Health promotion emerged in the 1980s and 1990s amidst considerable ferment and debate within the public health field. Debate was so intense that a new title ‘the new public health’ emerged to distinguish it from what went before. In one sense, it looked ‘back to the future’ by drawing upon the spirit of the birth of the modern public health movement in the 1840s. The last decade has seen health promotion come of age, not simply as a standardized term in academia and academic publishing but also as a practice and area of expertise within public and community health. Debate over the definition and scope of health promotion continues, but few today would challenge its centrality in public health practice or its contribution to the development of thought and theory in an evolving social model of health.