The aim of the book is to provide a comprehensive overview of major themes for policy and practice relating to lay engagement in public health activities. This chapter introduces the structure and scope of the book. It argues that active citizenship is a key issue for public health in the 21st century, both in the UK and internationally, and can been seen as part of a wider movement for greater patient and public involvement in health governance. Community participation is defined with reference to different interpretations and conceptual debates. The notion of lay health workers is introduced and examples of active roles in health improvement are given. The chapter describes the origins of the book and the evidence gathered through the ‘People in Public Health’ study.
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