Building a Community Health Strategy
The Lerner Center and Engagement: Let's Get Healthy, Together
The University's vision of Scholarship in Action calls our attention to pressing, real-world problems that demand rigorous analysis and workable solutions.
Public Health is exceptionally well qualified to answer this call, as the vision has been ever present in the field, which is responsible for advancements such as vaccination, motor-vehicle safety, control of infectious diseases, family planning, regulation of tobacco, fluoridation of drinking water and food-safety standards.
The values that led to those achievements are well expressed in the mission statement for the Central New York Master of Public Health Program, a key Lerner Center partner. The program strives to:
Educate a wide variety of professionals to have the values, commitment, knowledge, and technical skills necessary to improve health;
Advance knowledge in the public health field by developing an active program of population health research; and
Develop community partnerships of the highest quality that benefit the health of local, state, and global populations.
"That mix of local action and rigorous evaluation - combined with a sense of our larger, global responsibilities to improve public health - is the formula we have adopted at the Lerner Center," said Director Tom Dennison, who is also the associate director of the CNYMPH program, as well as the Director of the Maxwell School's Health Services Management and Policy program.
The Lerner Center directly involves CNYMPH and MPA students in its work, giving them significant opportunities to conduct meaningful research and work on real-world problems while working on Lerner Center programs.
In accordance with its focus on letting the community define its own health priorities, one of the first things the Lerner Center did volunteer its Lerner Fellows on other affiliated students to run a series of forums as part of the federally mandated Community Health Needs Assessments.
Lerner Fellows working with the Center’s Healthy Monday Syracuse Team have instituted a variety of programs aimed at helping the Center learn more about the health goals and barriers of students and area residents, including a series of health profiles and fun communal events such as Walktober.
Students also manage Healthy Monday Syracuse’s twitter and Facebook pages, utilizing those platforms to hear from community members and to encourage participation in healthy initiatives and events.
Such opportunities are exactly what the MPH is all about, said Dr. Donna Bacchi of SUNY Upstate Medical University, director of the CNYMPH program.
"We want our students to apply their knowledge and skills to solve wide-ranging public health problems by translating sound research into beneficial programs and policies," Dr. Bacchi said.
The feedback these interactions provide are essential.
"Step No. 1 is simply to ask, 'how can we help,” Dennison said. "That’s why public engagement is an ongoing strategy for us. We use public input directly in setting our priorities and in identifying potential partners."
All of this in the service of reducing instances of chronic, preventable disease, according to Program Director Rebecca Bostwick.
"In order to have a real shot at moving that needle, we need to engage everyone, from college students, to suburban professionals, to City of Syracuse residents, families, and teens” Bostwick said. “We need to understand the health goals of all the citizens in our community, and be mindful of our county's demographic and economic diversity. No matter who you are, where you live in the county or what your views are on healthy living, we still want to hear from you."