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Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. 2007 September; 61(9): 753.
PMCID: PMC2659992


Monitoring Editor: Carlos Alvarez‐Dardet and John R Ashton, Joint Editors

A call to public health arms

In this issue one of our Board members, Gabriel Scally, offers a public health calling ballad, urging public health personnel to work together and take inspiration from some of the great figures of the past. Gabriel reminds us that public health is more than a technical activity. In a recent article in the BMJ, Iona Heath explores this issue at some length from the perspective of a general practitioner working in a stressed part of London.1 Some of us have felt increasing unease at the normalisation of a reductionist approach to health improvement, based on the performance management of the rather narrow range of medical interventions that can impact on health compared to the bigger impact of policies and programmes in other areas of everyday life – rather like those cowboy gamblers in the cinema, gambling on which thimble the pea was hidden under when all the time it was up the cowboy's sleeve. We are in danger of focussing on the technical and managerial, when political and cultural change is what is needed.

See page 754

A similar kind of warning comes from an Editorial linked to this month's Research Agenda on assessing the social meaning, value and implications of research in genomics. Lumberas and colleagues warn us of the danger of moving too rapidly to the clinics with immature technologies that could jeopardise the promising future of this research. In our Gallery, Professor Wong from the Chinese University of Hong Kong draws our attention to the growing issue posed by unprotected sex in young adults in this part of China. We can expect this to be an increasing issue with the globalisation of youth culture, coupled with rapid urbanisation.

See pages 755, 757 and 763

In Speakers' Corner, Bernard Choi and a group from Ottawa make a plea to bring chronic disease epidemiology and infectious disease epidemiology back together. In Public Health Past and Present, there is an examination of how alcohol policies have worked among indigenous Australians, with the identification of persisting historical themes in relation to “Aboriginal affairs” policies. In Continuing Professional Education, we offer the second part of the WHO‐inspired Glossary on violence and public health.

See pages 759, 764 and 832

And in Evidence Based Public Health Policy and Practice:

  • a study of the effect of improving housing conditions on the health of residents in England found only small effects in the short term;
  • a randomised controlled trial of home‐based walking programmes in Northern Ireland provides evidence of benefit from exercising at a level below that currently recommended in healthy, sedentary adults;
  • a report from Spain on safety representatives in the workplace finds that their work on informing and advising was necessary, but not sufficient, for the real participation of workers in decisions affecting their health and safety;
  • also from Spain, Garcia‐Altés and colleagues from the Montreal and Barcelona group on performance of healthcare services conclude that performance assessment fits perfectly in an urban context.

See pages 771, 778, 784 and 791

Research Report findings include:

  • an important association between ethnicity and uptake of mumps, measles and rubella (MMR1) vaccine, with implications for efforts to improve levels of MMR vaccination across the population as a whole;
  • a finding of double burden of under‐ and over‐nutrition in India, with the suggestion that this is more likely to occur in high inequality states;
  • a high consumption of dairy products, fish or cereal grains is found to be associated with a lower frequency of insulin resistance syndrome in France;
  • no strong evidence was found for a causal role of C‐reactive protein (CRP) in a systematic review;
  • consideration of psychosocial risk factors, including those that are strong, independent predictors of heart disease does not substantially influence the ability of risk prediction tools to discriminate between individuals at higher and lower risk of coronary heart disease.

See pages 797, 802, 810, 824 and 833


1. Heath I. Let's get tough on the causes of health inequality. BMJ 2007. 3341301 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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