Bloomberg American Health Initiative Releases Special Public Health Reports Supplement

With U.S. life expectancy now on the decline for two consecutive years, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is releasing a supplement to Public Health Reports, the scholarly journal of the U.S. Surgeon General. The supplement includes a series of special articles addressing five of the most complex and urgent health challenges facing the United States, specifically: addiction and overdose, violence, obesity and the food system, environmental challenges, and risks to adolescent health.

The Bloomberg American Health Initiative, based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, focuses on research and potential solutions to these five critical health issues, collaborating with Bloomberg academic fellows and local partners throughout the United States.

The public health supplement features five peer-reviewed articles – one in each area – that “provide a road map for efforts to bring public health training to frontline organizations, pursue insights through innovative research, and advance effective programs, policies, and strategies for change,” according to a commentary from the issue’s guest editors. The supplement also features commentaries by leaders in public health describing the importance of key public health tools of equity, evidence, and policy in addressing these issues.

The supplement’s guest editors are Bloomberg School Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD, MSc, Vice Dean and Director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, Dean Emeritus Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, and Jessica Leighton, PhD, from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

“The field of public health can offer solutions to some of today’s most complex health challenges,” says Dean MacKenzie. “This special supplement to Public Health Reports offers a vision for evidence and action that can save many lives in the coming decades.”

The publication of the supplement occurs just before the inaugural Bloomberg American Health Summit, taking place later this month in Washington, D.C. The Summit will bring together innovators and experts from around the country who are working to tackle the five challenges on which the Initiative works. You can tune in to the Summit via livestream at on Thursday, November 29 and Friday, November 30 starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

On Friday, December 7, Bloomberg School of Public Health Dean MacKenzie will lead a national webinar on the special Public Health Reports supplement with the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). The December 7 webinar will run from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern. You can register here.

Highlights of the special PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTS supplement include:

  • Brendan Saloner, PhD, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, and colleagues provide a public health perspective on the opioid epidemic, writing “Public health has an important role in helping to understand why people use drugs, offering less stigmatizing strategies to assist people who use opioids, and disseminating innovative programs that help these populations to safely use drugs, receive treatment, and enter long-term recovery. Ultimately, overdose deaths are preventable, lives can be saved, and people can recover, regain stability, and have productive futures.”
  • Kirsten Koehler, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, and colleagues set out critical steps to improve environmental health, stating “Achieving a healthy environment will require a more holistic view than the current regulatory approaches. We must move beyond regulating smokestacks and discharge pipes toward an inclusive consideration of the role of the built environment in environmental quality and public health.
  • Anne Barnhill, PhD, research scholar with the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, and colleagues make the case for a systems approach to addressing the obesity epidemic, writing “New approaches are needed to reduce the rates of obesity and minimize the unintended consequences of interventions in U.S. food systems. The public health tools needed to do this—policies, local programs, and research—should be reconceptualized so they work at multiple levels, including individual, family, community, and societal levels, as well as for localities, nations, and the global community.

In an overview commentary, Dean MacKenzie joins with Bloomberg School of Public Health Deans Emeriti Al Sommer and Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, to explore the role public health might play in the next century: “Although it can be dispiriting to contemplate the health challenges facing the United States today, it is the nature of public health to tackle seemingly impossible tasks,” writes MacKenzie in the commentary.

MacKenzie adds, “The Bloomberg American Health Initiative aims to tap into this spirit and support organizations, researchers, and leaders across the country in bringing the power of public health to bear on some of the nation’s greatest health challenges.”

The full supplement is available for download here. Dr. Sharfstein discusses the Public Health Reports supplement and the Bloomberg American Health Initiative in the latest American Health Podcast.