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From the Dean

Shoring up the nation's public health system

As many people have remarked since September 11,
things will never be the same.
That statement has a special resonance with regard to public health. Before our national tragedy, people either misunderstood our profession or didnít understand it at all. Now that weíre on the nationís radar screen, a strong public health system is recognized as crucial to our national security.

The public health response to September 11 and the subsequent anthrax outbreak was remarkable in terms of timeliness, sobriety, and urgency. We saw a seamless integration of the best of academic and institutional public health, as Emory faculty worked with CDC, state, and local public health officials. We watched laboratory and clinical capacity accelerate with a speed rarely seen, all while public policy related to the outbreak was being developed. Both the events and the response were unprecedented.

We must be less sanguine about the state of the US public health infrastructure of the country after decades of funding neglect. Whether buildings at CDC or staffing for disease surveillance and response at state and local health departments, we are not well equipped for intentional or unintentional epidemics. We can and should do much better. Only a small fraction of public health workers in the United States have formal public health training. Standards for local health departments must be established, and education is needed to meet them.

Training public health workers is central to our mission here at the Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH). A large proportion of our graduates go on to work in state and local health departments or at CDC. During the past year alone, we enrolled 5,000 public health workers in continuing education classes. A new RSPH Center of Public Health Preparedness and Research will accelerate these and other efforts to shore up the nationís public health system. Already, the Rollins family, one of the schoolís long-time benefactors, has set the center on a firm foundation with a generous gift of $4.2 million, and the CDC recently designated it a national center for public health preparedness.

This issue of Public Health focuses on the many RSPH faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who have stepped up during this time of crisis, many at some risk to their personal safety. I am extremely proud of them all.

James W. Curran, MD, MPH

Spring 2002 Issue | Dean's Message | In Brief | Innocence Lost |
Making Smoking History | Alumni News | Rollins School of Public Health

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