Category Archives: Public health schools

Jan 8 2013
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Impact of Hurricane Sandy: NewPublicHealth Q&A with Irwin Redlener

Irwin Redlener Irwin Redlener, New York State Ready Commission and Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness

Just several weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit the New York City area, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Irwin Redlener, MD, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, to co-chair the New York State Ready Commission. The role of the Commission is to determine ways to ensure that critical systems and services are in place to respond to future natural disasters and other emergencies.

The specific areas for which the commission was asked to make recommendations include:

  • Addressing vulnerabilities in the state’s health care, energy, transportation, communications and other systems
  • Ensuring that new, modified and existing construction is resilient
  • Ensuring the availability of adequate equipment, fuel, food, water and other emergency supplies
  • Ensuring that first responders and other critical personnel are able to communicate efficiently and have access to adequate resources
  • Ensuring the availability of reliable real-time information for decision-makers
  • Ensuring that lines of authority are clear and officials have the authority to react rapidly to emergency situations

Both the Ready Commission and the 2100 Commission, which was tasked with finding ways to improve the resilience and strength of the state’s infrastructure in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies, submitted their reports to the governor earlier this week. Recommendations of the Ready Commission included:

  • Create a statewide network of unified emergency training, coordination, protocols and communication
  • Update the New York State Building Code
  • Expand use of Vulnerable Populations Databases so first responders; outreach workers; and health care and human services personnel can find and serve those who may need assistance
  • Require that gas stations in strategic locations have access to onsite back-up power capacity

NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Redlener about the Commission and the storm’s impact on New York residents.

>>Read about the 2012 edition of its Ready or Not? report from Trust for America’s Health, which looks at strengths and vulnerabilities in each state’s emergency preparedness status.

NewPublicHealth: You were appointed to co-chair the Ready Commission by Governor Cuomo in November. What is the specific focus of the Commission?

Redlener: What we are going to do is assess the current resilience of the city in terms of its preparedness efforts. Are we ready? Are we prepared? What are the missing elements right now in trying to make us more prepared for the next events than we were for this one? Some of this is not all that complicated and unfortunately these are problems that we have seen in prior disasters. Some of the things that we are seeing here were basically exactly what we saw in the Gulf and in New Orleans after Katrina. It isn’t like we haven’t been thinking about these things. I think that is why we were able to provide some reasonable recommendations, because these are not altogether new problems or challenges.

NPH: How strong is disaster preparedness training at schools of public health and within governmental public health?

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Jan 2 2013
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New Year, New Plan for Health

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Yes, today is Wednesday. But as a new year dawns and New Year's resolutions kick in (learning Zumba and building yoga into our weekly schedule are high on the list for NewPublicHealth staffers) let's call today an honorary Monday—a day to embrace a new plan for health.  The Monday Campaigns are here to help.

With the slogan "The day all health breaks loose," Monday Campaigns are a public health initiative of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at Syracuse University. The goal is to help prevent chronic disease by offering a weekly prompt that can support people in starting and sustaining healthy behaviors.

Why Monday?

Research at Johns Hopkins found that a week is a critical unit of time in planning lives and Monday has special significance as the beginning of the week. People view Monday as a day for a fresh start and a chance to set healthy intentions for the next 6 days. They’re more likely to start diets, exercise regimes, quit smoking and schedule doctor’s appointments on Monday than any other day. And, according to the Hopkins researchers, they’re looking for help in setting and carrying out their healthy intentions for the week.

The campaigns have grown to include government and non-profit organizations, businesses, media outlets and communities. The three schools provide research, case studies, health-related content, marketing concepts and programs ready for individuals, communities and public health departments. Specific campaigns include:

The 2013 campaigns began last Monday, with a weekly series that offers tips for 2013. First up: set some long and short term goals:

A long-term goal can be something to work towards, like getting 2 ½ hours of activity each week or eating 5 servings of produce each day. Short-term goals are the smaller actions you take to build up to your objective.  

>>Weigh in: Which Monday campaigns will your community try this year?

Sep 27 2012
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Public Health in Pictures

NewPublicHealth recently made its first foray into infographics with "Better Education=Healthier Lives," a visual exploration of the relationship between education and health. We plan to continue this infographic series with visuals exploring how other aspects of where we live, learn, work and play can affect the health of our communities.

