North Carolina, Public Health

Students are the only antidote for bad news

August 8, 2011

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The news has been as enervating as day after day of 95+ degree weather. It saps and erodes energy.  Finally, last week, there was just-in-time resolution of the deficit brinksmanship game being played in Washington. But there was no celebration. The price of agreement means that, for years to come, the U.S. will be retrenching rather than boldly going to the places that have characterized this country for most of my adult life– the moon, awesome advances in cancer research, societal commitment to overcome the consequences of years of inequality in this country through effective programs like Head Start and so much more. (An ongoing Guide to Community Preventive Services review is finding that there is a strong positive relationship between providing early education services to disadvantaged children and positive educational and health outcomes.)

As a country, we’re running away quickly from principles and practices that have made us a usually respected world power. Even the rating agency, Standard and Poor’s, was unhappy with what was happening and sounded the alarm by downgrading the U.S. credit rating.

In N.C., it’s not just the University and our School that have received body budget blows; it is so much more—public health infrastructure, Medicaid for poor children, dental care for the poor and abortion funding, to provide a few examples. Of course, money is tight, but we’ve become a meaner state and society. We are making decisions about how to spend public money, and my perspective is that they won’t make us stronger.

It’d be easy to get depressed, as I sat in my office Sunday afternoon, working on a document to summarize the impact of budget cuts. But as I walked through our School’s atrium on the way to my office, I thought that two weeks from tomorrow, there will be another new class of students and another orientation. Our students’ optimism about the future will remind us all that life goes on. An old Beatles tune dances through my head and, in spite of it all, I cannot help but smile (albeit with guarded optimism!).

Happy Monday. Barbara

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.