National Public Health Week 2017 Recap

Last week, the Milken Institute School of Public Health celebrated National Public Health Week (NPHW) with a full lineup of events organized and participated in by the Public Health Student Association, students, faculty, staff and industry experts. The week’s events included lectures, a symposium on the Affordable Care Act, panel discussions, a blood drive, film screenings and much more.  

Southby Lecture

The week kicked off with the annual Southby Lecture in Comparative Health Policy, this year on the topic of  “Health Care Challenges in a New Political Order.” Darrel G. Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, spoke about what changes need to occur in the healthcare field as well as possible threats to public health given recent political events.  

Kirch outlined six major healthcare challenges today: uncertainty in the Trump administration; unaffordable trajectory of healthcare spending; underinvestment in social services; an era of post-truth information, education loss, inequity and lack of diversity;  increase in burnout rate among health professionals, and leadership deficiency.

In facing these challenges, Kirch suggested adopting the “Stockdale Paradox”—a combination of realism and optimism. For example, we need to accept the current situation and the facts at hand, yet maintain a sense of faith that everything will be OK.

Campaign Against Racism

Camara Jones, immediate past president of the American Public Health Association, delivered the NPHW Opening Keynote Monday afternoon with a discussion on health equality and the national campaign against racism—a campaign she stared while at the APHA.

“My life’s work is challenging us to dismantle racism,” said Dr. Jones, who shared tools that everyone can use in the movement. By using allegories, frameworks and definitions, we can all help explain what racism has to do with public health and frame different levels of health and convention.

Dr. Jones also laid out three necessary tasks of the campaign: “The first is to name racism, to say the whole word,” Dr. Jones said. “The second is to ask how is racism operating here in this setting, and the third task is to organize, strategize and act.”

The Affordable Care Act: What Comes Next?

Tuesday’s symposium on the future of the Affordable Care Act featured Milken Institute SPH health policy experts and noted Washington insiders.

The ACA needs improvements, said Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy Sara Rosenbaum during the opening panel. “It needs to be more attractive for insurance companies to participate, and it has to be profitable.”

Rosenbaum and fellow panelists also discussed reasons why the ACA is not doing well in some states and what that means for possible reform. They also discussed the future of Medicaid expansion in states and the variation of care across the U.S. when it comes to evidence-based medicine. Additional panels focused on the economic and employment considerations of health care and population and public health issues.

“Looking ahead, there is a lot of uncertainty,” said panelist Beth Feldpush, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at America’s Essential Hospitals. “We know that there are going to be continued conversations around reforming health care.  We’re encouraging politicians not to unwind the progress that’s been made.”

The full symposium, which is part of the Department of Health Policy and Management’s Health Policy Expert Series, can be viewed here.

Research Days

When people hear the term public health, it’s not always nice, said LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of D.C.’s Department of Health, during the Research Days Keynote Address on Wednesday. "We want people to recognize that public health is a science, that there is a science to what we do."

She spoke about social, economic, political, geographic and environmental determinants of health as well as how to address disparities. Changing people’s view of public health is a significant part of Dr. Nesbitt's vision for transforming health and wellbeing in the District of Columbia, which she hopes will one day become the healthiest city in America.


Climate change is not blind. It affects us all, said Surili Patel, Senior Program Manager, Environmental Health at the American Public Health Association, who moderated the #ClimateChangesHealth panel discussion on Thursday.

Panelists spoke to the psychological, faith, social and environmental implications of climate change and encouraged those in the audience to take action. “Take the emotional energy and direct it toward an action you can take, said Lise Van Susteren, a D.C.-based psychiatrist with a special interest in the mental health effects of climate change. “That moves [the feeling] from a place of vulnerability to empowerment.”

For example, if you’re doing great programmatic work in the area of climate change, ask how you can connect it to advocacy, said Jayce Hafner, domestic policy analyst for the Episcopal Church. Meanwhile Milken Institute SPH Environmental and Occupational Health and Global Health Assistant Professor Amanda Northcross suggested that those in the audience consider their personal connections to climate change: the amount of clothing they buy, the foods they eat, the transportation they use.

Something else that we can all do to ensure the health of our environment? Talk with friends and family members who may be climate change skeptics. 

Brandt Lecture

The NPHW Closing Keynote and Edward N. Brandt Memorial Lecture in Women’s Health on Friday featured Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Richards spoke about the formation of Planned Parenthood--celebrating its 100th birthday this year--and how it’s facing challenges with the new administration. Planned Parenthood is in every state and supports programs in 12 countries worldwide. One in five women in the U.S. have been to Planned Parenthood. It serves women, men, the transgender community, immigrants, refugees and anyone else. “We don’t care where you come from, you deserve access to healthcare,” Richards said.

She reflected that Planned Parenthood is not a line item in the federal budget. Most of the money comes from Medicaid and Title IX. There are many other health services, besides abortions, that Planned Parenthood provides that people often forget about, she said. And, due to the Hyde Amendment, the government cannot provide funds for abortions, with few exceptions. It is for that reason that she wants to inform the public about the life-saving care Planned Parenthood provides.

Richards challenged the public health students in the audience to use their knowledge to impact politics. “We all have to do more than we ever imagined,” she said, especially as the Trump administration is underway rolling back the progress made over the last 100 years. “Thanks for committing your life to public health and here’s to the work ahead,” she told the audience.

For more on the week’s events, including photos and live video, check out @GWPublicHealth on Instagram and Facebook, and stay tuned for upcoming stories on the PHSA mini-grant events!