Common Ground? Prioritizing Public Health After the Election

Making Public Health a Higher National Priority


Two bridges, one concrete and one iron, in disrepair

As the nation shifts gears from the election to the presidential transition, we have an opportunity to raise the priority the nation assigns to public health. In his team’s responses to the ScienceDebate questionnaire President-elect Donald Trump highlighted the importance of assuring fresh water—an important aspect of updating our infrastructure, a priority he ranks near the top of his agenda. Public health and public health and prevention research can and should be a part of this effort. It is up to public health advocates to make the case. It’s the right time for the Administration, working with the Congress, to support evidence-based programs to prevent and treat disease, and environments that encourage healthy physical activities such as bike or jogging paths, smoking cessation and healthy eating, to name just a few public health concerns.

Updating our public health infrastructure is an appropriate message to drive on Public Health Thank You Day, coming up on the Monday before Thanksgiving, November 21st. In addition to thanking one or many public health professionals, it’s important for each of us to be clear that their work will be made more effective if we provide much-needed additional resources—resources that should include a public health emergency fund, not unlike the funds Congress makes available for first-responders to natural disasters. The slow response to combatting Zika—a challenge still very real in this country and world-wide, though not much in the media at the moment—is a compelling case in point.

For an election that was all about change, it is remarkable that very little changed in the makeup of the Congress. Most members of Congress will be returning to Washington in January; do you know whether the representative elected from your district will stand up for public health? Maybe the first question to ask is would you recognize your representative in line at a Starbucks?Twitter More importantly, would they recognize you? Does your representative know what you do to serve the public’s interest? What would you tell him or her about your work? Of course, none of us should wait for a chance encounter, at Starbucks or elsewhere. Make an appointment to visit your continuing or newly elected representative (and your Senators) when they are back home later this month, and in mid-to late December. If enough of us make a pledge to do this, we can change the image of what is to come.  It simply won’t happen if we wring our hands, or sit on them! A majority (78%) of Americans agree that Congress should make health promotion and disease prevention research a high priorityTwitter , according to a Research!America public opinion survey. That’s a good talking point to lead with.

What talking points on public health will you suggest for President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural speech or State of the Union address? If you’re looking for ways to frame the conversation, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health has outlined important priorities for the presidential transition team to improve population health, including: ensuring all Americans have the opportunity for a healthy life and investing in social determinants of health (education, production of healthy food, stable housing), eliminating health inequities; educating the next generation of skilled public health professionals, increasing investments in public health research; and strengthening U.S. leadership and investment in global public health.


The overall public health infrastructure calls out for updating, but it won’t happen if we don’t demand it.  The Trump transition website, provides an easy opportunity to send a message right now to the transition team.  Let’s all do that!



The overall public health infrastructure calls out for updating, but it won’t happen if we don’t demand itTwitter . The Trump transition website, provides an easy opportunity to send a message right now to the transition team. Let’s all do that! Ask the transition team to make updating our public health infrastructure a top priority – doing so will save lives and save money. When public health professionals work to align with the priorities of policymakers in serving the public’s interest, it creates a platform for negotiating more resources towards public health. Shining a spotlight on the work of public health professionals, sharing compelling patient stories and powerful examples of how public health has and will continue to improve the lives of Americans can help ensure public health will be high on the nation’s agenda.

Image: Travis Wise, Big Four Bridge, Sidney, Ohio