Final Wishes for Governmental Public Health

My original goal for the blog, Inside the Health Department, was to provide an outlet for governmental public health employees to voice their concerns about the state of their discipline. I told myself I would run the blog for eight to twelve months and then assess its status.

Well, nearly ten months have passed since the first posting, and I now feel it is time to shut the blog down. Inside the Health Department did not quite meet its goal of giving voice to others—only a handful of comments were made—but I hope its subscribers and other readers found some food for thought in the writings. The experience of expressing my concerns was very gratifying. I learned quite a bit through the process and resolved much of my anger and angst about the deterioration of my chosen profession. But I have made all the points I wanted to, and now it is time to move on.

I will continue to write, but will do so under a new blog with my long-time colleague, Karen Elliott, J.D., of Resilience Strategies NW. That blog will explore more broadly the topics of leadership, resilience science, capacity building, and hope as critical factors for enhancing wellness.

If a genie in a bottle granted me three wishes, I would desire the following for public health practice:

  1. Competent, honorable leaders who place an agency’s mission, and the wellbeing of its personnel, ahead of their personal and political agendas
  2. A well-trained, engaged, and creative workforce that is valued by its leadership and supported in its professional growth
  3. And a future. I think there is one. Most likely, necessity will win the day, and our political leaders will come to understand that goals such as the triple aim of health care cannot be achieve without a strong governmental public health system. I just hope the journey toward that realization won’t involve too many years or too many preventable crises or too much individual and collective pain.

Public health practice is at a critical tipping point, and decisions about what the system will look like in the future are scarily in the hands of many who are lukewarm, at best, about the discipline’s survival. For example, in Oregon where I live, whether the state’s legislature decides to take a small step and budget a proposed $30 million of the estimated $105 million annual shortfall needed to fully fund governmental public health will be very telling about that future.

I’m choosing to believe that a robust system is inevitable. And with that, I wish you all the best!  Kathy

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