Hooray for public health workers and the culture of health!

National Public Health Week

It’s National Public Health Week, an initiative of the American Public Health Association. Thank you, public health workers everywhere, starting with our own Orange and Durham county health departments and including all the other county and regional departments in N.C. Thanks for what you do to keep us healthy, to intervene promptly to stop epidemics, investigate outbreaks, give care to underserved populations, vaccinate children and adults, and a lot more. In many places, you also inspect restaurants and protect the water supply. I’ve never heard of a place where public health workers are paid the salaries they deserve, yet they work with intelligence, resolve and dedication. We rarely take time to thank them for the diseases and conditions we don’t get because their efforts at prevention worked. So we say it now – Thank you, public health workers! Without you, our communities would be far less healthy and safe!

I was delighted to join students in 2014 for a N.C. Institute for Public Health-sponsored Public Health “PHield” Trip to the Orange County Health Department in Hillsborough, N.C. We’ll make another trip to learn about local public health this year on Friday, April 10. Register now to join us!
I was delighted to join students in 2014 for a N.C. Institute for Public Health-sponsored Public Health “PHield” Trip to the Orange County Health Department in Hillsborough, N.C. We’ll make another trip to learn about local public health this year on Friday, April 10. Register now to join us!

Promoting a culture of health

Kudos to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and its president and chief executive officer, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey for making a culture of health one of their highest priorities. (Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, our professor of the practice of health policy and management, is a member of the RWJF board.)

Penny Slade-Sawyer, senior consultant at our North Carolina Institute for Public Health, is also a great advocate for healthy work and study environments. Keying off the visionary work of the RWJF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she recently reminded us:

A culture of health at the Gillings School will create an environment where employee and student health and safety are valued, encouraged and promoted throughout the school. Building a culture of health involves all levels of the organization and establishes the pursuit of good health as a routine part of operations aligned with overall School goals.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I recently welcomed a group of CDC grantees whose research focuses on workplace settings. Our professor of health behavior, Laura Linnan, ScD, is a principal investigator for one of the grants and also directs the Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work and Health. I reminded myself that the School is also a workplace, and we have a responsibility to promote the health and well-being of our employees as well as our students. State rules can make that challenging, but within those constraints, I want us to consider what we can do to enable the School and our people to be as healthy as possible. After all, most of us spend a large proportion of our waking hours at work. If that environment is not conducive to healthy eating, exercise, positive mental health and social support, then it is a huge lost opportunity.

The Armfield Atrium, in the center of the Gillings School, features plenty of natural light, stairs and tables for meeting over a meal or snack from the cafe.
The Armfield Atrium, in the center of the Gillings School, features plenty of natural light, stairs and tables for meeting over a meal or snack from the café.

From Ms. Slade-Sawyer, again, relating CDC and RWJF “culture of health” work to our School:

Creating a culture of health, where good health practices are a valued part of the normal day environment, will address health concerns for students and employees and enhance the School’s reputation by engaging its population, and presenting the School as an attractive place to work and study. A culture of health is achieved when the School’s structures, policies, procedures or practices are aligned to support or maintain health.

Potential evaluation measures that relate to this type of organizational change include documenting the process and effects of changes (e.g., changes in morale) made to organizational structure, policies, procedures or practices.

This is the beginning of a conversation. Our students, staff and faculty must be part of the conversation, the plan and its implementation. I am excited about the possibility of making a great School even better for its students and employees.

Have a great week. Barbara

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