Putting the joy back in public health!

As I have for all the years I have been dean, I attended the annual meeting of health directors from around the state. It’s a great opportunity to interact with the public health community and to say thank you. This year’s meeting began on a sad note as Jeff Engel, MD, gave his last address as State Health Director. Jeff and I have met regularly and developed a great sense of camaraderie that encouraged collaboration across our organizations. I have great respect for him.

Fortunately for all of us who might have dwelt only on loss, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, spoke at the meeting. She exhorted us to put the joy back in public health. She said we should stop telling people what they can’t do and start telling them what they can do. That’s great advice. We’re better off being the can-do people than being can’t-do people. After all, what’s not to like about healthy communities, fresh fruits and vegetables, and good, wholesome exercise?!

Several speakers talked about the integration of public health with smart urban design and transportation planning. Where roads are located and whether neighborhoods are walkable and safe make a difference in the health of people who live in these neighborhoods. I’m excited that silos between public health and other areas are coming down.

I’m proud that Nutrition Professor Beth Mayer-Davis, PhD, and alumna Sharon Van Horn, MD, MPH, are members of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health and accompanied the Surgeon General on her visit. Jeff Levi, PhD, head of Trust for America’s Health, gave a fabulous pitch for prevention. He said we must stop trying to create health one person at a time. We should work instead to create community health.

At the end of the session, we all joined in a move break. The Surgeon General had us all dancing in the aisles as she repeated, “Joy, joy!”  Thanks to Ramona DuBose, our director of communications, who caught some of this with her digital camera.

Happy Monday. Wishing you some joy in your lives! Barbara




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