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Cambridge Public Health

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The public health challenges currently facing the UK and the world are many, and have increased substantially in recent years.

Whilst we have made significant achievements — for example, in extending life expectancy and controlling infectious diseases through vaccine development, these have not been experienced by everyone. Today, the world faces growing threats to public health through persistent inequalities, climate change and antimicrobial resistance.

At Cambridge Public Health, we focus on five critical public health challenges:

  • Ageing populations: With longer life comes both benefits and challenges including more health conditions, such as dementia and heart disease, and people living with multiple conditions. We face challenges in adapting to changing health and social needs and in ensuring that people can live healthy lives as they age. How people age is critically dependent on their lifecourse experiences – reaching older ages in good health is the greatest predictor of healthy ageing.
  • Health Inequalities: Persistent and widening disparities in life expectancy, quality of life and access to health care, often result from inequalities in the building blocks of health — such as education, working, and living conditions. To reduce health inequalities, action is needed to address the interaction of social, historical, political, geographical and biological factors that create and sustain health inequalities.
  • Sustainability: The climate crisis is having an increasingly negative effect on people’s health worldwide, and not just because of dangerous and more frequent heatwaves: a greater burden of infectious disease and chronic issues from lack of clean air are becoming real and serious problems.
  • Global health: Low and middle-income countries often face additional public health challenges including a high burden of infectious diseases and insufficient resources to provide essential health care and medicines. Achieving equity in health for all people worldwide requires particular focus on the issues facing the poorest countries.
  • Mental health: Affecting approximately 1 in 4 people at some point in their lifetime, mental ill-health and behavioural problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide — something that many countries do not recognise as a serious problem.

Overlapping challenges

These challenges do not exist in isolation, and all are interconnected. For example, inequalities, which accrue over a person’s life, can lead to a greater risk of physical and mental health problems in older age.

Similarly, people in low-income countries are more like to be exposed to pollution and are hardest hit by the effects of climate change, creating a link between sustainability and global health.

Addressing these challenges requires looking at the big picture and using strategic and systems-based approaches that focus on improving health and wellbeing of the whole society. It also requires paying particular attention to improving health equity and addressing the wider determinants of health.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals underpin our approach, and are reflected in the colours of our logo, aligning closely with the Cambridge Public Health mission. And together, we hope to make those goals a reality.

About us

Cambridge Public Health is an Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. We aim to build connections between researchers, foster collaborations with health professionals working outside of academia and conduct research that improves the health and wellbeing of populations. Find out more about us here.