The Yale School of Public Health, standing tall near the corner of College and S. Frontage streets in New Haven, should be revered and appreciated by all.
Be grateful when you look at that building, because it is there that faculty and students are working every day, driven by a passion for finding ways to reduce the threats to health and safety that we all face.
Public health is a science - the science of how to protect the public from illness and violence.
The coronavirus pandemic this year is a clear example of the tremendous importance of public health science.
Public health science answers questions that we need the answers to: How fast will the virus spread if everyone wears masks? How fast will the virus spread when we shut down the state? What will happen if we reopen bars? Should we ask visitors from out of state to self-quarantine? When is it safe for our children to go back to school?
The last thing any of us should be doing, especially our elected leaders in government, is making up answers to these questions.
Yes we need to make decisions on public health policy, but we need them to be founded on the best public health science available. That is what I mean by diligent public health.
Communicable disease is what many think of when they think of public health, but the discipline is broad and studies any threat to public health and safety. Gun Violence - what measures will most effectively reduce gun violence? Mental Health measures? Gun restrictions? Public science is our tool to find out.
Environmental Health- what measures do we need to be sure that our air is safe to breath? Our water is safe to drink? Our food is safe to eat?
Climate Change - what threats to public health and safety do climate change present? How will climate change affect our ability to grow crops? How will sea level rise affect our coastal cities and towns? What will the impact be of increased hurricane activity? Will we or our flora/fauna be exposed to more tropical diseases?
Mental Health - how can we do a better job in our society to effectively screen for mental illness and be sure that those how need treatment for depression or bipolar disorder or drug addiction or any other mental illness get the care they need and deserve?
Violence against women - what public policies will most effectively reduce the plagues of rape and domestic violence that women have to face?
Racism - Racism is a public health issue because as a social disease it affects the health and safety of millions of Americans, just because of the color of their skin. Public Health Science offers the hope of better understanding how racism develops and how it can be ended, be it through better integration in schools, better education about race in schools, or better public health messaging our leaders.
These are among the many issues public health science can help us overcome. Let’s be wise and let science be a beacon leading us towards a safer and more healthy society.
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