On its 150th anniversary, the Chief Medical Officer Sir Kenneth Calman writes about the Public Health Act of 1848 in a personal paper in this week's BMJ. He reflects on the original issues which the Act addressed and relates these to the current state of public health in the UK. He also highlights the challenges facing the public health sector now and makes recommendations as to how the nation should tackle them. In particular he discusses the role of the public in health and says that "we need to explore better ways of ensuring full public participation in the process of changing health. The public are allies of the professions and politicians, not enemies... [we] ...must communicate effectively with... [them] ...on a whole range of issues - in particular, on risk and uncertainty".
Contact: Sir Kenneth Calman, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, Richmond House, Whitehall, London