This commentary provides a glimpse into a conceptual history approach to the topic of public health. I focus primarily on the history of public health during the first half of the 20th century. I will also reflect on its entanglement with the social sciences in later times. The first two sections discuss three core elements of the concept of public health: the “public” or collective that the term refers to, “health”, and finally, “public health” as “health of a collective”. These elements are historical and political concepts, which means that they do not have a fixed definition, but need to be placed in their historical and political contexts. In the final section, I discuss some connections between social science and public health during the 20th century. © 2018, © The Author(s) 2018.
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