Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director American Public Health Association
What does the ideal future of United States public health look like?
We believe public health should strive to be the chief health strategist that leads our effort to become a nation were in all communities seek to improve their health using a multisectorial approach. Such an approach would lead to a society where access to quality education, adequate housing, safe communities, nutritious and affordable foods, good transportation options, health care services and economic empowerment, are available in an equitable way for all.
What are the most important steps the American Public Health Association is taking to create more health opportunity for all?
The American Public Health association is doing three things to create a healthy future: First, supporting the training and skills development of practitioners of public health that meets the needs of the future. This is done through our scientific publications, scholarly meetings and web based learnings. Second, we are working to ensure the infrastructure is in place for a forward thinking and forward leaning governmental public health system that can accomplish our vision of being the healthiest nation. Lastly, we are expanding and mobilizing a national movement called “Generation Public Health” to build public support for investment in health and wellness systems that support our vision.
What innovation in public health would you like to share with the world?
The scientific method is essential to improving the public’s health. It is at the core of evidence-based decision-making and drives the ability of public health to maintain its ability to innovate. All of the great achievements of public health have benefits from this approach such as reductions in vaccine preventable diseases, safer food and water, cleaner air, tobacco control, child health and reductions in injury from motor vehicles crashes.
Fifty years from now, what do you hope to be able to say about the health of our nation?
I hope we are a nation that values its position as being amongst the healthiest of other high-income nations at an affordable cost. We work to continue to improve our health through sound investments in prevention and focus on steps that create healthy people in healthy communities.
What is the biggest challenge you face every day?
Public health remains grossly underfunded in the United States and we are losing ground. We are also in an intense debate concerning the role our government should play in both improving individual health as well as the health of communities. My biggest challenge is finding new ways to make a persuasive case for increased and sustainable investments to achieve our goal in a highly competitive and skeptical political environment.