“Really valuable ideas can only be had at the price of close attention,” C. S. Peirce.
Public health is extensive. It includes social, mental, physical, and environmental wellbeing. While paying close attention to our development and the traditions we combine, we believe it is judicious to help produce better public health education to nurture the skills required for 21st-century challenges. It is important to cultivate a resilient mindset and foster communities of trust by embracing our interdependence. By building a foundation where we attend to individual and population health needs, we better position ourselves to become responsible caretakers of the planet.
When Public Health Pathways was an idea in March 2020, the exponential coronavirus spread prompted the need. Learnings from Ancient Greeks provided our ‘eureka’ moment, indicating how it is important for citizens to receive a comprehensive education in preventative medicine.
The past year’s events demonstrate how complex we and our environments are. Yet, these multiple layers allow us to innovate. At Public Health Pathways, we adopt current and developing ideas and apply them to meet current needs – from design thinking to building communities of trust.
The Pathfinders programme, where we help young people use design-thinking tools to elicit problems, develop solutions, and embed new ways of seeing, is new to public health but not entirely new. Design-thinking methods have existed among engineers since at least the 1950s.
When we work alongside local NGOs to develop solutions, such as our maternal health project in Cameroon, the method is not untried. Area-based approaches, localisation, and even decolonising global health existed in the late 20th century and maybe before. As Thomas Sankara – an advocate of the need for technological transfer and ideas borne from local reality – said in 1983, “We must dare to invent the future.”
“It is a moral imperative to address imbalances of social systems in a globe with different available resources.”
With our community in 20 countries, a vital conversation emerged – equity in public health. Gradually, equity has established itself alongside diversity and inclusion. The WHO state equity is “The absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people.” It is a moral imperative to address imbalances of social systems in a globe with different available resources. Now, the onus has shifted, with corporations and governments advocating for equity. Let us hope we sustain empathy to deliver vaccine equity.
We demonstrated our ability to provide insights from unheard voices ahead of the curve. Like when we covered the situation indigenous communities face in the Central Amazon before the mainstream media. Or, when we engaged one of the biggest corporations to highlight through our trend report that their globally used translate function distorted “autism” in English to “selfish-p***k” in Hindi – they corrected the error.
As a grassroots organisation, we had to mediate how to gain trust at different levels. Meticulous in our approach internally and externally, we see ourselves from a meta-level to produce reliable outputs. To exist this way, we brought in a high calibre of dependable experts to guide us. We tapped into verified sources, including peer-reviewed scientific journals, and subjected our content to a rigorous internal review process. The aim: to cultivate discernment and make concepts accessible. A bridge between experts and the public – to rebuild trust within communities and help understand their questions.
Journals such as The Lancet and British Medical Journal – who removed their paywalls for COVID-19 related research – giving us insights into the best science known at the time. It freed previously closed doors as sharing became the status quo.
“The coming generations will require resilience in an increasingly volatile world.”
Resilience is becoming a popular term. You require durability to build a new charity. The Chair of our Board of Trustees tells me, “sometimes doing things the right way takes longer – but it is the correct path.” The coming generations will require resilience in an increasingly volatile world. That is, multiple career changes, upskilling, surviving rejection, developing a growth mindset, and navigating the enormous environmental tests – are ahead.
The so-called ‘generational gap’ has become the cause of concern across ages. We recall the advice from 86-year-old Albie Sachs, “Be better than us.” Tools and organisations like us are needed to curate a more harmonious and complementary ecosystem to live healthier futures.
It took until 1948 to have the first clinical trial when Austin Hill combined statistics and medicine for a randomised tuberculosis trial. Was this an idea behind its time? Perhaps, combining contrasting traditions are not at once apparent.
An availability cascade was revealed when pre-pandemic elements such as epidemiology, behavioural science, and RNA vaccines emerged into popular discourse. As expertise broadened, public health emerged in the mainstream.
Our vision is a world in which all generations can discover, create and shape a healthier future.
By Theo Richardson-Gool
Public Health Pathways, CEO