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Professor, Grad Student Co-Created Inquirer’s Public Health Blog

July 30 2013


Did you know how dangerous grill bristles could be if ingested?

Or how record deaths during the Civil War led to major advances in public health?

Want to know more?

Sparking widespread interest in public health is the mission of The Public’s Health, a blog published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Public’s Health is one of the nation’s only blogs dedicated solely to public health—and it’s co-created and regularly contributed to by a professor and a graduate student at Drexel University’s School of Public Health.

“There are other health blogs that deal with health issues and that include public health, but we are, as far as I can tell, still unique,” Michael Yudell said.

Yudell, an associate professor and director of the new Initiative for Public Health Ethics and History at the School of Public Health, and Jonathan Purtle, a doctoral student in public health who works at Drexel's Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, first met with the Inquirer in summer 2011 to discuss the idea of a public health blog. The blog launched in the fall of that year.

Don Sapatkin, a public health reporter for the Inquirer, helps with the editing. Sapatkin’s edits are considered before every final draft is published. But, Purtle said, the Inquirer still gives the blog’s writers a “tremendous amount of freedom” in what they choose to write about.

“It is an amazing opportunity for people in academia to have a direct line to communicate with the public,” Purtle said.

Yudell and Purtle’s blog also features guest writers—many of whom are from Drexel.

Currently, a post written by Stacey Trooskin, an assistant professor in Drexel’s College of Medicine, stresses raising awareness about hepatitis C—the most common blood-borne infection in the United States.

“We find our own contributors through colleagues, friends or associates—it’s really just a group of experts,” Yudell said.

The topics for posts are as varied as the sources Yudell and Purtle look to for story ideas, ranging from areas of personal and research interest, social media, and emails from the public and current events, as well as interesting topics from Purtle’s doctoral classes or classes that Yudell teaches.

More than 100 articles have been published on the blog, which usually produces two or three posts per week. Many of the blog posts also appear in the printed version of the paper.

“There is a lot of knowledge and important research that doesn’t make it out of the academic realm,” Purtle said. “One of our goals, through the blog, is to help bridge academic and public discourses about public health.”