A Clarion Call to Public Health Mavens

Why is the voice of public health not heard?

I don’t mean that it’s not heard at all. I heard the voice of Derek Yach at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health last month when he was talking about the work he did to decrease tobacco use in this country. But even more resonant than his voice was that of the public health student who stood up at the back of the room after his presentation and passionately questioned whether e-cigarettes were indeed the answer that many think they are. I wish I had caught her name and spoken with her afterward.

I’m sure her passion and knowledge are not an exception. Your powerful voices are present all across the country, especially at public health schools. Your message is heard in classrooms, conferences, and sometimes in the media.

You have such important things to say, like the power of the social determinants of health. The things you study and know about are some of the most fundamental to a healthy, prosperous society.

So why don’t we, the general public, really hear your message?

The message of public health is not reserved for academic settings. It’s not just for conferences or journals. And it’s not for public health experts. The message of public health is for the public. More than anyone else — more than your fellow public health student, mentor, graduate, or professor, it’s the general public that needs to hear your message.

And more than any other time, this historic time is when your voice is most needed. Now is when your voice needs to reverberate more powerfully than the other loud storytellers. You are being called to a higher purpose — to say what you know, to speak up for the good of our communities and our country, and to wake up a society that seems to be sleepwalking off a cliff.

What will you say? How will you say it?

You’re the expert.

Anoop Kumar, MD

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