On Friday, March 23, Sandro Galea, dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at Boston University School of Public Health, delivered the final lecture in the 2017-2018 Dean’s Seminar Series. Formed in recognition of the College’s recent accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health, the series brings internationally renowned scholars and practitioners to campus for discussions on pressing issues facing an ever-expanding field of public health.
A physician and epidemiologist, Dr. Galea’s research focuses on social and psychiatric epidemiology, specifically the behavioral health consequences of trauma. He has more than 700 publications, including 13 books, and was named one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters; his writing regularly appears in both scientific journals and outlets such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review. He has received the Rema Lapouse Award from the American Public Health Association and the Robert S. Laufer, PhD, Memorial Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, among other honors.
“For Dr. Galea, changing narratives about population health in our society—and across the world—is essential in maximizing the impact of public health research, practice and education, and is among the most consequential challenges currently facing those in our field,” said College of Public Health Dean and Laura H. Carnell Professor Laura A. Siminoff. “It is this spirit of innovation and willingness to re-think the boundaries of public health that resonates with all of us at Temple University’s College of Public Health.
In his lecture, Galea discussed alternative ways to talk about U.S. population health and considered obstacles in shifting the nation’s healthcare focus from treatment to prevention. He mentioned, for example, that despite spending more per capita on healthcare, the United States trails comparable nations across multiple health metrics, such as life expectancy.
“We are not focusing on prevention, because we are in love with the shiny promise of cures,” said Galea. Approximately 90 percent of U.S. health spending is on treatment and medicine, he said; only a fraction of the remaining 10 percent is used for prevention.
Galea also laid out his five suggestions for changing the way we talk about health: discuss actual causes, pay attention to emerging pathologies, focus on underlying social conditions, and address persistent health gaps.
“The relationship between social conditions and health is getting steeper,” he said, referencing social and economic factors that correlate with health disparities. “We have a country with health haves and health have-nots.”