A dangerous distortion of priorities seems to be currently apparent in the dominant approaches to major public health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and some infectious diseases. Relevant examples suggest an apparently inappropriate tendency to prioritise technocratic, partial solutions rather than confronting their true behavioural and structural determinants. Technically oriented preventive medicine often takes excessive precedence over simpler, more sensible approaches to modify lifestyles, the environment and the social structure. Structural factors (social, cultural, financial, familiar, educational, political or ideological factors) that act as determinants of individual behaviours should be effectively addressed to confront the essential causes of the most prevalent and important health problems. Some consumer-directed commercial forces seem to be increasingly driving many aspects of the current sociocultural environment, and may eventually compromise the main pursuits of public health. Population-wide strategies are needed to create a healthy sociocultural environment and to empower individuals and make themselves resistant to these adverse environmental and structural pressures. Otherwise most public health interventions will most likely end in failures.