Surgeon General Murthy Supports ASTHO President’s Challenge

November 03, 2015|12:06 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy joined ASTHO President and Minnesota Commissioner of Health Edward Ehlinger as he introduced the 2016 ASTHO President’s Challenge: Advancing Health Equity and Achieving Optimal Health for All to attendees at the American Public Health Association’s 2015 Annual Meeting on Monday.

In his remarks, Murthy said that public health needs to lead in three different ways: providing policy expertise, being an advocate, and be an organizer.

Pictured (left to right): Edward Ehlinger, Paul Jarris, Vivek Murthy

He says public health is currently skilled at policy expertise. This has long been public health’s traditional role and that public health leaders are quite skilled at understanding the policy process. He said that will not be enough, however, and that public health needs to become skilled at both advocacy and organization.

By advocacy he means learning to articulate compelling arguments. “We need to convince people who not invested in health right now that they should be,” he said. “That their aims will be more easily achieved if health is incorporated in what they do.”  He also noted that we need success stories that show when different sectors work together, incredible things can happen.

As an organizer, public health can be the common cause that brings diverse stakeholders together – government stakeholders as well as public and community stakeholders. “We’re seeing incredible initiatives in communities, communities with very limited resources,” he said. “They’re having a real impact. They’re making walkable neighborhoods; they’re ensuring their communities have open space for play; they’re engaging in neighborhood policing, creating a safer environment.” Public health can have a major impact by organizing communities so these successes are not as isolated as they are now.

“We have come to believe that complex problems require expensive solutions, and that’s simply not always the case,” he added.