We often talk about collaboration being essential to the study and practice of public health. As a community we value the importance of bringing together sometimes disparate fields in order to understand and alleviate health challenges. Our School’s culture of collaboration is what struck me most in this issue of Continuum. You will read about pediatricians, educators, camp counselors, student athletes, epidemiologists, and political leaders, all working to improve children’s health and wellbeing, and all working with others outside their field, to alleviate childhood health risks. And what better cause than the health of children—the future itself—to stretch our interdisciplinary muscles?
Today’s children are the parents and scientists and leaders of the future. Their health today has a direct impact on future economic prosperity and the overall well-being of societies. But tomorrow’s leaders are vulnerable today, utterly reliant on the adults in their sphere, and with scarcely a political voice. This is why the work of organizations like the School’s community partner, Rhode Island Kids COUNT, are so vital. The data they provide arms policy makers with the evidence needed to champion the health needs of the very young.
Current data, sadly, illustrates the many pressing health problems children experience. Three of those, identified by the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute for focused research attention, are childhood asthma, autism, and obesity. All three conditions are caused by an array of complex genetic, prenatal, and early life factors, and all three demand innovative approaches for improved prediction, understanding, and treatment.
The changing and increasing child health challenges identified in this issue, along with many others, have made vulnerable life stages a Strategic Plan priority for the School of Public Health. Our research, educational, and community strength in this area provides the School with a solid foundation upon which to build future initiatives. Our collaborative culture—across and between disciplines, across campus, across the state, and across the world—will support the growth of innovative approaches to improving the health of the most vulnerable among us.
Bess H. Marcus, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Public Health