UCL Health of the Public


Transcript: Public Health Disrupted Trailer


Xand Van Tulleken and Rochelle Burgess


Xand Van Tulleken   0:05  
Hello, i'm Xand Van Tulleken 

Rochelle Burgess  0:07  
And I'm Rochelle Burgess. And this is Public Health Disrupted a new podcast from UCL Health of the Public.

Xand Van Tulliken  0:16  
I'm a doctor, writer and television presenter. I'm interested in public health in a few ways. First of all, I make television for children and adults on Children's BBC and other terrestrial channels. And all those programmes are meant to help people improve their health in some way, as well as that I'm interested in humanitarian aid in refugee health, and how to deliver health care in emergencies. Those are my kind of biases and interests.

Rochelle Burgess  0:40  
That's really interesting. I've never heard anyone called their interest biases before

Xand Van Tulliken  0:44  
I feel like they are all biases aren't they? 

Rochelle Burgess  0:46  
Yeah, I mean, that's, that's an excellent way to look at it. I think it's bang on actually. So I'm gonna say the same thing, though I have different biases. I'm a community health psychologist, I'm also a doctor, but not that kind of doctor. I'm a Doctor of books as my dad likes to describe me. In addition to being a hippie, who is really interested in the importance of community and solidarity and social change as it relates to health. I am also a Fellow of the Royal Society for public health and lecturer in global health at UCL. And I work a lot around issues of women's health, mental health, largely in historically oppressed and underserved populations. And we're both here today to talk about things that are important to us and this brand new podcast that we're going to be bringing you from UCL Health of the Public, which will be launching very soon. But Xand - what exactly are we talking about when we say public health anyway?

Xand Van Tulliken  1:45  
I always feel like public health is a bit of a moving target, it emerged very organically out of a set of kind of huge global and social movements. So the forces that create public health, I guess, I think of as two things, one is sort of scientific development that you can't really do public health, until you invent statistics, you can't start to understand your population and start to measure them and know them without that particular tool. But then the other thing is that public health, as a collection of activities, emerges out of very particular historical moments like Empire would be one so empire in slavery together drives the explosion of desire to make, for instance, plantation workers more productive to make colonisers them healthier to protect them in some way, that the sort of the glorious history of public health is the introduction of of sewage and sanitation to the increasingly urbanised life of the of the 19th century. But a lot of the motive for developing better public health techniques comes from factory owners wanting workers for instance, to be more productive. So we kind of spill into the 20th century where we got some pretty, pretty appalling bits of public health in terms of real scientific attempts to understand disease by exploiting people in very horrible ways. But this sort of context of empire of industry of historical ideas emerging carrying us through the 20th century into sort of modern public health, which I I think of as being high tech, obsessed with numbers and with metrics, and obsessed with kind of productivity

Rochelle Burgess  3:23  
You sound like a draconian, which is probably the best thing to ever happen.

Xand Van Tulliken  3:30  
Oh, that's good. I was worried that you were gonna say, no Foucault.

Rochelle Burgess  3:36  
Anyone who knows me would know that those words never come out of my mouth.

Xand Van Tulliken  3:48  
So tell me about how we're going to approach this because I, I feel like we're at a moment where public health the weaknesses in public health, in a way the extreme failure of global public health systems have really been revealed by Coronavirus that the institutions that are meant to keep us safe have utterly failed, almost understand the problem, but certainly didn't measure it and and deal with it. And that feels to me that this is this podcast is situated at a very particular moment where we have had this massive crisis. And I feel fully let down by sort of the way that public health is meant to work. 

Rochelle Burgess  4:32  
I would 100% agree with that. If we're going to agree all the time, this podcast will get boring for people, but I mean, yes, like 100% agree. This is a moment of disruption globally. And I think what we're seeing around Coronavirus is that the things that we thought were about were public health are not public health, it's not just about surveillance. It's not just about measurement. It's about making I'm sure that environments are fair and equal and just it's about making sure that politics does not trump personhood, it really, really has felt like the tables have been sort of totally flipped over. And the emperor has no clothes and all of those things, and it's a stressful time. But it's also an amazing time, because that sort of creates a lot of hope for how we can reimagine things because that's what should come from disruption, some a new imagining of a future and a future direction that things can go in. And I think another thing that has made me really hopeful that's been disrupted are sort of the ideas of, of leadership around in global public health, you know, the countries that and our matrices have and indexes have sort of like, health stability, where we thought European and high income countries were great and low income countries, and specifically countries in the African continent, were not doing so well. And that those measures and metrics have been totally flipped, the countries that we thought would be really badly hit weren't, and the countries that we thought would sail through didn't, and we still aren't. And so I sort of think everything's up for grabs, and we need as many heads and positions and frameworks and disciplines, thinking through what's next. And that's another thing that's really exciting about this sort of series is that, you know, this is not just a space where we're going to be talking to doctors

Xand Van Tulliken  6:32  
what I'm excited about is that you and I don't know each other well. So I think I'm going to learn a huge amount from you and the guests we're having on our from disciplines that in some cases I know nothing about at all. So I think rather than it being a kind of chat between informed people to illustrate some points, I think we will be genuinely learning and discovering things along the way.

Rochelle Burgess  6:55  
Yeah, I'm really excited to you know, talk to comedians, and how they think joy makes us healthy. I think that'll be great. So please do join us on this journey to disrupt public health. And stay tuned because we'll be back every month with guests from inside UCL and out to talk about public health, and more importantly, how it intersects with themes such as the law, race and racism, the environment and even stand up comedy. Follow us on Twitter @UCLhealthpublic for more updates. This podcast was brought to you by UCL Health of the Public, a new virtual school bringing together multiple disciplines to achieve health for all. It was presented by myself, Rochelle Burgess, and Xand Van Tulliken, and it was edited by Cerys Bradley.

Xand Van Tulliken  7:43  
We've got to tell them to subscribe. Subscribe! Subscribe! Sorry, I kind of cut you off there. I'm sorry. Do you want to finish your sentence because that was, that was not helpful.

Rochelle Burgess  7:57  
No. no, you can totally cut me off. That's totally fine this time, this time.