Do you ever ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?” In my career as a health communicator, sometimes I feel like my passions change every day. One minute, I’m focused on mental health; the next, on reproductive rights. Recently, my mentor and I were talking about my broader interest in public health communication. She asked me if I was interested in global health and wellness, or if I wanted to focus on public health here in the U.S. It’s a fair question; global public health priorities versus those in the United States can look very different. So she seemed surprised when I responded, “Both!” This answer isn’t me being fickle about my passions, though. I truly believe no matter if your interest is local, national or global, all public health should be looked at through a global lens.
Last week, Porter Novelli proudly supported the United Nations Foundation at its 2016 Social Good Summit, co-hosted by Mashable. During the Summit, I had the privilege of hearing from a variety of speakers — including activists, community representatives and even celebrities — about progress made and progress needed toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Through a packed two days of conversations on issues ranging from forest preservation to education access, we discussed global solutions to help future generations live in a better world. Chief among these conversations was a focus on living healthier lives.
- “We cannot continue to be reactive.” While Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chairman of global vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, was referring to pandemic response when he made this comment, the same can be said of public health communication. With globalization, there will be more and more outbreaks; what can seem like one country’s problem can quickly become another’s biggest threat. (Zika is a prime example of this.) It’s important to not only conduct global surveillance for top health trends, but also to develop strategies that can be repurposed for broader audiences if needed.
- Use the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to guide public health priorities. While we can’t always guide our clients’ goals, we can help them keep in mind the United Nations’ global priorities and align our strategies accordingly. For example, Sustainable Development Goal 5 is, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” With this goal in mind, public health communicators must understand that women’s empowerment, particularly through technology and education, is crucial to moving the needle on a host of issues — even when women are not our primary target audience.
- Unless you eliminate stigma universally, it will persist. In today’s global world, efforts to destigmatize health conditions cannot be focused simply on a local level. Coupled with local strategies must be a plan to break down barriers more broadly; like a weed, stigma must be addressed at its roots no matter where they grow. In a session titled, “Stigma: The Achilles Heel of the AIDS Epidemic,” panelists indicated while medical progress in HIV has been transformative, progress in addressing stigma has been slow. The insight here is that social justice and public education must also be a component in public health programs, especially for conditions as stigmatized as HIV.
- Public health challenges don’t exist in a vacuum. Climate change is affecting economic stability in many regions of our world; gender inequality impacts women’s health. To be a communicator in any of these disciplines today, especially public health, requires an understanding of the broader impact of efforts and the multifaceted challenges facing our target populations. We cannot operate in siloes if we’re to be successful in reaching our goals.
In his cancer moonshot address on Monday at the Summit, Vice President Joe Biden plainly stated, “Cancer is not a national problem. It’s an international problem. It’s a UN problem.” What the vice president means is this: While it is now a national priority to focus on curing cancer, global collaboration is imperative if we are to reach this goal.
I couldn’t agree with him more.
Were you at Social Good Summit? Share your insights with us on social using hashtags #2030Now and #PN4SocialGood.