J Public Health (Oxf). 2014 Feb 12;
BACKGROUND: Public health leadership has been criticized as being ineffective. The public health profession is relatively small. Critics have argued that there is over-emphasis on technical aspects and insufficient use of the 'community as a source of public health actions'.
METHODS: The paper analyses the resources, motivations and skills utilized by high-profile individuals who have made contributions to the public health agenda. The phenomenon of celebrity diplomacy is critiqued. Two exemplars are discussed: Jamie Oliver and Michael Bloomberg. The risks of involving celebrities are also considered.
RESULTS: Leaders for public health demonstrate 'a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will' to make the 'right decisions happen'. While they may have ego or self-interest, in this context, at least, they channel their ambition for the public health cause, not themselves.
CONCLUSIONS: Leaders from outside public health may have no understanding of what public health is nor consider their work as part of a wider public health agenda. It is important to understand why they become leaders for public health. This will inform a strategy for how others may be encouraged to collaborate for public health causes. Some key points for working with high-profile leaders for public health are identified.