Modernity has brought health and social benefits to many societies, not least through the insights of science and technology. Yet, modernity has also been associated with a number of cultural characteristics, such as materialism, individualism, consumerism and an addiction to continuing economic growth, that seem potentially harmful to health and well-being and inimical to social equity. There is an emerging body of evidence that suggests that, in the affluent world, some of our most intractable contemporary health problems are, in fact, the product of modernity. This suggests that the tools of modernity (its science and its technology) are ill suited to finding solutions. This poses a problem for public health, as this discipline is itself a product of modernity and thus appears ill equipped to deal with the conditions and challenges of a rapidly changing and unstable world, one where the very sustainability of human society is now in question. This paper argues that a new paradigm for the future public health is needed. It presents an integrative, ecological framework as a starting point from which public health might grasp the opportunities for change inherent in the 'modern' threats we face. It suggests a number of features that will need to underpin such a paradigm shift in thinking and practice. However, as this paper is written from the perspective of an affluent, developed society (albeit from a perspective that is explicitly critical of the goals, trends and values that seem to characterise such societies), other voices from other places need to be heard. We hope that others will want to engage with our arguments and suggestions, whether to challenge and refute these, or to further their development.
- decline of modernity
- the future public health
- modern public health challenges
- ecological aesthetics
- an integrative framework for health
- ecological science
- ecological ethics