Who is Public Health?

Public health works in countless ways to make our world better. Find out how public health makes a difference by getting to know a few APHA members. We asked them these three questions: What public health work are you doing in your community right now, and how do you hope it will make a difference? Why did you decide to work in the field of public health? What value do you find in being an APHA member?


Bringing public health to a clinical setting

I currently manage a robust HIV program based within Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio. Our program offers wrap around services to clients and includes community outreach across the city. In my role I bring the public health focus to a clinical setting and expand our reach through the community. I hope someday to work myself out of a job when HIV is eradicated, but until then I will keep speaking with every person I meet about the importance of sexual health and testing. As a manager I really enjoy investing in the career paths of my younger colleagues who are just starting out and looking at all their options within this huge field. It’s great to be a public health mentor.

Finding the joy

I have worked in HIV since 1988. I never thought I would still be in the same field but honestly nothing else has seemed as exciting, or as meaningful as working with people and communities to manage conditions they are afraid to discuss. I have been fortunate enough to work overseas in Asia and Africa while still being current on domestic health issues. Name another field that gives you so much flexibility and joy!

Keeping current and staying connected

I really love getting The Nation's Health  and seeing all the work that happens each month as well as program successes.  Public health is a huge field, and although my focus is on HIV and program management, I use APHA to keep current on what’s happening in nutrition, transportation/activity, school lunches, aging, etc.  I have found that getting active in my section (Population, Reproductive and Sexual Health) has really helped me stay connected to APHA and to some amazing leaders within that field. My network has spread across the United States and I have a clearer picture on how to work with APHA in terms of policy and action items. We really do amazing work 365 days a year.


Reaching hundreds, one person at a time

I’m working to help educate people about diabetes management, helping them understand that although we have a lot of technology to deploy, the best tools we have for ensuring our long-term health are personal discipline and being intelligent about sugar. I also encourage people to remember the importance of exercise for the management of their health whether they are diabetic or not. I’m training dozens of students, most of whom will go into the health professions, on how diabetes is managed on a daily basis. I have mentored nearly 1,000 people in this area over the last 25 years. I also do some motivational speaking to encourage people to take responsibility not only for their own lives but also to reach out and engage themselves with the people around them who often need help and have no one to assist them. Hopefully by doing so I can help others access the kinds of resources I have built for myself.

Turning personal issues into public health advocacy

I’m totally blind and a very brittle Type 1 diabetic. I have training in public affairs and genetics; I’m well aware that millions are less fortunate than I have been with respect to opportunity and education. Millions of people with chronic health challenges don’t have the resources I have to help me manage my health. That has pushed me to advocate for improvements in how we teach health professionals about how patients experience disease. With all of these things in my life, work in public health is more calling than choice for me.

Making connections, sharing solutions

Being an APHA member helps me connect with thousands of people who have similar interests. It makes me part of the largest organization in the country advocating for increased attention to public health...the best and most effective investment we can make to ensure that Americans live long, productive and healthy lives.


Using mass media to change behavior

I've directed and produced over half a  dozen PSAs and short video documentaries for non-profit and health organizations in my community. My hope is that each project will raise awareness and inspire behavior change in target audiences when they're viewed on television or online.

Emphasizing prevention

I was initially pre-med in college and completed the required math and science credits and even took the MCATS for medical school. But in my senior year I attended an information session from the university's school of public health. Up until that point I'd never heard of the field. Its emphasis on prevention over medicine's focus on treatment resonated with me. Why let people get sick in the first place if it can be prevented?

Inspired by the diversity of great work at APHA

Since my first conference as a presenter while still in graduate school, I've been in love with the incredible diversity of public health issues covered in APHA's Annual Meetings and monthly publications. My feet would burn after running from session to session during a typical conference day. There was just so much information and so many people doing great work. It inspires and reassures me that we're on the way to creating a healthier society, and APHA keeps me connected to everything.


Taking on health disparities

Most of my public health work is investigating health informatics, information technology, and telehealth/telemedicine interventions to address various health disparities. In collaboration with the APHA Health Informatics Information Technology Section, I founded and direct the HIIT Disparities campaign to address various health disparities (e.g., diabetes, obesity, poor nutrition, cancer, etc.) with innovative solutions that are developed by community members. Additionally, under non-profit organization, The Juxtopia Group, Inc., I work with the Juxtopia® Urban Innovation and Cooperative Entrepreneurship (JUICE) Network program to develop culturally accepted and affordable public health interventions for urban communities adversely impact by health disparities.

Using computer skills to improve health

In year 2000, early in my career, my mentor Dr. Diane Adams, the founder and Chair Emeritus of the APHA HIIT Section, exposed me to the field of public health and how I could apply my computer science training to advance public health for all populations. Because of my propensity to improve the performance of populations underserved and disadvantaged, I make an early commitment to address the needs of this populations with measurably effective public health interventions.

Working to build the healthiest nation

The value of my being an APHA member is the access and interaction with various persons and resources that assist with continuous systemic improvements in public health so that we can have the healthiest nation in one generation.


