Introducing public health
Introducing public health

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Introducing public health

2 The shifting focus of public health

Public health is an ever-changing field with a rich history. In Activity 2 you will look more closely at the changing role and scope of public health.

Described image
Figure 2 A nineteenth-century soap advertisement promoting public health.

Activity 2: Public health - past and present

Timing: Allow 1 hour

Spend about 20 minutes browsing the Public Health interactive timeline [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] from The Health Foundation.

Identify the key public health developments that have impacted on health outcomes through the different periods of history and note them down in the word document provided.


As mentioned in the first activity, public health is all about improving health and wellbeing and preventing disease. The timeline in this activity has provided you with some landmark events in terms of public health in the UK that have contributed to improvements in the health and wellbeing of the UK population at local and national level. For example, the 1601 Poor Law resulted in implementation of local public health measures to improve the health and wellbeing of people who were sick, disabled or mentally ill. Since the 19th century, vaccinations have been used as one of the ways of preventing diseases. Then, following World War II, the National Health Service (NHS) was established to provide universal and free health at the point of delivery, something which could be noted as a turning point for UK public health. Towards the end of the 20th century, health inequalities and chronic health conditions were recognised as public health issues following the launch of the Black Report (a 1980 report on inequalities in health) and the Acheson report (fully titled the Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health Report).


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