Nearly a year since its launch, the “Why Public Health Matters” campaign continues to receive video submissions from a range of practitioners, scholars, and advocates that articulate the value of public health. And the campaign seems to be resonating with a new generation of public health professionals seeking to effect change in the field.
Dr. Sarah Toevs, a professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health and director of the Center for the Study of Aging at Boise State University, recently asked her MPH students to use the video platform to learn how to frame impactful messages on public health issues. “Providing students with authentic ways to use their voice, to explore how others frame messages, and to share their work are fundamental goals of my teaching philosophy,” she said.
In their videos, students discussed public health functions and priorities such as investing in prevention, championing health equity, and addressing the social determinants of health.
Gabe Payne talked about the various ways that public health plays an essential role in people’s lives, including in the pandemic response. “As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, public health has been working tirelessly to strengthen infrastructure and make recommendations that benefit all individuals,” he said.
Chakoma Haidari used her video to explain how public health works for all people, saying, “We need public health in our communities in order to eliminate disparities and create opportunities for all so that they can live their lives to the fullest potential.”
The videos demonstrate how public health practitioners can use communication as a tool for advocacy, especially for populations who have been historically underserved. As Dr. Toevs put it, “Public health matters because it provides a voice for those who are often without voice or power — a voice for individuals who are outside systems powered by economic interests, by profits, by politics.”
In developing their videos, students researched materials on the cross-cutting skills necessary to create change and reach public health goals. Discussion around the Strategic Skills for the public health workforce provided a framework to convey the students’ messages. Their findings on effective public health communication inspired in-class conversations on policy and social determinants of health. Students also developed newsletters on their topics of interest and shared their videos with local elected officials.
“In the American system of democracy, this voice for the ‘outsiders’ is essential,” Dr. Toevs said. “These voices must be at the table as we work to address inequities, racism, and the disenfranchisement of communities. An essential service that public health provides is the creation of a space and venue for all voices.”
To submit your own one-minute video, visit www.whypublichealthmatters.org.
Cassidy Pham is a former communications intern at the de Beaumont Foundation and a recent graduate of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.