About public health
Public health contributes to society and social change in a distinctive way. Public health focuses its efforts and analyses on populations rather than individuals: populations that are defined by factors such as age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, location, occupation, and/or socio-economic circumstances. Approaching health issues and problems from a public health perspective involves the philosophical understanding that there is a collective responsibility to enhance, care for and protect the health of all individuals and groups in society. In short, public health is primarily concerned with the promotion, improvement and maintenance of health and it starts with communities or populations as units of analysis.
At Flinders University, our approach to public health focuses on the social determinants of health. Throughout the world, vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people have less access to health resources, get sicker and die earlier than people in more privileged social positions. These unfair and preventable gaps in health are growing, despite the fact that we live in an era of unprecedented global wealth, communication and health awareness.
The greatest share of health problems is attributable to broad social conditions, poverty, unemployment or underemployment, education, inadequate housing, limited access to services, environmental degradation, racism and other forms of discrimination. They are the causes of ill health, inequities and suffering. Professor Sir Michael Marmot recently referred to health inequities as a "stain on our society" which require concerted political will and moral imperative to change. However, health policies are still dominated by disease-focused solutions that largely ignore this broader, socio-policital environment. As a result, health problems persist, inequalities have widened, and health interventions have obtained less than optimal results. At the same time, there is evidence that research, policy, community engagement, activism and leadership aimed at addressing the social dimensions of health can improve health and access to health care.
In the Discipline of Public Health at Flinders University, we are committed to local and global action that addresses the social factors that lead to ill health and health inequities - to be part of a collective action to 'wash the stain out of society' identified by Professor Sir Michael Marmot. We aim to play our part by drawing the attention of society to the social determinants of health that are known to be among the worst causes of poor health inequalities between and within countries.
If you would like to read more about Public Health, or the Social Determinants of Health, explore the links below: