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Fitzgerald, Frieden Discuss Georgia Health at GPHA Conference

March 21, 2014

With a nod toward Georgia’s work in building public-private partnerships to improve health outcomes in the state, Tom Frieden, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted progress in several focus areas of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), including the department’s work to reduce childhood obesity and prevent new infections acquired by patients while in hospitals.

DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., convened for the closing session of the 2014 GPHA conference.

“We’re encouraged, for example, with your progress in health care-associated infection work,” Frieden said, noting Georgia’s work in antibiotic stewardship and health care-associated infection prevention, which was published earlier this month in the CDC’s Vital Signs report

Frieden’s remarks came before a crowd of about 400 attendees at last week’s annual conference of the Georgia Public Health Association in downtown Atlanta. After two days of educational workshops and keynote addresses, the conference concluded with an on-stage discussion between Frieden and DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D.

“We’re symbiotic,” Fitzgerald said during the discussion as she spoke of Georgia SHAPE, a DPH-led collaborative program to reduce childhood obesity and increase overall fitness levels through movement and exercise. Georgia SHAPE’s new Power Up for 30 school fitness program has now voluntarily enlisted 243 schools, each pledging to add 30 minutes of additional physical activity every school day.

“It’s 30 minutes of increased physical activity every day, every school, every child in Georgia,” Fitzgerald said.

Frieden closed the discussion with a reminder of the great opportunities that exist to enact real public health change.

“The biggest thing for us all to keep in mind is that changing health is not like changing the weather. With weather, you can describe it, you might be able to predict it, but you certainly can’t change what’s going to happen. With health, we can control it. We have within our communities the ability to determine whether people live long and healthy lives,” he said. “In working together we can help Georgia get much healthier.”

Another conference highlight was the annual GPHA Awards ceremony, where more than 20 of public health's brightest leaders were recognized for their contributions in various public health fields.

Diane Weems, M.D., district health director for the Coastal Health District, who served as this year's GPHA Awards Committee Chair, said the awards were a chance to say thank you to some of the hardest-working people in public health.

"Sometimes public health workers are unsung heroes. They spend each day caring for and protecting people in their communities, many of whom they may never meet," said Weems. "They may seldom receive thanks, which is why we need to let these public health champions know we value their commitment."

The winners of the 2014 GPHA Awards are:

  • Dianne McWethy, Administration Outstanding Service Award
  • Dan Stephens, M.D., Fred Agel Governance Award
  •  Michelle Allen, Janet Stancliff Epidemiology Award
  • Scott Uhlich, Environmentalist of the Year Award
  •  Melissa (Moose) Alperin, Kathy Miner Health Education and Promotion Award
  •  Roland Brown, Larry W. Miller Health Information Specialist Award
  • Expert panel of the Clayton County Perinatal and Infant Health Coalition – Alfred Brann, Jr., M.D., George Wendell Bugg, Jr., M.D., Anne Lang Dunlop, M.D., Fleda Mask Jackson, Ph.D., Timothy Brown, M.D. – Maternal and Child Health Community Service Award
  •  Richard Weber, D.M.D., Georgia Dental Award of Merit
  •  Deidre Howell, Lillian D. Wald Public Health Nursing Award
  • Patricia Ellis, Ruth B. Freeman Award for Population Health Practice
  • Wanda Aker, Maggie Kline Nursing Award
  • Paula M. Frew, Ph.D., Al Dohany Award for Community Service
  • Donna W. Cadwell, Jules S. Terry Memorial Award
  • Debbie P. Hagins, M.D., Primary Health Care Leadership Award
  • J.P. Banks, Behavioral Health Worker of the Year Award
  • Dominique Hardman, Office Personnel Outstanding Service Award
  •  Lisa M. Carlson and C. Todd Jones, Honorary Members

PHWEEK will highlight these winners and their contributions to Georgia public health in a series of upcoming blogs. Look for their stories beginning next week.

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