Aug. 17 2015

Public Health Opinions Writ Large

All summer, Mailman School faculty continued to publish high-profile commentary as part of the Public Voices Fellowship, a Columbia partnership with the OpEd Project to influence public discourse by cultivating thought leadership among scholars, scientists and clinicians. The most recent health issues to surface appear in pieces by David Bell, assistant professor of Population and Family Health and of Pediatrics, Claire Wang, associate professor of Health Policy and Management, and Marni Sommer, associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences.

These late summer entries focus on topics borrowed from the headlines, including Donald Trump’s antagonistic comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and Dairy Queen’s move to replace soda with milk or water. Writing on the Dairy Queen decision in USA Today, Wang said, “There could well come a time when soda with meals seems just plain strange.”

Touring college campuses with his 17-year-old son prompted David Bell to contribute to Pacific Standard commentary about male sexual assault, to “broaden the public conversation about sexual assault to acknowledge the fact that boys and men can be—and are sometimes—targets.”

For Sommer, whose research explores the taboos surrounding adolescent women’s health and menstruation, Trump’s remarks served as an opportunity to take a serious look at the harms of stigma, including in many parts of the world lack of information and accommodations for girls going through puberty. In a contribution to The Conversation, Sommer writes, “the ongoing taboo around talking about periods makes it hard to find solutions to the challenges girls in low-income countries face. It also hinders the global efforts to address these challenges and bring menstruation into the realm of global health and development.”

The Fellowship is a joint collaboration with Columbia University’s Department of Medicine, the Heyman Center for the Humanities, and the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion. Twenty faculty members across Columbia University—including six from the Mailman School—were selected to participate in the second year of this fellowship. Since the second cohort began working with their editorial mentors in January 2015, Mailman fellows have released more than 20 op-ed pieces in influential outlets, including Time Ideas, Slate, Huffington Post, NY1 and the Chronicle of Higher Education.