Posted: April 04, 2005
HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER DEAN RECALLS BEGINNINGS OF NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH WEEK
In 1995, President Bill Clinton signed a document proclaiming the first week of April National Public Health Week. Fernando Treviño, PhD, executive director of the American Public Health Association from 1993 to 1996, was at the signing ceremony that day, enjoying in one moment what took him an entire year to accomplish.
This year, the 10th anniversary of National Public Health Week, Dr. Treviño remembers his involvement with the proclamation. Dr. Treviño became the founding dean of the UNT Health Science Center’s School of Public Health five years ago.
On his office wall at the health science center is one of the original five proclamations signed by Bill Clinton.
Dr. Treviño said that the impetus for the proclamation came from Dr. Caswell Evans, who was the president of APHA at the time. Dr. Evans was the director of the Los Angeles Public Health Department and had started Public Health Week in Los Angeles. The initiative went statewide, and so when Dr. Evans became president of APHA, he requested Dr. Treviño’s help in making Public Health Week a national event.
“He approached me and said the one thing that he wanted to get done as part of his term was to
get a National Public Health Week,” Dr. Treviño said. “So we went to work on that. I got my government relations people to start talking to Donna Shalala, and we worked it for a year. We got her support, and then we went up to the president. Both of them agreed that it would be a good way to bring attention to public health.”
Later during his tenure as executive director of the APHA, Dr. Treviño was also elected president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, where he worked to build bridges and increase the visibility of public health worldwide.
“I started telling other countries what we were doing to increase the visibility of public health,” Dr. Treviño said. “What I found was that it doesn’t matter if it’s Czechoslovakia, Nigeria or China, the public really doesn’t understand public health, so the other countries were really trying to emulate the American approach.”
In looking back on his time as executive director of the American Public Health Association, Dr. Treviño points to the increased awareness of public health and increased funding of public health as successes.
“Back then, public health was really unknown by most people,” Dr. Treviño said. “I think that maybe one percent of the population could correctly identify what public is. One of the things that was really positive that I remember was the American Medical News (the newspaper of the American Medical Association) reported right at the end, after the Clinton administration was unable to reform healthcare, that the one winner out of all of the debate had been public health because, in fact, the public knew much more about public health and how important it was, and so did healthcare workers.”
When Dr. Treviño left the APHA in 1996, he went back to university life. Shortly after, he
helped start the health science center’s School of Public Health.
Since that day 10 years ago, Dr. Treviño has left the planning of National Public Health Week to officials at APHA at the national level and students at the local level, but it was his hard work 10 years ago that has spawned a national tradition that will be celebrated this year April 3-9.
Health Science Center Activities in Observance of National Public Health Week
April 8—Students from JP Elder Middle School will have essays and posters displayed at the 13th annual Research Appreciation Day, which will take place at the Center for BioHealth. The top two winners in each contest will receive gift cards.
April 11—Harrison C. Spencer, MD, MPH, president and CEO of the Association of Schools of Public Health, will visit the School of Public Health. He will speak at the Public Health Student Association meeting.
April 17—The Public Health Student Association will be working with Habitat for Humanity at two sites. The student organization will sponsor breakfast and lunch for anyone who volunteers that day.
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