge to improve health.

The book equips the students to explore the theories and helps them to understand how to put them into practice. The extensive pedagogy highlights important theory, research and practice into the concepts covered within the text.

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