The theme for this year’s National Public Health Week underscores the overall goals of public health professionals: Empowering Americans to Live Stronger, Longer.
The USF College of Public Health conducted an awards ceremony Tuesday, honoring students, faculty and staff for their contributions to the field of public health. Monday kicked off National Public Health Week, which will conclude with a health fair Saturday at the University Mall.
Keynote speaker Darwin Labarthe from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented a lecture entitled “Living Stronger, Longer!” outlining the statistics surrounding cardiovascular issues and what can be done to “help individuals of all ages increase life expectancy and improve their quality of life.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary for National Public Health Week, according to Dean of the College of Public Health Donna Petersen. “This is a time to recognize leaders in public health and the role of academic public health institutions,” said Petersen.
Public Health Week also serves to stress the importance of good physical maintenance. The emphasis of Public Health Week has transformed from simply extending life to “help(ing) people enjoy those extra years in an optimum state of health.”Petersen said.
“We are continuing to live longer as Americans — the average life expectancy has increased 30 years since 1900,” Petersen said.
The most prestigious award was bestowed to the Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health. Established in 1988 by the College of Public Health, this award honors “women who have made significant contributions to the field of public health,” according to a press release. This year, the honor was presented to Lillian Stark for her “laboratory-based surveillance of arboviruses,” as indicated by a press release.
“One day,” Stark said in her acceptance speech, “there won’t be a need for a gender-biased award. Until that happens, I’m sure glad you gave it to me.”
Labarthe’s alma maters include Princeton University, Columbia University and University of California, Berkeley. He addressed the packed College of Public Health Auditorium about trends in the cardiovascular field and the economic expenditures cardiovascular diseases incur. As the associate director for Cardiovascular Health Policy and Research, Labarthe was thorough in his description of degenerative heart conditions.
“Deaths from diseases of the heart are on the rise. The number of heart attacks and stroke deaths are expected to increase.”Labarthe said.
Among those recognized at the awards ceremony were students awarded various scholarships within the College of Public Health. Twelve students received SHARP (Student Honorary Award for Research and Practice) Awards, which act as financial incentives for performing research in the field. Sam Bell Scholarships, as well as Carl Gelin and Lee Leavengood Scholarships, were awarded to students in undergraduate and graduate studies. Several students, faculty and alumni were inducted to the Delta Omega Honors Society, and others won Delta Omega contests for their work in public health.