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The shock of the new
In the early 1980s the BBC, in association with the US company Time-Life Films, produced and transmitted a series of eight television programmes about the history of art in the 20th century. Despite early uncertainty from the critics, the programme developed a significant body of viewers on both sides of the Atlantic and it remains one the most widely regarded art histories of the latter half of the last century. In part this must be because Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time Magazine who wrote and presented the programme, knew his subject intimately and had the rare capacity to communicate a complex, uncertain subject in an accessible way.1 As with so many TV shows over the years, the series came with its own book. The book, part art monograph, part picture book, was successful in its own right, becoming the subject of an updated and extended second edition in 1991 entitled: ‘The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change.’2 In it, Hughes crafted a simple manifesto for art. He wrote: “The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning. It's not something that committees can do. It's not a task achieved by groups or by movements. It's done by individuals, each person mediating in some way between a sense of history and an experience of the world.”2 Previously we have written e and indeed published papers e on the notion that public health is in a transitional stage, that we are in a Change of Age. Indeed, we expect that some of you reading the contents page of this December issue of Public Health may have a very personal, almost immediate connection with the notion that things are changing, if not necessarily experiencing a frank ‘shock’ at the newness of some of the papers' subject matter. Take e for example e our ‘Editors' Choice’ paper for this issue.3 Understanding the epidemiology of vectoreborne disease and its management has long been the preserve of our public health colleagues in working in tropical medicine. Yet, with global warming giving rise to a steady expansion of the range of many insect-borne diseases, these types of
changes are going to be part of the ‘everyday’ work of many public health specialists. As a consequence we should not be surprised to see that some colleagues are already considering how best to support current and future public health risk assessment for such ‘new’ situations. In a similar vein, perhaps we should also become more able to enter the continuing debate and to challenge the view of those who continue to deny climate change where necessary.4 And we should be under no illusions, these debates are likely to be carried forward within the virtual debating chambers created within cyber-space. These are not without their current problems,5,6 but we must embrace these new approaches and quickly learn to exploit them for public health purposes. In bringing these papers to your attention, we are not seeking to highlight a new set of public health themes: these are not issues which are to be added into our practice alongside all the other themes and issues in public health. They are factors which must become at the heart of how we think about public health and how we practice it. Consider all of the other papers in this issue of Public Health. How is global warming going to change public health interventions in these areas? Will change promote better health, or worse? Look at them again: how will the evereexpanding reliance on digital media as our major form of communication succeed in delivering and receiving key messages and in forming opinion and desirable actions? It is against the background of these considerations that we return to Hughes' manifesto for art and how to respond to ‘the shock of the new’. We practice the science and art of Public Health; as such, we too seek to ‘make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness’. In the early 20th century, the artists of the new century used the emerging forms of art to communicate those changes and help those around them feel their way into that change and make sense of it for their emotional wellbeing. In these early years of the 21st century, we too must be able to communicate change and be willing to use new forms of information transfer and influence, reaching out to the people who are not in the sorts of committees in which we all too often find ourselves.
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1. BBC/Time-Life Films; 1980. The Shock of the new 2. Hughes R. The shock of the new: art and the century of change. London: Thames and Hudson; 1991. 3. Sedda L, Morley D, Braks MAH, De Simone L, Benz D, Rogers DJ. Risk assessment of vector-borne diseases for Public Health governance. Public Health 2014;128(12). 4. Goodman B. The debate on climate change and health in the context of ecological public health: a necessary corrective to Costello et al.'s ‘biggest global health threat’, or co-opted apologists for the neoliberal hegemony? Public Health 2014;128(12). 5. Clar C, Dyakova M, Curtis K, Dawson C, Donnelly P, Knifton L, Clarke A. Just telling and selling: current limitations in the use of digital media in public health A scoping review. Public Health 2014;128(12).
6. McAuley A. Digital health interventions: widening access or widening inequalities? Public Health 2014;128(12).
P. Mackie F. Sim The Royal Society for Public Health, John Snow House, 59 Mansell Street E1 8AN, London, UK E-mail address: [email protected]
(P. Mackie) Available online 26 November 2014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2014.11.012 0033-3506/© 2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Royal Society for Public Health.
In this issue Some journals may offer something a little more light-hearted for what is called the ‘Festive Season’, but in this December issue of Public Health we have pulled together a wide range of papers to keep your brain ticking over through the season! We start this issue with three review papers, in the first e our Editor's Choice paper for December e we present a risk assessment of vector-borne diseases to aid public health governance. Linked to this, given the growing awareness of the impact of climate change on such disease, we are publishing a narrative review on how the discourse on the existence of climate change is being affected by sectional interests. The third review, a scoping review, explores the current limitations of digital media for public health interventions. Following these, we have a range of original research papers and short communications which complement these reviews. So we have an original paper on the links between obesity and global warming, a short communication on the potential for digital intervention to widen health inequalities, and another on an outbreak of H1N1 in a school in England. We also have original research on the social gradient in race and health status in US adults from the 2009 CHIS data set, on malnutrition in pre- and school-age Haitian children, and the knowledge of Greek schoolgirls regarding human papillomavirus. Two other original research papers may be of interest for those involved in public health within local government agencies: one explores the effect of Children's Home closures on immunisation coverage in the US; and the second looks at the reasons behind HIA use when considering housing interventions. There are also a number of short communications that are loosely linked to questions of access to health care. These focus on sub-regional variation in hospital admissions for osteoporosis, the influence of nurse counselling on eye donation, and the factors associated with dental care access among deprived communities. Whilst we wouldn't call this ‘light’ holiday reading, we do hope you will take the time to keep up to speed over whatever holiday you do get this December.