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IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health National Advisory Board members assess future opportunities, challenges


INDIANAPOLIS — One of the members of the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health National Advisory Board turned to the sport of ice hockey to give the school a suggestion on how to succeed: Skate where the puck will be.

That’s the answer that National Hockey League ice skating star Wayne Gretzky gave when asked what the secret of his success was, said Arnold Kaluzny, professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health and the Sheps Center for Health Services Research. He is the former chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors at the National Cancer Institute.

Kaluzny and four other members of the board assembled in the Campus Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on April 3 to present their views about opportunities for innovation and challenges in public health. The five board members were at IUPUI for their first board meeting.

Other members of the board are:

•             Georges Benjamin — President of the American Public Health Association, the world’s largest public health organization. He is the former secretary of health in Maryland and a current member of the Institute of Medicine.

•             Dr. Virginia Caine — Director of the Marion County Public Health Department. An infectious disease physician and an IU School of Medicine faculty member, she has served as president of the American Public Health Association and on the board of the Council on Education for Public Health.

•             Dr. Robert Lubitz — Chief Medical Officer at Wellstar Health System in Atlanta. Formerly the vice president of St. Vincent Hospital, he also served as graduate medical education lead for Ascension Health.

•             Dr. Hugh Tilson — Former senior vice president of GlaxoSmithKline and a leading expert in pharmacoepidemiology. He was formerly the state health commissioner in North Carolina and a local health officer in Oregon and Maine.

Skating where the puck will be is relevant because many existing public health schools are unable to do that, Kaluzny said. “They carry a tremendous amount of luggage, history and focus.”

In contrast, the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, established in 2012, has that ability and can address some of the public health problems in ways they should be addressed, he said.

“One of the big issues is collaboration,” Kaluzny said. “Everyone wants to collaborate, but silos exist within most public health schools. They aren’t talking to each other most of the time, let alone talking to the practice community.

“One form of collaboration that is possible with a new school is that faculty can go talk to the practice community,” Kaluzny said. “To really get at the issues, you have to get out and talk to the people who are actually dealing with some of the real problems, convert that into researchable questions, and then begin sending information in a constructive and relevant way back to people who are actually trying to improve the health of the population.”

Other challenges in public health include changing demographics and funding, Caine said. By 2040, at least half of the population in the U.S. will consist of minority ethnic groups.

“We need to understand health literacy and how we communicate as we grapple with how to improve health outcomes,” she said.

Citing sports contracts with individual players that exceed $100 million, Caine said there is a need to examine the community values and consider “how we make our decisions about what we will pay for.”