- 21 August 2019
Perspectives in Public Health was launched in January 2009, merging the journals of The Royal Society of Health and the Royal Institute of Public Health as these two organisations joined to form RSPH in 2008. The journal’s first impact factor in 2010 was 0.406, and has since risen to 1.521 in 2017. The journal ranks 84th of 156 in its category of Public, Environmental & Occupational Health (Ssci). In this blog Dr Rosalind Stanwell Smith, Honorary Editor of Perspectives in Public Health, reflects on the first 10 years of the journal.
The arrival of Perspectives in Public Health in 2009, merging two previous journals, was a step in the right direction for those who regard the ever-expanding list of health-related journals with dismay. While surely a larger literature base reflects success and progress in this field, there are also concerns about quality in all this quantity.
Back in 1978, a weary researcher weighed the Index Medicus for 10-year periods from 1879 to 1977. These tomes of annual publications occupied several library shelves before the on-line era: for the first 60 years the weight was steady but it doubled from 1946 to 1955 and then increased seven-fold to 1977 – and has continued to rise. Today a medical library would need a spare warehouse or two to accommodate them, if they were still in printed form.
Considering the career and other pressures to publish, there is no sign of the load diminishing any time soon. Repetition of themes and results are necessary to support coherence in research findings and growing consensus about developments, but the challenge is to find new and interesting ways of presenting public health data and opinions.
With only a decade clocked up, the journal is still on a learning curve, but the range of topics and themes reflects the broadening field of public health, such as health literacy, innovation, mental health, behaviour, the built environment, the arts, climate change and ageing, as well as covering the traditional focus on food, water, hygiene, infection and physical activity.
Obesity has been a strong theme on its own and in relation to several others in the journal. Reviewing how terminology has expanded in the decade, I came across the term ‘oblivobesity’, coined in 2015 to describe complacency about being excessively overweight.
During this decade we have become more familiar with other new terms, such as the menacing ‘dark web’ of our digital age and the recognition of ‘big data’. Public health vocabulary is rising steeply with online access, for example the awkward word ‘disintermediation’, borrowed from economics, to describe direct interaction with a computer to seek health care or knowledge, rather than via professionals in conventional locations. The term ‘public health’ is also increasingly used synonymously with ‘population health’, reflecting the joint interest of both in demographic data.
We are living longer, with nearly three times more people aged over 85 than in 1971. This is in part attributable to advances in public health, but with healthy life expectancy slowing down, do we need a term for the lifespan dilemma facing our health services, for example ‘ill-span’?
Half way through this decade RSPH commissioned an updated image of Gin Lane, Hogarth’s famous print to promote awareness of social ills, particularly those due to alcohol abuse. These two prints illustrate the changing priorities of public health as well as the sadly still present problems of poverty, poor nutrition and addictions.
This journal will continue to highlight persistent and emerging themes for the next ten years. Meanwhile I should like to thank our excellent editorial team at RSPH, deputy editor Joanna Saunders, former editor Heather Hartwell, our supportive publishers at SAGE and the editorial board members, for helping to raise our impact factor and hopefully also our impact on public health.