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From left, John Mizuno, Kathryn Braun, Rosalyn Baker and Les Ihara with the congratulatory message from the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, celebrating more than 50 years of public health at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

About 25 years of the 30-year gain in life spans over the past century are due to advances in public health. So it was a celebratory atmosphere when the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Office of Public Health Services (OPHS), an academic unit in the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, celebrated National Public Health Week and the office’s 50-plus-year history.

More than 225 people gathered at Café Julia in the Richards Street YWCA to acknowledge the importance of public health. They included school and government leaders, and some of the more than 3,900 OPHS graduates who have provided more than one million hours of community service over the past decade.

3 guests at the Office of Public Health party
a guest at the Office of Public Health party

State Senators Rosalyn Baker and Les Ihara, and Representative John Mizuno bestowed a congratulatory message from the state Legislature. Commendations also were received from U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono.

Professor Kathryn Braun, director and chair of OPHS, reminded the gathering that life-extending public health advances over 50 years include public sanitation, clean water, disease control and a tobacco policy.

“I’m proud of the role UH public health has played in training public health professionals who now work in Hawaiʻi, the continental U.S. and around the world,” she said.

Added Valerie Yontz, OPHS practicum coordinator, “One of the reasons why I love public health is that it is inclusive—it includes people. We try to help those that have some disadvantages get equality with those who have abundant resources.”

The UH Public Health Faculty Research Profile publication was also officially launched at the event. Download the (PDF) of the publication.

Other comments from alumni in attendance:

“Through my public health training, I learned that much of what determines our health status is found outside the traditional clinic—from education, jobs and affordable housing, to community safety and access to healthy food.”—Robert Hirokawa, chief executive officer, Hawaiʻi Primary Care Association.

“Public health helps us to focus on the root of the problem, and addressing social determinants is core to public health. We have a responsibility to address injustice in its many forms.”—Trisha Kajimura, executive director, Mental Health America of Hawaiʻi.

“I grew up in this program. I received both my MPH and DrPH degrees here and now I’m faculty. I am grateful that I was able to stay in Hawaiʻi and not leave the state to get my degrees. I’m proud to continue the honor and responsibility of mentoring our students, while hoping to pique their interest in research.”—May Rose Dela Cruz, assistant researcher, OPHS.

—By Theresa Kreif

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