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From Wellies to Wellbeing: A Public Health Story

Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, PhD FFPH FRCP

Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown

Tuesday February 20 2007

Sarah Stewart-Brown joined the Division of Health in the Community (now the Health Sciences Research Institute) in April 2003 as Professor of Public Health.

Sarah studied medicine at the University of Oxford and the Westminster Hospital in London. She worked in the National Health Service from 1974 onwards first as a paediatrician and subsequently as a public health doctor in London, Bristol and Worcester.

She also held academic appointments at the Departments of Child Health, and of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Bristol. Before joining the Division she was a Reader in the Department of Public Health at the University of Oxford where she directed the Health Services Research Unit.

Public health research and practice are closely related and Sarah’s career has involved her in both. Informed by utilitarian principles (greatest good for greatest number) they focus on the most prevalent problems and these change over time. In the past public health specialists needed their wellies to sort out the sewers, but these are rarely necessary today. Today they focus more on optimising the use of scarce NHS resources and on helping the public live in ways that increase their chances of being healthy.

For reasons that Sarah will address in her lecture, the focus of her research and practice over the last 30 years has changed and now encompasses the well-being end of the health spectrum as well as the ill end. Its focus has also shifted from physical health to a more holistic approach in which the burden of disability due to mental illness and the interplay between mental and physical health is recognised