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Public Health Explored

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Public Health Explored

50 Stories to Change the World

AUTHOR : By John Ashton

ISBN : 9781913453930

Edition No : 1

Publication : Apr 12, 2021

Extent : 132 pgs

ISBN : 9781913453954

Edition No : 1

Publication : Apr 12, 2021

Extent : 132 pgs

ISBN : 9781913453947

Edition No : 1

Publication : Apr 12, 2021

Extent : 132 pgs

ISBN : 9781913453961

Edition No : 1

Publication : Apr 12, 2021

Extent : 132 pgs


An understanding of public health has never been more important!

There has been a growing interest in public health, driven by concerns for social justice and sustainability, but it is currently in the headlines as never before. The failure of governments to get to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated widespread ignorance of the basics of a public health approach to threats to health and well-being.

Relevant to all interested individuals but particularly students and professionals within nursing, medicine, social work and public health, this book encourages critical debate and reflection to develop a deep understanding of the complexities of public health issues. It offers 50 powerful stories and sayings around public health that could just change the world! Accompanied by searching questions for discussion and case studies that provide context and link each aphorism to a key event or theme, important messages around public health are extracted and explored.



Section 1: Concepts

  1. Defining the problem
  2. On forgetting your principles
  3. The world is a fast flowing river
  4. Elephants on a train in Africa
  5. Elephants and the prevention of infant deaths
  6. Eating an elephant
  7. The age of Hygieia
  8. William Morris on health
  9. ‘Doing health’: reclaiming the ‘H’ word
  10. Foreseeing and forestalling

Section 2: Issues

  1. A fish is the last one to see the water
  2. Not invented here
  3. Listen to the community
  4. Beware of healthism
  5. Go to the people
  6. Conspiracies against the laity
  7. We’re doing it already
  8. Prophets are never recognised in their own country
  9. Professionals should be on tap not on top
  10. Primum non Nocere

Section 3: Getting to go

  1. Less is usually more
  2. Starting where they are
  3. Don’t follow the yellow brick road
  4. Caveat emptor
  5. Community organisers beware
  6. Self fulfilling prophecy kills
  7. Politics is medicine on a large scale
  8. Columbus on the need for strategy
  9. Starting a rumour
  10. Edwin Chadwick and The Times

Section 4: Making a difference

  1. The half-life of evidence
  2. Proof and evidence
  3. The art and science of public health
  4. On strategic underview
  5. The hidden health care system
  6. Be careful what you are selling
  7. The conspiracy of silence
  8. Achieving change
  9. Let the dough rise slowly
  10. A sense of place

Section 5: Reflections

  1. Public health is an investment
  2. William Henry Duncan’s establishment
  3. On growing potatoes
  4. Life and risk
  5. The importance of humour
  6. Killing with kindness
  7. Every silver lining has a cloud
  8. Making things happen
  9. Success and failure
  10. The dilemma of capital cities




John Ashton is one of Britain’s foremost public health consultants whose footprint is to be found on many of the most innovative public health initiatives of the last 40 years. Born in Liverpool, John was educated at the University of Newcastle Medical School and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, before returning to the north west where he was a pioneer of the New Public Health. In the 1980s he led work on health promotion, reducing teenage pregnancy, establishing the first large-scale syringe exchange programme in the face of epidemics of heroin injection and the arrival of the HIV virus, and was one of the originators of the World Health Organisation Healthy Cities Project, now a global programme. John has always bridged the worlds of academia and practice. He is acknowledged as a first-class communicator and inspirational teacher. He has been adviser to the Crown Prince of Bahrain’s Covid-19 Taskforce and wrote a book on the pandemic. John was awarded the CBE in 2000 for contributions to the NHS.

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Your Reviews on this book

“A fascinating and intriguing book, which has the potential to inspire and instigate debate and argument about the most pressing challenges we face as earthlings.  Written with humour, seriousness and experience, it is an essential addition to public health learning and practice.”

Richard Lee Senior Lecturer in Public Health, Northumbria University

“John Ashton has always been a captivating storyteller, both through the power of the spoken and the written word. In this beautifully easy-to-read book, he has brought together some of the many stories that he and his dear friend and late colleague Lowell Levin, Emeritus Professor at Yale have shared with students and health professionals over the years.

Both Lowell and John have been instrumental in broadening the public health agenda, promoting the importance of the role of social determinants on health and in particular, thinking creatively about the role of health promotion and the importance of community action in creating a healthy society...”

Dr Debbi Stanistreet Interim Head of Dept of Public Health and Epidemiology, RCSI

“In this book, John Ashton and Lowell Levin take us on an enjoyable journey through different continents, countries and eras to demonstrate (with illustrative examples) how public health measures can make a tremendous difference to people’s lives and for the societies in which they live. A highly recommended reading of universal interest for a broad audience.”

Dr Piroska Östlin Director of the Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being, WHO Regional Office for Europe

"John McKnight has often remarked that “Institutions learn from studies, but communities learn from stories”. So too can health professionals, as Lowell Levin and John Ashton demonstrated in their own careers and now in this book. Based on 50 favourite aphorisms published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the book illustrates each of them with case studies (stories) and points for discussion. As John says in the introduction, this book communicates abstract ideas in tangible ways, helping public health professionals to also learn from stories.“ 

Dr Trevor Hancock, Hon FFPH Retired Professor and Senior Scholar, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria
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