Public Health: The Field of Unrelenting Optimism

To be a public health professional, one must be an unrelenting optimist. Public health interventions are subject to the political, physical and social environments in which they operate. Success is slow due to tenuous political climates, industry interference, anti-paternalistic views, and an overall lack of funding. Making lasting changes in systems is an uphill battle where we receive no praise for ‘reaching the top’ but we will receive derision if we fail. But after all, public health does not strive for praise and recognition. It strives for equity in all aspects of health.

Onwards and upwards. The motto of unrelenting optimism.
  1. Think that there is or is not the presence of a quasi-coercive environment (e.g., are your alternative choices essentially unjust or unfair and you’re in a catch-22 situation)(7), and
  2. Trust that we are not impinging on the rights of the individual and we are providing the most good for the largest amount of people (8).
  1. Leavitt, Judith Walzer. (1992). “Typhoid Mary” Strikes Back Bacteriological Theory And Practice In Early Twentieth-Century Public Health.” Isis. 608–29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1487413/
  2. de Savigny, D., Adam, T. (Eds). Systems thinking for health systems strengthening. Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, WHO, 2009. https://www.who.int/alliance-hpsr/resources/9789241563895/en/
  3. Meadows, D. (2014). Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. http://www.donellameadows.org/archives/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/
  4. UN General Assembly. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3712c.html
  5. Conly, S. (2013). Against autonomy: Justifying coercive paternalism. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
  6. Daniels, N. (1985). Doth OSHA protect too much? Just Health Care. (140–179). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511624971.008
  7. Mill, J. S. (2001). On Liberty. Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books Limited. (Original work published 1859).

Epidemiologist specialized in meta-research. American in Europe. Photographer and Embroiderer on the side.

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