Most population-health initiatives focus on individual risk factors associated with physical health and under-estimate the importance of social and environmental determinants.
The dominant perspectives on population-health research and policy have significant gaps that are limiting public health’s role in public policy. Most public-health initiatives focus on individual risk factors associated with physical health. From a health perspective, this emphasis neglects the importance of mental health; from a prevention perspective, it under-estimates the importance of social and environmental determinants. Furthermore, social-determinants research focuses narrowly on socioeconomic factors, notably inequality, to the neglect of cultural factors.
Acknowledging the importance of culture and mental health highlights the social significance of health in two ways: by casting new light on human development and national progress, and by showing health is an important social dynamic, a cause not just a consequence of social change.
A broader view of the science and politics of population health would not only benefit health directly, it would allow public health to play a more influential role in public and political debate about national and global issues and priorities, including sustainable development, so having a more indirect, but ultimately powerful, effect on people’s health and wellbeing.
Eckersley R 2012, The science and politics of population health: Giving health a greater role in public policy, Australia21, Canberra. Download Health and Wellbeing Paper1
Eckersley R 2009, Population health: the forgotten dimension of social resilience. In S Cork (ed) Brighter prospects: enhancing the resilience of Australia, Australia21, Canberra