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Dornsife SPH 2017 Welcoming Ceremony

New Students & Faculty Get Pinned to Principle of Health as a Human Right

Photo of three students at Welcome Ceremony

September 27, 2017

In a ceremony reminiscent of the graduation each aims to attain in the years ahead, new students at the Dornsife School of Public Health marched across the Stein Auditorium stage as their names were called. Then, each leaned in to receive a ribbon necklace, held together with pins proclaiming the idea – the ideal – of health as a human right.

So began the public health education of newly admitted undergraduate, masters and doctoral students at Dornsife, at the September 20 Welcoming Ceremony.

Guest speaker Giridhar Mallya, MD, MSHP noted that DSPH’s founder, the late Jonathan Mann, was a pioneer in bringing the fields of health and human rights together.

“At the World AIDS Summit meeting that [Mann] organized in London in 1988 he said, ‘We live in a world threatened by unlimited destructive force, yet we share a vision of creative potential… AIDS shows us once again that silence, exclusion and isolation – of individuals, groups, or nations – creates a danger for us all,’ ” Mallya said, quoting Mann.

“That maxim applies just as aptly to many other threats to well-being and justice that we face today,” Mallya added.

A public health physician and health policy expert who currently serves as Senior Policy Office at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Mallya offered three principles he described as “critical to advancing health and equity.”

“First, we won’t achieve equality of opportunity, let alone of outcomes, unless we bring the marginalized to the center,” he said.  Second, he noted that “co-benefits” – such as the economic benefits of a health intervention, or health impact of an educational intervention – can be “powerful motivators for engagement and change,” though we’re still not good at measuring such impact, which leaves opportunities for progress unrealized.

Third, Mallya noted that ”Policy change is key to social change” because laws, regulations and institutional policy actions affect groups of people, are long lasting, and shift society’s norms and expectations about health and well-being.

“Social problems are yours to solve, whether you like it or not,” Mallya concluded, urging the students to dive right in to the problems and possibilities of a public health career.  “Embrace the challenge… your voice, your participation matters.”