Dean’s message: Health and headlines

Spring 2013 ]

As this issue of Harvard Public Health confirms, public health rings loud and clear in the daily news. And virtually every story that is printed, podcast, browsed, blogged, streamed, tweeted—and even just talked about—circles around ideas that inform our purpose and mission at the School.

Against the backdrop of a broad national discussion on gun violence, our cover article delves into the hidden toll of gun suicide—a problem on which the School’s Matthew Miller, Catherine Barber and Deborah Azrael have conducted groundbreaking studies that have shaped the debate. Indeed, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, directed by David Hemenway, has been at the forefront of separating facts from fiction in the contentious discussion around the U.S. gun violence crisis.

Also in this issue, the profile of Siddharth Kara reminds us that the quest for health and well-being is inextricable from the quest for universal human rights. Curtis Huttenhower’s creative work on the human microbiome is setting the stage for what may be the next revolution in public health and medicine. Raul Ruiz’s inspiring journey from California’s Coachella Valley to Capitol Hill brings a sharp public health focus to federal lawmaking. And a lively conversation with Ichiro Kawachi reveals how the burgeoning science of behavioral economics can be applied in public health.

The public health mission is timely, because so much human suffering—from infectious diseases to unhealthy lifestyles to the afflictions of poverty and unequal access to care—can be prevented with evidence-based policies. But public health is also timeless, because it depends on vigilance and a longterm vision that transcends the accelerating news cycle.

As the School prepares to celebrate its centennial, the vital role of public health will continue to find its way into the headlines. And many of those headlines will reflect the work of the School, which accounts for more media mentions than any other school of public health. As this issue of Harvard Public Health shows, HSPH researchers will be there with the high-impact data and perspective needed to make sense of our rapidly changing world.

Julio Frenk
Dean of the Faculty and
T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health
and International Development,
Harvard School of Public Health


Download a PDF of Health and headlines here