Monday, May 9, 2011

Public Health and Science

There is an enormous gap between the public health community and the science community. Public health is driven by large data sets and averages. Science is moving into the realm of each person being their own universe of 10 trillion cells and 100 trillion microbes. How do we use the rich data we are able to analyze about the individual with health at the community level? We need to benefit from both.

Public health must become better at measuring multiple factors at the same time while understanding that communities are more than the composite of unique individuals factors. Our analysis of communities and public health needs to keep up with what science is teaching us about individualized health and systems.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

For Cinco de Mayo No More Latino Policy Day

When I was invited to a recent gathering for a Latino Health Policy Day I thought I was reading some script from the 1980’s that read, “In order to reach the Hispanic community invite a group of Hispanics to meet with you one day.” Are we so out of touch with each other that we need Latino Day to hear from Hispanics? I wondered if there was an Anglo Day, and only on that day would the effort be made to include Anglos in policy.

In health to make good policy we need to understand the entire community we serve, and it needs to be a part of how we do our work every day. Today about 1 out of every 6 persons in the United States is Hispanic. Also consider that the combined total population of Canada and Australia is 57 million which is about the size of the population of Hispanics in the U.S (54 million*).

Just not on Cinco de Mayo, but everyday our policies need to take everyone into account and make it possible to tailor what we do to meet individual needs. To have good policy it means that every day is Hispanic Policy day, African American Policy Day, Anglo Policy Day, Women’s Policy Day, and so on. If we do not include all communities we make policies that are bound to miss the mark.

*Unlike Census and others when I give the population of Hispanic persons in the United States I include the 4 million citizens who live in Puerto Rico.

New data has surprising results

Today the news is that salt is okay and yesterday it was that BMI was not a good measure of health. The eagerness to make news sometimes gets in the way of being informative. One day’s science news is trumped (does that have new meaning today?) by the next day’s new discovery. Typically the data are described, the findings are made into pronouncements, and the need for further research is discussed. The reader is left wondering which facts were correct. Is it any surprise that consumers are confused by and distrusting of science? When information is presented in a way that is unclear people just keep doing what they are most familiar with and ignore the information generated by the new finding. We need to make science relevant to the people we are trying to reach.