From the dean (Spring, 2016)
May 5, 2016
To our readers —
Our world is characterized by great disparities in assets between and within countries, regions and communities.
Health is not only a function of genetics, individuals’ behaviors, good health care or good luck – although these factors all are relevant. It’s also influenced by context, history (e.g., racism), policies, programs, environment and opportunities. Other nonclinical factors, such as education and income, have a major impact on health.
Our students want us to talk about risk factors and health behaviors in the context of larger social determinants that cause conditions, such as obesity. Health doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and our faculty members are collaborating beyond public health and health care to address root causes of poor health in order to achieve greater health impact. If we focus only on risk factors and conditions, such as obesity, for example, we may miss the larger, underlying factors that must be changed to produce healthier populations.
Numerous faculty members, including several who are highlighted in this issue, have contributed through their research, teaching and practice to eliminating health and economic inequities. Drs. Alice Ammerman, Jo Anne Earp, Geni Eng, Beth Mayer-Davis, Barry Popkin, Vic Schoenbach, Dianne Ward and Steve Wing long have recognized that changing the health of populations requires involving a diverse range of people, sectors and strategies for success.
It also requires authentic partnerships, often with people in communities. They and others at the Gillings School have led in the development of health policy changes that affect health behaviors and health risks, knowledge about causes of diseases and conditions, and effective strategies and programs to improve health. Several have scaled up policies and programs so that hundreds, thousands, even millions of people benefit from their research. That’s the domain of implementation or delivery science, an area in which our faculty members excel.
It is this process of moving – from great ideas and innovations to focused evaluations and trials to scaling up and sustaining effective programs – that is one of the Gillings School’s hallmarks.
Our faculty and staff members, students and alumni inspire me; I hope that their stories, as told in this issue, will inspire you, as well.
With this issue, we launch a new feature, which we call “Public Health Hero.” We start with Steve Wing, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology, who epitomizes awesome qualities of public health — rigorous methods that helped to uncover harms associated with human exposures in areas around hog farms, combined with a passion for social justice and the people affected.
Also in this issue, we feature our collective commitment in the Gillings School to building a culture of health. See the photo essay for pictures of Gillings School people in action!
You are part of our legacy — helping to achieve significant, sustainable improvements in population health — and, in the process, training our students to achieve that as well. Students become the multiplier effect that magnifies and intensifies our impact. Our donors and friends also are important multipliers.
Thank you for reading – and for supporting the Gillings School!
Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit sph.unc.edu/cph.