'Doing' public health and 'making' public health practitioners: putting policy into practice in 'Starting Well'

Mackenzie, M. (2008) 'Doing' public health and 'making' public health practitioners: putting policy into practice in 'Starting Well'. Social Science and Medicine, 67(6), pp. 1028-1037. (doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.05.021)

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<p>Public health policy has arguably taken a new direction in the UK since 1997. This is typified by a review of the public health workforce. A key profession within this workforce is that of health visiting. Starting Well, a Scottish National Health Demonstration Project is one attempt to develop the public health role of health visitors. The project aimed to improve child health by providing intensive home visiting to families in Glasgow.</p> <p>This paper reports on a process study focused on whether Starting Well, an intervention exemplifying contemporary public health policy, could be operationalised through health visiting practice. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 44 staff responsible for developing and implementing the programme. Whilst greater contact with families allowed health visitors to develop their understanding of the life circumstances of their case-load families, the evaluation raised issues about the feasibility of systematically changing practice and demonstrated the difficulties of implementing an approach that relied as much on individual values and organisational context as formal guidelines and standardised tools. Furthermore, the ability of the systems and structures within which practitioners were operating to facilitate a broad public health approach was limited.</p> <p>The policy context for public health demands that increasing numbers of health workers are familiar with its principles and modus operandi. It remains, however, a contested area of work and its implementation requires change at a number of levels. This has implications for current policy assumptions about improving population health.</p>

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mackenzie, Professor Mhairi
Authors: Mackenzie, M.
Subjects:R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Social Science and Medicine
ISSN (Online):1873-5347
Published Online:21 June 2008

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