Public health, personal health

Today I had the first of three grad school orientations, this one for the School of Public Health (since I’m working toward my MPH). The agenda included small group discussions of “Let’s Do This,” a local public health initiative (funded through CDC grant money) designed to reduce tobacco use, increase access to (and eating of) healthy foods, and promote physical activity.
It was interesting discussing this with a group of students from all areas of public health (epidemiology, biostatistics, genetics, global health, health services, environmental health and, of course nutrition) and all parts of the world. There was a mix of optimism and skepticism about whether increasing access to healthy food and making neighborhoods more walkable will help significantly curb the epidemics of obesity and related chronic diseases. Kind of the “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” problem. I feel that way too, so it was energizing to have a spirited debate about it.
The chair of the Global Health department made an interesting point about non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and lung cancer. That point is that these diseases are communicable, in that “adoption of behaviors is communicable. In other words, the people around us, our friends, our family, or community, our society, influences what we eat and drink, how much we exercise and whether we smoke. And that is how public health very much intersects with personal health.
To celebrate my “first day of school,” we went to my favorite restaurant, aka Whole Foods. Just give me a pile of kale & seaweed salad, some tandoori chicken and a lavender-elderberry kombucha, and I am a happy girl!