In the meantime, we've been seeing public health infographics everywhere! Take a look at the repost of an interesting graphic below titled, "The World of Public Health," created by an Online MPH Degree site (tip of the hat to GovLoop, where we discovered the graphic). The infographic explores the wide-ranging impact of public health, and showcases both incredible successes as well as formiddable barriers. It also paints a picture of job and education prospects in public health.

The Harvard School of Public Health also released a graphic on, "The Dollars and Sense of Chronic Disease," which shows the economic and health toll of chronic disease.

>>WEIGH IN: Share your favorite public health infographics in the comments below.

Infographic from MPHProgramsList.com Infographic from MPHProgramsList.com
Aug 20 2012
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Kevin Xu: Future of Public Health

Kevin Xu, Journal of Global Health Kevin Xu, Journal of Global Health

Former Young Epidemiology Scholar (YES) Kevin Xu, 20, a junior majoring in biology and sociology with Columbia College at Columbia University in New York City, recently became the editor in chief of the Journal of Global Health,a journal he helped found last yearXu says he sees the journal becoming “an indispensable medium that features the work of student researchers and activists from across the globe, each examining public health problems in his or her own community.” Adds Xu: “We hope to harness the untapped power of students, build upon each other’s contri­butions, and synergize solutions that are local in approach but redefine ‘global’ in their impact.”

YES was launched in 2003 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the College Board to encourage high school students nationwide to apply epidemiological methods to the investigation of public health issues and inspire the brightest young minds to enter the field of public health. Over the course of eight years, nearly 5,000 students from all 50 states participated in the competition, which awarded $3.7 million in college scholarships to 976 students before the final competition in 2011.

As part of a new series exploring the future of public health in conversations with public health students and emerging leadersNewPublicHealth spoke with Kevin Xu about the journal and about the potential impact of today’s undergraduate and graduate students in improving population health in the United States and around the globe.

NewPublicHealth: How was the Journal of Global Health started?

Journal of Global Health

Kevin Xu: The journal was started by me and another student, Ryan Gallagher, who recently graduated Columbia. But a lot of our recent growth and initiatives have been fueled by me and several other alumni of the Young Epidemiology Scholars Program.

NPH: Why is this journal needed?

Kevin Xu: There’s been a tremendous rise in the popularity of public health, global health and epidemiology as fields of study for undergraduates and high school students, and this has contributed to a huge amount of research and field work and activism that’s largely driven by undergraduates in colleges not only in the U.S. but also worldwide. The challenge for any student who is doing research or activist work or field work in public health, global health or epidemiology is translating their research or their work into social change and into policy change. We feel that it’s really important to provide a boom box of sorts for students who are doing work in public health to provide a medium to spur productive exchange among undergraduates and to amplify the voices of undergraduates who are interested in public health. We also want to show the very practical side of public health research and show how accessible it is. We think public health is something that students really can access and use as a tool to make a difference to their communities.

NPH: You started as a print journal but have expanded the project in just a short time.

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May 7 2012
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The Art of Public Health

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Students at the Yale School of Public Health teamed up with fellow classmates at the university’s School of Art to develop original public health posters. The goal was to provoke awareness, stimulate thought and change behavior on health issues such as obesity, breast cancer screening, and self-respect and child development.

The posters were the idea of School of Public Health Assistant Professor Catherine Yeckel, who challenged students to apply and translate theoretical scientific knowledge into a public health campaign to educate the public on a specific health topic.

“The progression from complex to simple communication, letting the image speak, was probably the most powerful insight for all the groups,” says Yeckel. “In my mind, gaining this insight becomes the launching point for tackling a public-health campaign and movement.”

Fourteen pairs of public health/art students worked together. The Connecticut State Office of Health Reform and Innovation will display the posters beginning in July, and a tour of other communities is expected after that.

View the online exhibit.

Bonus view: The World Health Organization has just released a video to raise awareness about malaria called T3 (Test. Treat. Track) that, like the Yale posters, uses few words but imparts a powerful message.

Weigh In: What messages have been effective in your community?

Apr 13 2012
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So, What Do You Do in Public Health?

