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Public Health: It Takes More than One Person to Make an Impact

An investment and interest in global health not only aligns with the core values of wanting to help others or creating a better future, it makes practical sense. We are reflections of our environment, and as the global landscape becomes more connected, our inter-dependence on each other becomes even worthier of consideration.

AFTER learning about Dr. Cindy Howard’s call to be invested in global health, and reading about Dr. Jonathan Borak’s recommendations for five classic public health articles, I feel reassured and inspired by my new internship at the Global Health and Education Projects, Inc. (GHEP).  Moreover, I feel ever more challenged by the opportunities and roles that will be given to me as a future public health specialist. More often than naught, I feel very small and modest in my abilities to help others and be a part of the health care community.  Perhaps I can take some comfort in knowing that because this is public health, it takes more than one person to make a significant impact. Rather, it is the combined effort of many humble experts and specialists . Rather it takes whole communities. In this way of thinking, global health requires a global effort that is as diverse as the people of our world. No one person or effort is enough, but every person and every effort has significance.

Dr. Howard asks us to consider reasons why we should be interested in global health. For me, global health is a natural extension of public health, which in itself, is an extension of personal health. When the world around us has improvements in health, it is likely that we each benefit as well. Thus, an investment and interest in global health not only aligns with the core values of wanting to help others or creating a better future, it makes practical sense. We are reflections of our environment, and as the global landscape becomes more connected, our inter-dependence on each other becomes even worthier of consideration.

While Dr. Howard’s presentation gives me a broader framework for thinking about public health matters, Dr. Jonathan Borak’s recommendations gives me deeper insight into the impact of the field. Similar to Dr. Borak, I am struck by the simplicity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness of all these studies. He highlights how solutions do not have to be great in complexity, but still impactful and effective. He also mentions how the public health experts should be the bridge between the “public” and the “experts”, and I could not agree more. I feel this is a core duty of this profession, and I hope that I will continue to be able to learn how to fulfill this duty as I advance through the profession. For now, the five models provided by Dr. Borak have already given me some good guidance and wisdom.

From Hill’s address to the Royal Society of Medicine, I have learned how understanding causation, rather than association will most likely lead to the most effective public health action. From the Armitrage and Doll study on “The Age Distribution of Cancer and a Multi-stage Theory of Carcinogenesis,” I am provided another example of the power of the epidemiology. From the elementary school absences and environmental pollution study (Ransom and Pope, 1992) and classroom performance vs. lead levels study (Needleman et al., 1979), I am reminded of public health’s impact on the environment, as well as the environment’s impact on public health. Finally, from Slovic’s study on the “Perception of Risk”, I am re-affirmed of the need for public health experts.

In sum, I found the above works to be insightful and inspirational. I am left pondering about my future work in public health, and the kinds of contributions I hope to make. I am also wondering what I can do now, as a student and scholar. What kinds of contributions can I bring to my internship at GHEP? What can I gain from my internship that I can bring to others?


About the Author

Quynh-Anh Vu (Annie) was a global health intern with the Global Health and Education Projects, Inc., Washington, DC, completing in March 2015.  Annie was a candidate for a Masters in Public Health at San Jose State University, California, USA.  She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, earning a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Integrative Biology.  She went on to study the optometric sciences and completed internships in the allied health sciences – namely optometry and pharmacy. As a young scholar, she was instilled with a love and passion for pursuing knowledge, and was taught that knowledge is power.  Her greatest passion lies in the arts, languages, and medical sciences. She hopes that to one day, her work will empower others.