As noted by Frank et al. (2022), three recent epidemics – COVID-19, obesity and the health-related consequences of climate change – illustrate how public health has fallen short in applying its core underlying principles. Building on this work, I ask two questions: Why is it that the principles that can productively move public health forward have not influenced practice sufficiently to lead to a different response to emerging pandemics? What might we do to turn a corner and make these principles a foundational element of all that public health does? I offer a few thoughts on both these questions.