Q: What can I do with a career in public health? Tell me what you do.

A: "As a Communications Watch Officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I research public health emergencies and the communications equipment used during… emergency responses." – Excerpt from “I Am Public Health

In recognition of National Public Health Week, which ended last week, the Association of Schools of Public Health has just launched an “I Am Public Health” web app to help students at schools of public learn about career opportunities. Responses from thousands of public health professionals in positions from NGOs to academia include job title, key focus of the job and salary range.

Want to add your anonymous information to the app? Take this survey.

>>Weigh In: Do you have a public health job you think students would be excited by? Tell us what you do and how you’ve made a difference in the comments below.

>>Check out more interesting public health jobs in our Faces of Public Health series.

Jan 3 2012
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Faces of Public Health: Harrison Spencer

HarrisonSpencer Harrison Spencer, Association of Schools of Public Health

With the new year and many Spring school semesters starting, NewPublicHealth spoke with Harrison C. Spencer, MD, PhD, president and CEO of the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) about what he sees ahead in 2012 for public health.

NewPublicHealth: Are you seeing increasing interest in the study of public health?

Dr. Harrison Spencer: Very much so. Both at campuses where there are schools of public health, as well as individual courses where there are not. The reasons for that include interest among students in academia, service and global health. The increasing interest is pushing us to rethink the continuum of public health education. As part of these efforts, in July, we released the final Undergraduate Public Health Learning Outcomes Model. ASPH gathered experts from public health and arts & sciences faculties to define what every undergraduate should know and be able to do to improve health and eliminate disparities in populations around the world.

We also convened the Summit on Undergraduate Education in Public Health in Washington, D.C. The summit brought together over 150 public health professionals and educators involved or interested in undergraduate education in public health to discuss emerging trends, curriculum models, education and career pathways, and more. We are already planning next year’s Summit on Undergraduate Education, which will be held October 27, 2012 in San Francisco.

>>Read more on workforce issues, and potential undergraduate training solutions, in our Q&A with Paul Jarris, Executive Director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

NPH: What other public health education changes have come about recently?

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May 23 2011
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Faces of Public Health: A Q&A with Linda Rae Murray, President of the American Public Health Association

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Faces of Public Health is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth featuring individuals working on the front lines of public health and helping keep people healthy and safe. Today's profile is Linda Rae Murray, president of the American Public Health Association.

Graduations are taking place this month at schools of public health across the country. Last week, Linda Rae Murray, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer of the Cook County Health Department in Illinois, and current president of the American Public Health Association, gave the commencement speech at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University. NewPublicHealth spoke to Dr. Murray about the students she met and what many are likely to find when they begin working in the field.

NPH: What were some of the key things you said in your commencement speech?

Dr. Murray: Well, I really focused on two issues. One is that public health is intimately, inextricably melded with social justice. And social justice is really the frame around which public health needs to function in our country. I think that reflects the feeling of the Mailman School of Public Health. They have developed an oath for public health workers and social justice is right there in that oath. The second thing I said is that we've had a tradition in public health of saying that if we do our job then we're invisible. I really reject that approach. We have to insist that we're not invisible. We have to be visible--we have to speak out on issues that concern the health of the public. For example--school budgets. When local government cuts of school budgets raises the class size, we need to be saying, "this is going to produce X number more cases of diabetes and X number more obese kids.” So it really means that we have to step forward in issues of labor management, school budgets, transportation--the whole range of things that really address the social determinants.

NPH: How specifically does cutting the school budget impact the health of students?

Murray: Well, we know a few things are likely to happen if we cut the school budgets. First, we know the earliest and quickest things for the cuts are recess, gym, extra-curricular activities and sports. So right away, we're decreasing exercise, for example. Secondly, we know that there's a clear relationship between people who are poorly educated in terms of lifestyle decisions that they're able to make. So, we know there's a relationship between education and health behaviors and opportunities that people with less education don’t have.

NPH: How is entering public health as a profession different now than when you entered the field?

