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Concepts Series 12 - Resilience for public health

Date: February 2014
Category: Briefing Paper
Work programme: Resilience and public health
Author: GCPH

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Resilience is a term increasingly used in reference to an ability to withstand stress and serious challenge. It is commonly discussed in relation to how best to prepare for major upheavals and challenges such as extreme weather, terrorism or other disruptions to day-to-day life.

However, for resilience to have relevance to public health it must provide a framework which enables individuals and communities to withstand challenges such as poverty, inequality, worklessness and other factors that endanger health and wellbeing.  

This briefing paper explores the concept of resilience and its application within the field of public health.  A more detailed report with supplementary information is available here.

Our exploration took the form of a review of literature looking at existing research around what promotes resilient outcomes for individuals and communities.

The theme of transformation comes through strongly; of individuals and communities being able to adapt in the face of change. For people to flourish in the face of change, support is needed from their communities and those who make decisions about their communities.

The paper investigates ways in which the spheres of culture, the economy, governance and infrastructure can support the transformational capacity of individuals and communities.