To boldly go..

Am J Public Health. 2000 Jan;90(1):25-33. doi: 10.2105/ajph.90.1.25.


The threshold of the new millennium offers an opportunity to celebrate remarkable past achievements and to reflect on promising new directions for the field of public health. Despite historic achievements, much will always remain to be done (this is the intrinsic nature of public health). While every epoch has its own distinct health challenges, those confronting us today are unlike those plaguing public health a century ago. The perspectives and methods developed during the infectious and chronic disease eras have limited utility in the face of newly emerging challenges to public health. In this paper, we take stock of the state of public health in the United States by (1) describing limitations of conventional US public health, (2) identifying different social philosophies and conceptions of health that produce divergent approaches to public health, (3) discussing institutional resistance to change and the subordination of public health to the authority of medicine, (4) urging a move from risk factorology to multilevel explanations that offer different types of intervention, (5) noting the rise of the new "right state" with its laissez-faire attitude and antipathy toward public interventions, (6) arguing for a more ecumenical approach to research methods, and (7) challenging the myth of a value-free public health.

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation*
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Philosophy
  • Politics
  • Public Health Administration / trends*
  • Public Health Practice*
  • Research / organization & administration
  • Research Design
  • Social Change
  • United States