The magazine of the UW School of Public Health

From the Editor: Public Health Taking the Lead

By Susan Allan, Editor-in-Chief

Most national public health conferences and major activities of the past few years have had the dual themes that we are in a time of stress but also a time of new opportunities. This issue of Northwest Public Health focuses on the ways that the field of public health can play a leading role in improving the health of communities. Although we face real challenges, it is also true that as a field, public health is uniquely positioned to make a difference with strategic use of policy, evidence-based interventions, and community partnerships.

This issue contains articles illustrating thoughtful and innovative public health activities across the region, and also presents interviews with three public health leaders from our region who have had prominent national roles. It is noteworthy that this region has produced national public health leaders beyond our modest proportion of the country’s population. We invite readers to consider why that might be the case and also to reflect on how to build upon the legacy of these leaders. 

Several articles in this issue broadly define the scope of public health roles and tools to include behavioral health and housing as part of the public health mission. Other articles focus on innovative ways immunization programs—which remain a fundamental public health activity—can find success and funding. 

Two pieces examine how putting the right data in front of the right people can facilitate policy change. Another article shows how helping those affected by health inequities to tell their own stories leads to systemic change. Accreditation is presented as an opportunity for organizational empowerment, and we close the issue with a brief glimpse into the perspectives of four recent undergraduate public health students. 

We invite you to be part of the conversation about public health leadership. For the past 10 years, the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice (NWCPHP), which publishes Northwest Public Health on behalf of the UW School of Public Health, has sponsored the Northwest Public Health Leadership Institute. This program has provided tools and skills for emerging public health leaders across the region.

As part of its tenth anniversary, the Leadership Institute has started a blog called Take the Lead. This blog provides a venue for exploring leadership questions that are relevant to public health professionals. You can access the blog at We invite you to use this forum to share your ideas about public health leadership with other public health professionals.

Finally, I’d like to announce that the journal will have a new editor-in-chief in the coming months. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, assumed the directorship of NWCPHP in March 2013 and will also be taking on the role of editor-in-chief for the journal. I have greatly enjoyed my association with all the contributors and readers who have helped bring this journal to its current state of quality and relevance. Thank you for your engagement in this shared commitment to improve the evidence base for public health practice.