Public health may indeed benefit from a radical rethink, as suggested by Donald Coid and Desmond Ryan ('Historical novel', pages 28-29, 15 April), but it should also consider its relationship with health promotion.

The third key point mentioned in the article - 'attention should be given to promoting self-esteem as a way of encouraging healthy living' - relates more to health promotion than public health work and contrasts with the function of public health suggested earlier in the article.

There is scope for both disciplines to develop their theoretical foundations for their mutual benefit, as well as for the public at large. There is little to be gained in this rethink if we fail to review our respective strengths.

Medical students have to learn about public health and health promotion; they need to be able to differentiate and explore the potential that both fields have to impact on the health status of populations. This radical rethink is well overdue.

Ann Wylie

Development co-ordinator and health promotion specialist

Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine