A couple weeks ago I was invited along with other national leaders to a meeting at the Task Force for Global Health offices in Atlanta to discuss and plan for the development of Public Health Leaders. The group discussed the current and future global public health landscape and how to best prepare leaders to operate and be successful in this environment. 

photoIt was so fitting that we were meeting in the Bill Foege Conference room since two of the lessons I remember clearly from a Dr. Foege speech was the role of leadership in making sufficient decisions based on insufficient information and the role of coordinated action. Our task that day was certainly one full of uncertainty yet we came up with many viable approaches for leadership development.  And a primary objective of the day was to bring disparate views together to create a coordinated vision.

Dr. Foege, founded the Task Force on Global Health and is known for his role in eradicating smallpox.

“In retrospect it seems clear – we didn’t know how to eradicate smallpox when we started. But this was not a negative. It was a characteristic of all unsolved problems. We are always faced with making sufficient decisions based on insufficient information. If we had waited until all the answers were available, the work on smallpox eradication would never have started – selecting the target helped develop the appropriate tools and strategy.”
“While the lessons are many, what is the greatest gift of smallpox eradication in India and the world?  It is the demonstration, once again, that the coordinated action of dedicated people can plan a rational future.  This does not have to be a world of plagues, disastrous governments, conflict, and uncontrolled health risks.  It is possible to plan a rational future and smallpox eradication is a constant reminder that we should settle for nothing less.”

Back home in Kentucky groups, coalitions, committees, and workgroups are meeting to coordinate the activities in their communities based on their Community Health Assessment. They are creating a Community Health Improvement Plan by selecting one or two important issues to work on and then doing everything possible to create the conditions for that health related issue to improve. We should settle for nothing less. These coordinated efforts are tackling obesity, lack of affordable housing, teen pregnancy, prescription drug misuse, cardiovascular diseases, access to healthy food options and many more. Are you involved with a dedicated group of individuals seeking to create a rational future in your leadership role?

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