The McKeown Thesis: A Historical Controversy and Its Enduring Influence
James Colgrove, MPH
Am J Public Health. 2002 May; 92(5): 725–729.
The historical analyses of Thomas McKeown attributed the modern rise in the world population from the 1700s to the present to broad economic and social changes rather than to targeted public health or medical interventions. His work generated considerable controversy in the 1970s and 1980s, and it continues to stimulate support, criticism, and commentary to the present day, in spite of his conclusions' having been largely discredited by subsequent research. The ongoing resonance of his work is due primarily to the importance of the question that underlay it: Are public health ends better served by targeted interventions or by broad-based efforts to redistribute the social, political, and economic resources that determine the health of populations?