Larry Cohen issues a rallying cry for prevention as a means to transform U.S. health in a newly published journal article in Health Education & Behavior. In it, he emphasizes the extraordinary value of strategies that keep people from getting sick or injured in the first place, including how prevention can improve health, save lives, and save money.
In 2015, the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) named Cohen an Honorary Fellow— the highest SOPHE award to a non-member who has made significant and lasting contributions to the field of public health—and the Health Education & Behavior article summarizes Cohen’s keynote at the SOPHE award ceremony. It encapsulates the comprehensive approach Prevention Institute applies to solving complex health and social issues across disciplines, promoting health in all policies, and viewing equity as a core component of all health decisions. Cohen writes in the article:
Prevention is deeply personal. When we, our friends, or our families suffer from severe illnesses and injuries it dominates our lives; and our communities experience suffering that could have been prevented in the first place. Maintaining health matters, and although people often experience the impact of illness or injury one person at a time, prevention practitioners have learned that effective strategies must attend to the community and the population as a whole.
Cohen illustrates the many transformative ways community prevention strategies are creating lasting changes at the community level, and lays bare the moral necessity of addressing the systemic inequities that lead to poor health outcomes in disenfranchised communities and communities of color. He also interweaves discussion of how Prevention Institute’s tools – including Taking Two Steps to Prevention, The Spectrum of Prevention, Developing Effective Coalitions: An Eight-Step Guide, and Collaboration Multiplier – can assist practitioners, advocates, and policymakers in developing effective strategies that contribute to safer, healthier, and more equitable communities.
The focus on community prevention has steadily grown in the past 40 years as the lessons learned from efforts such as reducing HIV transmission, curbing tobacco use, minimizing DUIs (driving under influence), and creating opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity have confirmed the effectiveness of community approaches….We can see the flip side of this in racially and economically segregated communities that have experienced decades of neglect and have been exposed to practices and policies that have diminished quality of life. Such environments do not fully support health....The phrase, “it’s not your genetic code: it’s your zip code,” is an apt one where health and well-being are concerned.
We've arrived at a moment of tremendous opportunity to spread prevention across the country. In this spirit of promise, Cohen concludes with an inspiring call to action for public health and prevention fields to take a fresh look at what we do and how we do it:
Profound change is never easy, but it is guaranteed when we engage together. We have a striking opportunity to reframe health in a way that builds on emerging practices and innovation. Each of us can contribute, and together we can build a powerful movement to hasten transformation in our nation’s health.
Read the full article here.