Apr 07, 2017 10:00 AM

Author: Judy Ou, PhD


Judy Ou, PhD

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI.

April 3-9 is National Public Health Week, which celebrates a growing movement to create the healthiest nation we can. The public health system prevents diseases, including cancer. Public health officials look for patterns to understand why cancer and other diseases happen, teach people about healthy decisions, and create policies that make sure we live in healthy, safe communities.

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) works to prevent cancer in many ways:

  • Health educators teach people about cancer prevention.
  • The Cancer Learning Center provides free books and other learning materials about cancer.
  • Scientific studies research the environmental and behavioral causes of cancer.
  • Outreach programs provide health information to specific communities and the broader public.

We asked some of our staff, “What does public health mean to you?” Here’s what they said:

“Public health research is so important because it provides people with information to make informed decisions about their own health. I think one of the best things about public health is its breadth and depth—it encompasses everything from nutrition to disease outbreaks to insurance markets, and it can be studied at the population or community level.”

“When it comes to cancer, public health is an important piece of understanding the social, economic, and even emotional landscape that cancer patients find themselves in during and after treatment. We can have an exciting new therapy to fight cancer, but that doesn’t matter if patients can’t afford it or have other things going on in their lives that prevent them from getting the care they need.”

Samantha Pannier is a senior research analyst in the Kirchhoff group at HCI, working on childhood, adolescent, and young adult issues like palliative care, survivorship, and HPV vaccination.

HCI health educators Garret Harding and Judy Ou at an outreach event.“I love working in public health because it is an opportunity to educate and promote behaviors that could save lives. I worked for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for two years in immunizations. I also worked with the Intermountain West HPV Vaccination Coalition to promote the HPV vaccine for adolescents, in order to prevent six different types of cancers. I always hope to be part of organizations that invest in helping people stay safe and healthy.”

Laura Martel is a former cancer control coordinator for the Intermountain West HPV Vaccination Coalition.

“Public health is prevention. It empowers people to make positive health choices for a better life. Connecting people to trustworthy health information and resources is what I love most about my job as a health educator. It is an honor to have people share their health journey with me and to know I played a role in helping them find solutions, even by simply answering their questions. I have learned that public health is so much more than helpful recommendations. Public health teaches us that though disease, disparity, and death make us all human, our humanity is made meaningful through shared culture, diversity, and experiences.”

Jane Ostler is a health educator for the Community Outreach and Prevention Education program at HCI.

Although public health involves many players and parts, the most important part about public health is the public. Without widespread engagement and interest in our efforts, HCI would not be able to accomplish our goal of preventing cancer.

Judy Ou is an epidemiologist and postdoctoral fellow in the Kirchhoff group. Her research interests include long-term risks among cancer survivors and exploring links between environmental factors and cancer outcomes.


Judy Ou, PhD

Huntsman Cancer Institute
judy.ou@hci.utah.edu

public health cancer prevention health equity

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