4.1. Illustration of a disjuncture between public health and the public

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The notion of public health appears to be intrinsically connected to the public domain. Yet, it appears that with increasing scientification and professionalization of public health over the course of past decades a gap between public health and public has been widening, rather than the other way around. During the last module of this course we will explore the reasons for these developments. Over the course of these last decades, public health has, firstly, expanded considerably, now covering ‘everything from eating, drinking and exercise to sleep, sex and work and addressing lifestyle from before conception right into extreme old age’, in the words of Klasien Horstman. Secondly, public health is increasingly invested in scientifically-based prevention, assuming that evidence-based interventions will turn risk behavior into healthy behavior and framing public health problems, largely, as technical problems which have to be solved through scientific expertise. This module traces the evolution of public health approaches and the rise of contemporary disjunctures between these approaches and the public they target. We see that in daily life people have their own ideas of risk and safety, have to deal with multiple other issues (such as supporting their families and adhering to their notions of the leading a good life), and operate within their unique contexts at specific rhythms. Consequently, the public often does not respond to public health interventions as expected. This module explores ways to bring the public back into public health and bridge the disjunctures demonstrated.

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