Dr. Murray: Well, I think that right now we're in a position where governmental public health has really been cut to the bone. It's almost as though we're destroying the seed stock of our field. So, in 2010, 18,000 public health workers in local health departments experienced furloughing and 40 percent of the local health departments have had lay-offs or hiring freezes where they can't rehire people that retire. So governmental public health particularly is under attack and it is the core of public health. And when the governmental programs are cut back and governmental departments are cut back we really limit our ability to have good public health infrastructure and emergency preparedness response, and it also prevents us from speaking out. Another example I used in the speech to the Columbia students was from the H1N1 pandemic. We told people to cover their coughs, wash their hands, and stay home from work if they were sick, and most workers in this country don't have paid sick days. And what we should have been saying as public health people is, "If we want to have a modern country and we want to be able to respond to flu pandemics, we have to have legislated paid sick days"--which would help with a whole range of things--not just flu pandemics. So, it's that kind of ability to link what we do to people's lives that is so critical.

NPH: What do you think confronts a newly graduated student when they enter the professional field of public health that they need to learn from scratch?

Murray: Well, the first thing they have to learn is what we taught them in school isn't really true. That is to say, policy is not determined by evidence. So they have to learn the "hard knocks" politics of public health. I think the second thing is--and it varies from school to school as some schools are doing a much better job at this--they have to learn how to work with the community groups. You know, not the professionals who are in the community groups, the real people in the real streets. It doesn't matter if you have all the fliers that you want. I'm going to tell you--60 year old black people--it's really hard to convince them to get the flu shot. So understanding that and learning about what that means and how to talk to people--how to relate to people. And the third thing unfortunately, I think is a problem of our public health schools. They have to really learn how to work with other professionals--social services, urban planning, rural health--a wider variety of professionals than they usually get exposed to--not just public health. Many of our schools are pretty good about public health officials but you gotta learn how to work with the local surgeon; you have to learn how to work with the local park district, education, transportation and labor departments.

NPH: What were some of the questions the students asked you?

Dr. Murray: I was fortunate to be able to have a lunch time with faculty and students and we really talked about what things in public health make us most passionate and how do you stay active in other issues that matter to you when you start working? How do they stay active in issues and things that concern them, even while they have a job to go to? So we talked a lot about involving themselves in activities at their church or in their neighborhood that may be disconnected from their actual 9-5.

NPH: What was their reasoning behind that question?

Murray: First of all, they want to stay active. They felt that public health people needed to be more active because we have a lot of information--and they spend a lot of time asking questions about how things were connected. So we talked together about how public health was really the glue between all of these different sectors, that one thing that public health brought was a multi-faceted view. So we could see a connection between what the transportation department did and what the sanitation department did. So they really wanted to know how to do that, and they felt that many jobs that they would get--not just in government but outside of government--if you're working on an HIV grant for example, that grant may not allow you to do some work in other public health areas you’re interested in. But we talked about how it was possible to bring your knowledge about public health even outside the job. That there might be time periods where your job requires you to do something very specific but that doesn't mean you have to give up your passion.

NPH: What are some innovations that you've brought to APHA in the time since you became President?

Dr. Murray: The thing that I am most interested in is trying to find ways to increase our advocacy role--and especially our advocacy role at state and local levels. We're trying to experiment through some grants we've gotten and have more regional meetings and find ways to energize our membership at a state and local level.

NPH: What kinds of things would you like to see happen as a result of greater advocacy by APHA?

Dr. Murray: I think to the extent that we can actually mobilize people who are not public health professionals--the church community, school communities, etc.--to work on local projects, whether it's getting vending machines out of their schools or working on getting more farmers markets in poor communities. I know our state affiliates--we have an active group working on food access issues and it really leverages a whole range of community activists and community groups to address food nutrition and food security in an intelligent way.

NPH: So with so many students graduating into the field, what do you say to a student starting off today? What do you want them to keep first and foremost in their minds as they enter the field of Public Health in America?

Dr. Murray: The main thing I would ask them to keep in mind is, you're young in your career--don't think you're going to stay in your first job--whatever it may be. Don't be afraid to try new areas and new problems that you haven't maybe dealt with before. The second thing is, stay in touch with your colleagues. Whether it's through APHA or any of other public health organization, be active and involved in organizations that care about public health because that really keeps you fresh. It will help your career and it keeps you active.

>> Read more Faces of Public Health features here.

>> Read previous NewPublicHealth.org Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.