There aren’t exactly celebrities in the field of public health, but a few of the biggest names are in Atlanta this week for the National Environmental Public Health Conference (NEPHC). For one, Thomas Frieden, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control, got a rock star reception when he addressed the 1,100 conference attendees primarily from academia, nonprofit organizations and government entities on Monday.
Frieden, formerly the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health, was recently appointed by the Obama administration to head the CDC, based on his successes in New York. Menu labeling laws, trans fat bans, increased cigarette taxes and smoke-free bars and restaurants all were enacted on his watch (with the support of his former boss Mayor Mike Bloomberg, himself a champion of public health). In Frieden, it’s clear we have not only an advocate for environmental health, but also a skillful leader who understands the policy process and the best strategies for achieving meaningful changes.
Other representatives from federal agencies spoke about their efforts to reduce potentially harmful chemical exposures in food, air and water. The deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan, spoke of her desire for a more regional food system and improved food safety and school nutrition standards. She even mentioned the agency’s commitment to organic produce, showcased at an organic garden at the USDA headquarters in Washington. Hmmm, I wonder if USDA got the same backlash from the pesticide industry that Michelle Obama received after planting her organic garden at the White House? Read More >