A Seventh-day Adventist Organization

Got Public Health?

Sam Soret, Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, LLUSPH - 

"Got milk?" is one of the most famous and influential ad campaigns in the United States. Typically, the ads feature people eating dry or sticky foods. The person in the ad ends in an uncomfortable situation due to a full mouth and no milk to wash it down. At the end of the commercial the character looks desolately to the camera while the "Got Milk?" words are boldly displayed.  If you are old enough, you probably remember the first “Got Milk” ad ran in 1993. The hilarious ad featured an ill-fated history buff (played by Sean Whalen) receiving a call to answer a radio station’s $10,000 trivia question: "Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?" Sean Whalen is shown in an apartment which feels more like a private museum to the duel, packed with artifacts. He answers the question correctly, but because his mouth is full of peanut butter and he had no milk to wash it down, his answer was unintelligible.  I believe the “Got Milk?” ad is a good metaphor of the state of our nation’s health system. We have the most technologically advanced and most expensive health system in the world, yet, we have distinctively high rates of lack of insurance and poor health outcomes relative to other high-income nations. Some of our communities have life expectancies well behind those of the best-performing nations. Particularly appalling is the fact that the US racial and geographic health disparities continue to be vast and, instead of decreasing, they are growing. Like Sean Whalen in that famous ad directed by Hollywood director Michael Bay, we seem to be having tremendous difficulty “swallowing” the critical health issues which continue to challenge our nation.  Despite legislative efforts, consensus on how to move ahead remains elusive.    I start this blog today, convinced that the answer can only come from public health.   Like the milk in the ad, public health science and practice constitute the proven, efficient, and inexpensive approach needed to pass down the “sticky” chunks which are choking our health system so that we can eventually articulate with a clear voice the correct solutions. I hope this blog can serve as a platform for constructive dialog and exchange of ideas.  Given that I currently serve as an associate dean for public health practice, the topics and discussions will often have a strong practice flavor.  Public health practice at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health (LLU SPH) is unambiguously prevention-based, translationally oriented, and community-focused. Compassion is what fuels our passion for public health practice.  We are inspired by the words that a Galilean carpenter and rabbi pronounced over two thousand years ago: “In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them: I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat” (Mark 8). We, the public health practitioners at LLU SPH, view integral health, in its multidimensionality, as also encompassing community conditions.  Improvement of community conditions, like personal health itself, must be addressed comprehensively.  Healthy people cannot exist in vulnerable communities.  Our goal is to strive to promote health through the “wholistic” transformation of communities: whole persons in resilient communities. Every four weeks or so, I will be bringing to the forefront of the discussion a current or relevant topic related to my main areas of interest, including prevention, community resilience, and public health translational research. I start this journey today by sharing a personal reflection on a poignant issue which, I believe, should be reason for those of us in the public health profession in particular to have many sleepless nights.  I have titled my reflection: “Health Disparities and Prevention through the Lens of Race.” I would like to invite you to follow this blog and join the dialogue! You just need to click on the blue button above with PLUS sign. Best. Sam  

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