Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Putting 'The Public' Back into Public Health - Building the Experience of Citizens into Public Health Evidence

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Putting 'The Public' Back into Public Health - Building the Experience of Citizens into Public Health Evidence

Article excerpt

16th January 2014, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK

The importance of integrating the public's perspective into public health commissioning is a topic increasingly under debate, particularly in England, since the transition of public health teams to local authorities last year. This was the subject of the conference attended by the Royal Society for Public Health in January at Leeds Metropolitan University. The conference, entitled 'Putting "the public" back into public health', featured a selection of lectures and seminars delivered by worldrenowned public health experts, providing a valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities of public health research. It brought academics and researchers together with the people working at the forefront of health improvement, such as health champions and health trainers, thus ensuring a hugely interesting dialogue throughout the day.

The overall message from the conference, articulated by all of the speakers, was the vital importance of incorporating local community perspectives into public health evidence. The representatives from both the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Professor Mike Kelly, and from Public Health England (PHE), Dr Alison Hill, gave examples of how their organisations are already seeking to do this. NICE through their 'Citizens Council' and PHE through their 'People's Panel'. However, despite these efforts, Professor Jane South from Leeds Metropolitan University argued that overall, the public's perspectives are still too readily dismissed as 'anecdotal' by academics and researchers, a point reiterated by a significant proportion of the conference attendees. The afternoon seminar on the topic of voluntary and community groups led by Hanif Malik, Chief Executive of the Hamara Healthy Living Centre, highlighted many examples of where health improvement initiatives have failed due to a lack of consultation with local communities and a lack of consideration of their specific cultural needs.

To alleviate this problem, it was argued that there needs to be a movement away from the current focus on 'clean, clear knowledge'.1 Professor South voiced concern that some methods and practices currently utilised in social research fail to truly capture the lived experience of disadvantaged communities. …

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