Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Public Health Passion: Round 2

Day by day I am getting closer to identifying what makes me spring out of my chair, telling each and every person I meet the latest offense against our nation's health. Some days it is fast food commercials. I get so angry over them because I know they work! For example, I craved Dunkin Donuts for about two weeks before finally giving in and getting a Boston kreme donut (240 calories, 9 g fat, 13 g sugar - and no nutritional value). It wasn't that good. And one day I will surely give in to my McMocha temptation because of those darn commercials and advertising everywhere -- not to mention all the coupons!

Someone please tell me WHY is it so difficult to put our heads together and come up with the best freakin' spinach and beets commercial that would knock even KFC's socks off? How can we get our kids, teens, and adults craving colorful kale and blueberries, rather than Coco Puffs and Poptarts? Does Popeye need to make a comeback?

Also, while I don't like to characterize myself as particularly "political," I was taught early on in my public health studies that there is no public health without politics. Given this reality, I have often been extremely fired up by the lies and deception of headline-headed politicos who would rather communicate falsehoods and create fear-mongering than present the facts to their constituents in a thoughtful way (think: health reform). I think politics often produces fear. Fear paralyzes progress. This is why it takes so much time to achieve so little systemic change. We must move beyond a dialogue of fear, in order to debate the true issues at hand. In health care reform this means covering the uninsured and reducing health care costs. This could be done in SO MANY different ways (though I would argue that a cooperative is not going to be one of them), using evidence-based solutions.

So what is next? It's time for the job search to begin! I have decided that I definitely want a job doing some sort of communication. This could be to policymakers, public audiences, or public health professionals. It will likely involve the communication of rigorous research or its implementation (I didn't take all those methods/epidemiology courses for nothing!). The forum could lend itself to me expressing my opinion on a specific topic (sort of like I do on this blog -- but a bit more focused) or I could serve as the go-between for the researchers and the programmers/policymakers. My ideal organization will deal head-on with social and environmental aspects of public health (neighborhoods, built environment, marketing/advertising, schools) and will probably work in the area of nutrition/obesity, food policy, or healthy lifestyles (diet and exercise).

While my aims are still quite broad, I like broad. I've always been more of a "well-rounded" individual than an expert in any one thing. Eventually that is likely to change, but for now I need to embrace it. There will be a place for me, out there...somewhere. If I am lucky it will be in Menlo Park or Palo Alto.

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