Public Health Week celebrates progress, promotes awareness

As a part of National Public Health Week 2019, St. Olaf College hosted four events focused on public health on April 1-5. These events were sponsored by the American Public Health Association (APHA) and organized by both Hibo Mohamed ’21 and St. Olaf’s Pre-Health Club.

The week is a celebration of public health and an opportunity to highlight key issues during seven days of nationwide conversations and events, according to the NPHW organization. APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin expanded on the role of public health week in America in a letter welcoming the week of events.

“In 2019, NPHW focuses on just how wide our reach truly is,” Benjamin wrote. “We will celebrate and include everyone who makes our communities healthier. We will acknowledge the hard work already being done, and look to the future and what our collective power can accomplish.”

The events held at St. Olaf invited speakers to share their work and research that has advanced the discipline of public health in practical and meaningful ways.

The first of the four events was a presentation  by Mark Wieland, M.D. on Monday, April 1, titled “Promoting Healthy Communities.” Wieland shared how he and his team are combatting inequities in health across minority communities in Rochester, Minn.

The second event, titled “Combating Toxic Chemical Exposures and Skin Lightening Practices,” was presented by Admira Adawe, Master of Public Health, on Wednesday, April 3.

The third event, which took place the following day, was presented by Angela Ulrich, Ph.D. and Nicholas Swenson, M.D., and was entitled “Public Health in Action: Global and Rural Health.”

The last of the four events took place on Friday, April 5. The event was an informational session with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health admissions department. The event was for undergraduate students at St. Olaf considering further study in public health.

The events were organized by the Pre-Health Club after the proposition of Hibo Mohamed ‘21, who is a student member of the APHA.

“The main problem Hibo encountered when she originally tried to set this week up by herself was that she was not able as an individual student to reserve rooms on R25 or get funding, so she reached out to us as a club to help with these as well as with all of the details that went into organizing the week,” Pre-Health Club director of communications Jessica Pakonen ’19  wrote in an email. “We also had trouble finding speakers for some of the [NPHW] themes, but we did our best to get a variety of unique speakers that the students would enjoy listening to.”

“Public Health Week was part of the National Public Health Campaign by the American Public Health Association, which promotes awareness on current public health issues facing the nation,” Mohamed wrote in an email. “I hope that Public Health Week both exposes the St. Olaf community to relevant public health issues and allows them to gain a better understanding of what public health really is.”

Mohamed emphasized that public health week is very important for both the student body at large and students interested in a career in public health.

“Public Health Week is important since public health plays an important role in the health of our communities,” Mohamed wrote. “There is a lack of programming at St. Olaf for those interested in studying public health, so I hope that Public Health Week provides the opportunity for those students interested in public health to connect with established researchers from multiple fields across public health.”

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