Healthy Publics: Enabling Cultures and Environments for Health
10 Pages Posted: 17 May 2018 Last revised: 2 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 2018
Despite extraordinary advances in biomedicine and associated gains in human health and well-being, a growing number of health and well-being related challenges have remained or emerged in recent years. These challenges are often ‘more than biomedical’ in complexion, being social, cultural and environmental in terms of their key drivers and determinants, and underline the necessity of a concerted policy focus on generating healthy societies. Despite the apparent agreement on this diagnosis, the means to produce change are seldom clear, even when the turn to health and well-being requires sizable shifts in our understandings of public health and research practices. This paper sets out a platform from which research approaches, methods and translational pathways for enabling health and well-being can be built. The term ‘healthy publics’ allows us to shift the focus of public health away from ‘the public’ or individuals as targets for intervention, and away from the view that culture acts as a barrier to efficient biomedical intervention, towards a greater recognition of the public struggles that are involved in raising health issues, questioning what counts as healthy and unhealthy and assembling the evidence and experience to change practices and outcomes. Creating the conditions for health and well-being, we argue, requires an engaged research process in which public experiments in building and repairing social and material relations are staged and sustained even if, and especially when, the fates of those publics remain fragile and buffeted by competing and often more powerful public formations.
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