Charles Rogers, PhD, CHES


Taking aim at health disparities

This past summer I lead an innovative seven-day community-based study entitled, "Colon Cancer: iPrevent. iTreat. iBeat." at the Minnesota State Fair which surveyed more than 295 African American men on factors influencing their intentions to screen for colorectal cancer. More recently, my health policy advocacy efforts have resulted in two OpEd pieces and encouraged two senators to move forward with introducing legislation addressing health disparities among Native and African Americans. My hope is that colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates among underrepresented groups will decrease as a result of my contributions.

Someone encouraged him to change the world

Five years ago as I neared the completion of my master’s degree in applied statistics, one of my mentors (Dr. Louise Lawson) told me that it would be a travesty for me to sit behind a computer analyzing data for the rest of my life since I really had a passion for people and leadership. When Dr. Lawson said, “I continue to believe that you belong in Health Education…I expect you to change the world. You go do that, or come back and apologize to me for not living up to your amazing potential.” I did not take her words lightly and have not stopped purposely living my life the way she encouraged me to. 

Feeling at home as an APHA member

When I first entered the field of public health and was afforded the invaluable opportunity to attend APHA in Denver the first semester of my doctoral program, I was blown away by the information available at this conference. With nearly 13,000 people in attendance that year, I felt like a small fish in a big pond. Yet, when I fast forward to this past November in New Orleans where I delivered two oral presentations, I honestly felt at home and was amazed at how I saw someone I knew every 15 minutes in the convention center and at local restaurants.

G.H. Friedell, MD

Gil FriedellG.H. FRIEDELL, MD

Tackling an epidemic

Currently we have an epidemic of diabetes in Kentucky and the country, and it is clear that the current clinical approach to it — dealing with the large number of cases as individual health problems — is a failed strategy. Instead we need to apply public health principles to this non-infectious epidemic as we would to any epidemic threatening the health and wealth of the country...Elements of the needed public health approach have recently been put forward in my new book “The Great Diabetes Epidemic: A Manifesto for Control and Prevention.” These elements are now being incorporated in a community-based diabetes program for 150,000 people now being planned in eastern Kentucky by the five-county Big Sandy Diabetes Coalition.    

Finding solutions in the community

After I became the first director of a new cancer center at the University of Kentucky in 1983 I realized the necessity of employing a variety of public health elements in my work. These included starting the Kentucky Cancer Registry (now a SEER program) in 1984, developing a statewide cancer control program with the University of Louisville the same year, and being a co-founder in Appalachian Kentucky in 1994 of a state-sponsored community health worker program ultimately having staff in 58 rural, poor counties. In 1993, I made the following statement in a report to the President’s Cancer Panel, “If the problem is in the community, the solution is in the community.”

Enjoying shared interests with other APHA members

In APHA I have found members with various backgrounds who have shared my interest in both cancer control, especially among the underserved, and diabetes in the same population...For myself I have been gratified to learn from others in APHA about conducting, and participating in, grass root level community activities, and to become aware over many years of the value of community health workers in facilitating beneficial change in both health attitudes and practices in communities.

Lyobov Slashcheva


Increasing oral health literacy

Piloting a service-learning initiative with a student group within the dental school, we engage students in their pre-clinical years in community service with reflection on the social determinants of oral health while the community's oral health literacy is increased. We hope such opportunities continue and are eventually incorporated into the dental curriculum.

Partnering with the Virginia Dental Association Long-Term Care Facility Access to Care Work Group, I have investigated oral health needs in older adults residing in long-term care settings across the commonwealth through partnerships with long-term care organizations. As the VDA completes its prevention-focused pilot intervention in three long-term care facilities, I hope to offer both quantitative and descriptive data to guide implementation of pilot outcomes and recommendations.

A clinician at heart who's empowered to make a difference

I am very fortunate to have received the National Health Service Corps Scholarship to pursue my dental training in exchange for four years of practice in an underserved area. Already belonging to such a vibrant network of providers who are seeking to meet our nation's primary health care needs, I have been empowered to seek out opportunities to develop my interest and skills in public health work. Though I may be a clinician at heart, the depth and breadth of impact that public health has on each of my individual patients inspires me to build my dental career in a public health perspective.

Being excited all over again by fellow APHA members

It was just about two years ago that I received notice of my first-ever poster abstract acceptance to a professional organization: APHA. By the end of the 2013 Annual Meeting in Boston, I knew that I had found my vocational family of 13,000 siblings in that convention center, inspiring and encouraging me to continue my commitment to public health. Staying engaged with passionate individuals in several Sections throughout the year in various initiatives has made the reunions at Annual Meetings even more meaningful and has helped me understand that the strength of a monumental organization like APHA comes from each individual Section engaging its members effectively. When my clinical colleagues aren't quite as excited about my public health-oriented initiatives, I know I can refocus and be animated by all the resources I have access to when engaging as an APHA member, returning to my local context to continue the long-term sustainable investments that public health work entails.