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When I’m 64 ... will you still need me? Epidemiology in country practice: W H Pickles, 1939
  1. J A Reid
  1. Correspondence to:
 J A Reid
 Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Agency, Suite E, Moorgate Point, Moorgate Road, Knowsley Industrial Park, Kirkby, Merseyside L33 7XW, UK;

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A seminal book that has been read and assessed during past decades by many public health students and practitioners is now 64 years old. Can it still offer insight, inspiration, and renewal for public health as it approaches 65, or should it be pensioned off?

This reader friendly narrative covers many interesting and educational themes, public health scientific (communicable diseases) issues of the day, and helps illustrate the work of a GP and also rural life in Wensleydale through the 1930s. However, it is important to dwell on the overall feel about Pickles that comes from this work.

Pickles demonstrates key elements of a public health leader; good (written and listening) communication skills, being ahead of his time, exploring challenging issues for science and society, systematic interest in health and disease and its determinants, a good humanitarian empathy for real people and their problems, and a seeming aptitude for partnership work to support the grand, more strategic project of his local epidemiological profiling.

Lessons from Pickles’ work still have resonance in contemporary and future scenarios for public health and primary care. Geographical well demarcated village communities facilitated the clear identification and sense of …

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