U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams says his vision is for a healthier and more equitable America but we must reframe the way we talk about health to achieve that goal. “I believe with every fiber of my being that every American deserves to live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, we’re falling short of that goal.”
Dr. Adams was the keynote speaker at a forum hosted by the American Public Health Association (APHA) in Washington, D.C. on April 2 to kick off National Public Health Week. He noted that life expectancy in the U.S. has declined for a second year in a row but said better partnerships between public health professionals and local communities can improve health outcomes. “We can have a tremendous impact if we focus less on what we don’t have, and focus more on better engaging partners.”
Dr. Adams and the panel were introduced by APHA Executive Director and Research!America board member Dr. Georges Benjamin. The panel included Dr. Wendy Ellis of the Milken Institute School of Public Health; Jen Schweer of Georgetown University; Sinsi Hernandez-Cancio of Families USA; Alyse Sabina of the Aetna Foundation and was moderated by APHA President Dr. Joseph Telfair. The panel agreed that community resilience is key to addressing adverse events such as the opioid and obesity epidemics.
“And when we say resilience, we don’t mean bouncing back from trauma to return to the same broken system,” Dr. Ellis clarified. “Instead, it’s springing forward to move beyond adverse environments.” Panelists said while additional funding could help tackle public health crises, collaboration with the communities that public health experts serve is vital to sustainable results. “Health does not happen inside of a doctor’s office or inside of the clinic,” added Hernandez-Cancio. “Health happens in communities.”