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Profiles in Public Health

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Koua Her

MPH, Behavioral Science and Health Promotion

1. In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Having the opportunity for good health is a basic right for every human being and public health is the key that protects and promotes the health and well-being of the people and the communities through research, community outreach, and providing access to resources that will help improve the quality of life.

2. What inspired you to study public health?

I came to the U.S. with my family during the midst of war in hope for the chance to a new beginning.  We left a place we called home to avoid the possibility of surrendering our dreams.  We saw that the U.S. would provide us with a life that will allow us to experience the American Dream in the Land of Many Opportunities.  However, growing up I have encountered many scenarios that have made me think about the level of inequality experienced by many people and the communities from the Land of the Free.  These experiences can be as simple as a freeway that acts as a distinct separation between the higher socioeconomic neighborhoods from the lower socioeconomic communities.  These childhood experiences continue to inspire me to use the knowledge I’ve acquired toward social change.  I aspire to study public health to utilize it as the platform to promote social justice and social change for the silenced voices in ensuring quality life and equitable services of care.

3. What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

It was during my undergraduate career that I had a life changing experience.  It was a humble experience to walk in solidarity with fellow Americans in the Appalachian of Kentucky by listening and sharing stories of life struggles within the community.  Although the people did not have the best housing and health care, they have the warmest and the biggest hearts.  It was an eye-opening experience to witness the existence of poverty in a developed nation like the U.S.  The U.S. has one of the largest economies in the world with the best delivery system of clinical care, yet many Americans are experiencing inequitable delivery services.

4. What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

Public health is an important topic that deserves more credit and attention.  It is the protection and the promotion of the people’s health and well-being.  It starts with the people, and to get to the core of all issues; you must listen to the people.  Listen to understand and not to respond.  Silence the noise and listen to the quiet voices.

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

The earliest cause of death among human beings used to be infectious diseases.  However, through research, scientists were able to develop vaccines and antibodies that would treat and cure infectious diseases.  Now we are in the transition of chronic illnesses and conditions that are the leading causes of death for humans.  It is important to provide and deliver equitable services to every American regardless of their socioeconomic status.  We have the best care in the world, yet we continue to lag behind in many important health and well-being categories.  For instance, our infant mortality rate falls short and we are ranked behind 27 other developed nations.  It is imperative that the U.S. protects its most vulnerable members of its society and those populations that are most at-risk.  It has always been the focus on treating illnesses, but we need to shift our focus on the prevention of illness into the improvement and protection of the well-being of the people and the communities.  This begins by delivery services through accessible outlets.

Find an Academic Program in Behavioral and Social Science, Health Promotion and Communication, TIPH