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Book review
  1. Christian T K-H Stadtländer
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christian T K-H Stadtländer, 3828 Fairway Terrace, St. Paul, MN 55125-5021, USA; ctkstadtlander{at}

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Public Health Practice – What Works by Jonathan E. Fielding and Steven M. Teutsch (Eds.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013. (400 pages), hardcover, $59.99, ISBN: 978-0-19-989276-1.

There are numerous excellent books in the market that deal with issues related to the broad field called ‘public health.’ However, most of these books focus primarily on definitions, concepts and research methods. These books are valuable in that they describe in detail the many different ways public health can be practiced, typically using examples from national and/or international research studies. The book by Fielding and Teutsch is unique in that it provides readers with important information about the development and successful implementation of public health programmes by demonstrating the on-the-ground public health practice of the US Los Angeles County Health Department.

Public Health Practice—What Works is multi-authored and organised into five main sections containing a total of 37 chapters. The foreword is written by Georges C Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. He points out that effective public health action requires a wide range of skills, such as assessment, analysis and re-evaluation, policy development, programme planning and implementation, as well as several effective assurance strategies including community organisation and mobilisation, risk communication and quality improvement. In order to be successful in combining these skills, good leadership and management are as important as scientific expertise and political competency. Benjamin emphasises that ‘the real work of improving the public's health occurs on the ground in our states and localities.’

The introduction (Chapter 1) provides an interesting description of the role of a public health department, in general, and of the history of public health in the Los Angeles County Health Department (LACHD). The authors mention that a health department has to deal with a wide range of threats such as communicable diseases, food-borne diseases, natural and man-made disasters, toxic exposures and preventable illnesses and injuries. Its focus is also on preventing the occurrence and progression of chronic …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.