Hunger is a public health problem – Kansas Public Health Association, Virginia Lockhart Health Education Award, 9/19/13

Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch’s remarks upon receipt of the Virginia Lockhart Health Education Award from the Kansas Public Health Association, September 19, 2013

 I NEED TO BEGIN BY SAYING THANK YOU

1) I wish to thank Pamela O’Neal a former student, constant friend and support, and public health cliff jumper for nominating me for this award

2) I am thankful to the KPHA for honoring me with an award named after a true KS public health pioneer, Virginia Pence Lockhart

3) I am eternally grateful to the Kansas Health Foundation for endowing Wichita State University and the Elliott School of Communication with the gift that funded the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication which I have been honored to hold since August 2007. This position has allowed me to follow my passions in support of community-based approaches to research & health promotion 

4) I would like to thank my students, friends and family who both jump off cliffs with me and show me other cliffs to conquer

5) I would like to especially thank my son Stefan who is with me today and my daughter Alyssa who is a junior at UNLV for their constant love, support, and adventurous spirits. 

 WHAT IS MY PERSPECTIVE ON PUBLIC HEALTH?

 I would like to build on the perspective of Virginia Pence Lockhart – who stated in 1965 “Health cannot be given to the people, it demands their participation – beneficial action follows self education”. From my perspective, individuals and communities need to educate themselves on public health issues, while public health educators need to educate themselves on communities. Effective public health initiatives must be appropriately tailored to contexts.

 WHO AM I IN PUBLIC HEALTH?

 In the words of Rick McNary, founder of Numana Inc. of El Dorado, KS, I am in the hunger space. 

1) It gives me PAUSE that in 2012, 14.5% of US households were food insecure – 72% of them families with children. Food insecurity impacts more than 49 million Americans.

2) It gives me PAUSE that the US House of Representatives is considering a proposal to cut the SNAP program while millions of Americans are struggling to find good jobs and to afford healthy food for their families.

In public health, we talk about obesity epidemics – 1/3 of adults and 17% of children – 25.5% of the total U.S. population are obese – that’s 79 million people.

We talk about a diabetes epidemic – 8.3% of the U.S. population, 25.8 million people have type 2 diabetes.

However, it gives me PAUSE that we often overlook the potential role food insecurity may play as an underlying contributor to these problems.

 While these issues give me pause, 

1) I am INSPIRED that there are legislators who “get it”. More than 30 legislators took the SNAP Challenge to eat on $4.50 a day during August. I am grateful for the insights they gained.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly  IL stated – “You can’t get the healthiest foods because they’re too expensive”. 

Congressman Jim McGovern MA concluded – “People in this country should have a right to food, to have enough to eat, to have access to nutritious food. 

2) I am INSPIRED by Numana, Inc. and Stop Hunger Now and their food packaging efforts that allow people to “get their hands dirty” to “feed the starving” people around the globe. Empowering people leads to sustainable change.

3) I am INSPIRED by my students who even today are planning what has morphed from a WSU Hunger Awareness Day in 2010 to a month long campus-wide collaboration.

4) I am INSPIRED by our community and university partners around the world who have shared their experiences with us and invited us to speak on their campuses using our experiences as a model to help them form their own initiatives.

SO, WHAT CAN WE AS PUBLIC HEALTH PROVIDERS DO?

 1) We can educate ourselves:

Join the Wichita State University Hunger Awareness team and me. Take the SNAP Challenge and live on $4.50 a day for food! We’ll be doing this over the next two weeks. We want your blog posts, facebook posts, tweets, emails.  We understand people best when we can walk in their shoes.

2) We can take steps in our daily lives to make a difference:

Shop the Feed USA Target/ Feeding America collection sponsored by Lauren Bush at local Target stores.

Take part in the No Kid Hungry Campaign – You eat at their restaurants; they donate. Participating restaurants in the Wichita area taking part are Arby’s, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, Cici’s Pizza.

Join me for the 4th Kansas Hunger Dialogue – which will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita on February 26, 2014. Join university and community partners to discuss strategies to wipe out hunger here in Kansas and talk about model programs we have already developed.

Lobby Congressional representatives! Critical decisions that impact the most vulnerable Americans are under consideration now. We must make our voices heard.

In closing, I would like to quote Bob Dole & Tom Daschle in their LA Times article published September 19, 2013. “As a nation blessed with a bounty of food, we are a nation with a duty to fight hunger”.  

Food insecurity is a public health problem.  

Food insecurity is a public health problem that impacts many other public health problems.

ImageEducated, we’ve got the power to end hunger and food insecurity, perhaps not by 2015 as the UN Millennium Goals outlined, but in our lifetimes. 

Thank you again for bestowing this prestigious award on me. 

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