The 2016 election cycle reminds us just how contentious democratic processes can be, and historians and political scientists will study November’s election for years to come. Moving into 2017 and beyond, we will have to navigate the challenges related to the new administration’s plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, to diverge from our current stance on the health impacts of climate change, to enact mandatory deportation of people thereby breaking up families and their support networks that support health, and to enact other campaign promises that divide communities. Public health practitioners will have to do what’s best in all cases so that we remain true to our mission of protecting and improving the public’s health. This is a responsibility shared by all of us, blue and red and all shades in between.
For the past 30 years, I’ve been privileged to work with hundreds of communities across the nation to improve health and quality of life, from Alaska to Florida, and beyond – and yet, I find that our body politic is more and more deeply divided in ways that are damaging to human life and development. In fact, health and education are fundamental building blocks of all human life – for all human beings. They are not and should never be market commodities reserved for the wealthy, or people born ‘here’ and not ‘there’, or people residing in certain zip codes.
So, how do we move our mission-driven public health work forward in 2017?
Upon deep personal reflection, I recognize that the core values of public health practice are my guide; these values steer my practice every day, regardless of the balance of power in our elected offices across our states, localities, congressional seats, the White House, or our board rooms. Public health values demand that we work together to lift up humanity; that we advocate for the advancement of health and for the full respect of humanity, and that we denounce all forms of racism and white supremacy, hatred, bigotry, misogyny, and all other isms that divide us because there is no room in civilized society for these harmful and unnecessary attacks on human development. Our public policy must not be driven by these belief systems. Public health practitioners must always work together and serve as a beacon for the world to lift up humanity. This is our collective duty as global citizens of our one, human race in which we all belong. Hence, as leaders in our nation’s public health space, we have a civic and moral duty to advance health and to advocate for continual health improvement for our entire human population.
Advocating for health is not, and has never been, a neutral position. As a profession, we share in the belief that health is the fundamental bedrock of all human life. This bedrock need not be grounded in a political party, but it must be solid to its core and authentic in its composition. And it must align with public health values that lift up all humanity.
I invite all supporters of the public’s health – within our NNPHI family and beyond – to join us on our network journey. Let this be our legacy for tomorrow’s children.