How do today’s public health students become tomorrow’s public health leaders?
“It’s not as simple as just taking the reins from our predecessors,” University of Colorado MPH student L. Kendall Krause, MD, told the 200 students gathered for today’s National Student Meeting, which is organized by APHA's Student Assembly. “Continually, gaps exist between what is and what could be. I challenge you all to step away from the status quo and be innovative and take risks. You must actively seek out opportunities for progress.”
And don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open.
“As you go throughout your day, you’ve got to be learning,” said keynote speaker Lon Kieffer, a motivational speaker and health professional. “You cannot be so in love with your own opinion that you fail to take things in.”
A panel offering guidance on how to run a successful public health campaign touched not only on practical steps (research on your target audience beforehand, and reach out to celebrities, community groups and other partners) but also encouraged students to keep the fire alive.
“I was infected early with the social justice disease,” joked Amy Hagopian, PhD, of the University of Washington School of Public Health and a long-time public health advocate.
To be effective, whether advocating against war or cigarette marketing or for better health care or access to produce, “pick some issues that really are important to you and resonate with you and follow those across your career,” Hagopian said.
Cute kids don’t hurt either, said T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH, of the Make Roads Safe Campaign for Global Road Safety. Posters of Vietnamese schoolchildren wearing helmets helped encourage actress Michelle Yeoh of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" fame get active in the safe roads campaign. And the helmet safety project resulted in an incredible increase — from 3 percent to 90 percent — in helmet use in the Vietnam capital.
And in the face of ever-shrinking budgets and sometimes seemingly insurmountable public health problems, “keep showing up,” said Heather Kennedy, MPH, who helped a group of Colorado seventh-graders successfully advocate for a city ordinance requiring stores to stop putting tobacco products on countertops near candy and other kid-enticing products.
“Be persistent," she said. "People will know who you are.”
Above, It’s fun to be a public health advocate! From left, panelist T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, of Make Roads Safe, APHA Student Assembly Action Committee Co-Chair Kristi Stone-Garza, and panelist Sharon Rudy, director of the Public Health Institute’s Global Health Fellows Program. Photo by Donya Currie