Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Commentary: Reflections from the SOPHE 62nd Annual Meeting “Leveraging the Power of Health Education: Changing Systems”

Rob Simmons, DrPH, MPH, MCHES, CPH
Clinical Associate Professor
Program Director, Master of Public Health
Jefferson School of Population Health

I had the privilege to participate in the 62nd Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC last week. Over 400 professional health promotion professionals and students attended the meeting. The theme was “Leveraging the Power of Health Education: Changing Systems”. Some of the highlights included:

• An opening presentation on the National Prevention Strategy by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who presented the first-ever HHS 2011 Healthy Living Innovation Awards. National and local organizations and agencies were honored for their efforts in preventive health programming in such categories as healthy workplace for large and small employers, non-profits, local and state government, schools, health care, and community health initiatives.

• Transforming Systems for Health presentations by Karen Lee, Director of New York City’s Healthy Eating and Living Initiative, and Larry Cohen, Executive Director of the Prevention Institute in Oakland, California.

• Seeking Synergy to Enhance Health, Well-Being, and Performance presentation by James Prochaska, developer of the Transtheoretical Model of Change (Stages of Change).

• The Perspectives of a Grassroots Advocate presentation by Michael O’Donnell, noted national leader on workforce health promotion and editor of the American Journal of Health Promotion

• Panel presentation on Building Capacity of Health Professionals and Workers for the 21st Century featuring Dr. Jim Plumb of the Jefferson Medical College, Department of Family and Community Medicine on Jefferson’s innovative Population Health College within the College program for Jefferson medical students.

In addition to all the excellent sessions and networking, I was able to participate in a pre-conference workshop on evaluation of health promotion programs and policies by Richard Windsor, noted national and international behavioral science researcher and author of Evaluation of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Management Programs: Improving Population Health Through Evidenced-Based Practice. We look forward to working with Richard here in Philadelphia as Jefferson will be part of a national research study on the use of smoking cessation for pregnant women in our clinical practices over the next few years.

A wonderful, entertaining closing session was led by Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer for the “Open Government Initiative” for the US Dept. of Health and Human Services. Todd, a founder of the innovative data company, AthenaHealth, described the plethora of health initiatives using data technology and innovation linking data developers and health information users in the creation of open data sources for health. Todd led us through the maze of rapidly changing health data innovations, including “Blue Button” technology, health quality indicators, health data “Paloozas”, Health 2.0 developer challenges, and health education initiatives and games such as “Asthmapolis” and “Farmville.” The national link is

Having been a member of SOPHE since 1974 and having served as its national president and treasurer, I could not have been prouder to experience the tremendous growth of this national organization representing the field and profession of health promotion and health education. I look forward to SOPHE’s Annual Meeting next year in San Francisco and The Silicon Valley with its expected theme of advancing technologies to promote health.

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