What Does it Take to Change the World?
A legend in her adopted city, Flint, Michigan, Mrs. E. Hill De Loney has spent nearly 60 years working to change the lives of the city’s African Americans—especially its young people. “My parents told us that we always had to give back,” she says. “Regardless of what we accomplished, we had to give back to our community. It did become very ingrained in me.”
Point to almost any area of the globe, and someone from the U-M SPH community is working to improve health and expand access to care. Here’s a (very partial) glimpse.
When Kevin Kamis participated in a U-M SPH program in Texas, he was struck by how those who successfully settle along the U.S./Mexico border still have difficulty gaining access to healthy food. The field experience, where he surveyed individuals at food banks, reinforced his desire to pursue public health.
The growing availability of big and complex data sets means new opportunities for interdisciplinary research in public health.
Although critical to the health and well-being of billions, public health is not always a lucrative field--which makes the case for scholarship support all the more urgent.
Communication is a critical arm of public health, not an afterthought. Many times we do all we can to avoid talking about our work. We fear that we might say the wrong thing, or that it's a distraction to what our work really is. And that's a big mistake--for a couple of reasons.
Professor Linda Chatters has long under-stood that religion and spirituality affect both physical and mental health. Last winter she turned that understanding into a course, HBHE 710: Religion, Spirituality, and Health.
In working with diverse groups of people, public health practitioners should be aware that notions of health and disease differ across cultures, and that to do effective cross-cultural work they must understand those differences, says SPH Professor Gary Harper, who collaborates with communities in both downtown Chicago and rural Kenya.
Before he and his friend Jeff Sorensen launched optiMize--a U-M student organization that funds student-run nonprofits--Tim Pituch had little experience with social innovation or entrepreneurship. But he asked himself the question he thinks every potential entrepreneur should ask: "Why not me?"
When Regina Royan, MPH '12, first learned of Detroit's plans to tear down roughly 40,000 abandoned houses--part of the city's long-term redevelopment plans--she saw a "powerful opportunity" for public health to take on an advisory role. "In early conversations, there were experts in land use and environmental concerns weighing in, but no voice to bring those factors together in the context of health," she says.
Why does it matter? “Because writing is how you present yourself to other professionals in your field,” says Kirsten Herold, who works with students and others at U-M SPH to improve their writing skills. “Just as errors in your data don’t inspire confidence, errors in writing don’t inspire confidence.”
Over the past year, Carla Stokes, MPH ’99, PhD ’04, has flown to cities around the United States to spread her message of positive self-esteem to girls and women through educational workshops, keynote speeches, and life-coaching.
For Leana May, DO, MPH '08, creativity "is a big piece of public health." In fact, it's one of the things she loves best about her work in rural Rwanda, where she's spent the past two years helping to strengthen the country's health care delivery system as a global pediatric fellow in health service delivery, through a fellowship program run jointly by Harvard University, Boston Children's Hospital, and Partners in Health.
I was surprised, then, when I recently learned that the human brain has evolved for compassion, and that compassion affects individuals on a physiological level. Like warmth from a loved one's touch, compassion changes the heart rate and brain activity.
Ask people why they go into public health, and you're likely to get some version of the phrase "I want to make a difference." But how? What combination of traits, tools, access, and skills does it take to make a dent in the world's burden of preventable suffering?