Public Health Commencement: "It Is Vital That We Have People�Who See Opportunities Where Others See Barriers"

Jul 5, 2012, 2:22 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

Commencement speakers at schools of public health graduations brought cache as well as advice this year. The speakers included former FDA commissioner David Kessler, who spoke at Drexel; Michelle Obama who spoke at Oregon State University; and Alex Kotlowitz, producer of the documentary film The Interrupters about CeaseFire, a novel approach to preventing violence now employed in several cities, at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

>>The film The Interrupters will be screened for attendees at the National Association of County and City Health Officials Annual Meeting next week on July 11 at 7:00 p.m.

Harvard School of Public Health dean Julio Frenk, MD, underscored emerging roles and responsibilities of public health graduates at the school’s commencement ceremony: “No government—even that of the wealthiest nation—can afford to pay for all of the scientific research and public health programs that we require to keep people healthy,” Dean Frenk said. “As a result, it is vital that we have people educated in science and public health who see opportunities where others see barriers—who are comfortable moving easily between the worlds of government, business, civil society and academia, to improve people’s health.”


Angela Glover Blackwell Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink, speaking at commencement at the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley

And at the commencement ceremonies of the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley, Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and chief executive officer of PolicyLink, a national organization aimed at advancing social and economic equity, spoke about collateral benefits. Glover Blackwell pointed out the many things in our society that bring collateral benefits including food stamp programs, which have increased the number of grocery stores in middle income communities, and cuts at street corners, which came about through the hard work of advocates for the disabled but benefit parents pushing strollers, people dragging wheeled suitcases, and workmen dragging their wagons and carts with goods. Said Glover Blackwell: “When we work on the problems for the most vulnerable, we end up solving problems for everybody.”

>>Bonus Links: Listen to the commencement address by Angela Glover Blackwell at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, and watch a video where she discusses equity issues and childhood obesity.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.