Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: A New Public Health in an Age of Austerity

Oct 30, 2011, 6:27 PM, Posted by

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today joins the ranks of Nelson Mandela, the National Association of Community Health Centers, the National WIC Association and families of public health workers everywhere as recipients of the prestigious APHA Presidential Citation.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and CEO of RWJF, accepted the award today in a keynote speech in the Opening Session of the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting. This represents the first time that a philanthropy has received the citation.

To improve Americans’ health, we need to look at where people live, learn, work and play to get at the factors that shape health even more profoundly than the health care we get when we’re sick,” said Lavizzo-Mourey in a Q&A with the APHA blog, Public Health Newswire.Improving America’s health requires leadership and action from every sector, including public health, health care, education, transportation, community planning, private business and other areas.”

In her acceptance speech, Lavizzo-Mourey congratulated everyone in the hall and beyond for their hard work in advancing public health, even through a tough economic period.

After all the hard work, after all the progress – the most imminent threat to public health turns out to be something beyond our own control. It’s called the new age of austerity,” said Lavizzo-Mourey.The resources simply are not there. Basic public health services are in question.”

In her speech, speaking on behalf of the Foundation's grantees, partners and staff, and the public health community, Lavizzo-Mourey emphasized that now more than ever it’s important to make the case for public health. The future of public health ­– the “new” public health – will depend on collaboration and tearing down silos. The new public health, she said, will be accredited and accountable to communities, it will engage in political process, and it will rely on hard evidence to determine the course of action.

Your time is ripe. Your time is now. It only seems impossible – until it is done.”

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