By Taylor Rosty, Account Associate @ Evolution
As a relatively new member of the Evolution team, this was my first year at Public Health in the Rockies. If you’re not familiar, PHiR is a three-day gathering of public health professionals across the Rocky Mountain region. Researchers present the latest in public health data, public health professionals talk about their efforts, and there are free pens/other assorted swag items EVERYWHERE. Oh, and this year it was in beautiful Keystone, Colorado. I can’t believe I got paid to go. It was heaven.
Reflecting on my first year at PHiR, I learned three key lessons.
Public health professionals are collaborative, passionate, and really, really nice.
As someone who is also relatively new to the field of public health, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the conference. Our public health clients are deeply passionate about their work, ready to collaborate with anyone who can help them move their issue forward, and just plain wonderful people. Little did I know, that’s basically everyone in public health.
I was amazed by how open people were to learning about each other’s missions and issue areas, and how open they were to working with others. In some sectors (even ones like nonprofit!) people are guarded and more worried about ego and prestige than actually moving the needle on an important issue. Not the case with public health professionals. Public health people are generally more worried about their cause than anything. They’re open to new ideas, new partners, and new ways of doing things that will help them make an impact. They’re also super friendly, and will let you take as many free pens from their booth as you want.
Rurality wasn’t just a big factor in 2016’s election; it’s a huge issue in public health, too.
One of my favorite sessions I attended at PHiR was about rural access to and views of healthcare in Colorado. Did you know that there are more rural residents in America than any racial, ethnic, or sexual orientation group, and yet they aren’t recognized as a unique group? This is problematic because rural Americans face increasingly severe challenges in several facets of life, including health.
Rural Americans, I learned, are at a higher risk of death for five of the leading causes of death because of their geographic distance from care, low socioeconomic status, and higher rates of obesity, which interestingly correlates with food insecurity in rural areas. As the wealth divide between rural and urban areas in Colorado – and nationwide – continues to grow, rural health will be an increasingly large focus for public health efforts.
A well-executed public health campaign can have impact for years to come.
Next to our vendor booth stood a large poster for “I am a smoke-free zone,” a campaign Evolution created several years ago to encourage parents to stop smoking around their children. Although the campaign is no longer active and ran several years ago, I couldn’t believe the number of people that stopped by our booth to tell us that they remembered the campaign, wished it would run in the media again, or still used the campaign materials in their offices.
Even from my short tenure in public health, I have definitely felt a sense of discouragement at times about public health work. People might see our campaign, but how’s it going to impact them? Are they actually going to do something about what we’re telling them? The amount of energy around Andy, our “I am a smoke-free” poster kid, encouraged me by reminding me that a public health campaign, done well, can truly change a community’s thinking about an issue, and inspire change for years to come.
Besides these three key takeaways, my biggest lesson learned was probably this: we are extremely lucky to do the work that we do with the people we do it with. To all of our clients, thanks for letting us help you tell your public health stories!