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Fitzgerald: Summit With Top Taiwan Health Officials a “Major Success”

August 22, 2014

It was the third summit this year among the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and other international health leaders, and one DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., labeled an “unprecedented chance at learning” and “a major success.”

Dr. Fitzgerald and other DPH leaders met last week in Atlanta with senior government officials from the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare to exchange ideas and best practices to protect the public. The two-day visit of top Taiwanese health officials, including Dr. Ming-Kung Yeh, director-general of the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration under the Ministry of Health and Welfare, included visits to Atlanta health facilities and the CDC.

“Our health infrastructures and our needs so closely resemble one another, I’m confident everyone gained a new level of public health knowledge,” Dr. Fitzgerald said, following a summit hosted by Georgia State University and involving well over 100 DPH employees.

“Georgia people are what make Georgia so great,” said Dr. Yeh. “Dr. Fitzgerald and her team at Georgia Public Health have a strong grasp on what the challenges are and a great vision on how to make strides toward overcoming those challenges.”

Dr. Yeh’s presentation to the crowd gathered at GSU’s School of Public Health centered on the importance of public communication – a vital component in Taiwan’s response to a widespread contamination of cooking oil in 2013, Dr. Yeh said at the summit hosted by Dean Michael Eriksen of GSU’s School of Public Health.

“We recognized the contamination problem and the dangers it posed to the people of Taiwan. Through open and honest communication with health officials and the media, with consideration to the business interests, we were able to eliminate that threat,” said Dr. Yeh.

DPH Chief of Staff Jamie Howgate joined the tour last week and was impressed by how well the delegation bonded with the people at each stop.

“The generosity, the openness, the friendliness and the high level of idea exchange was phenomenal,” said Howgate. “We come from different cultures but still the idea sharing presented an amazing opportunity for us.”

Dr. Fitzgerald says she was glad her staff got to meet the delegation from Taiwan. And she’s hoping to apply some of what she learned in Taiwan to practices in Georgia.

“In Taiwan, they have a whole center that just opened that is dedicated to increasing physical activity in older populations,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. “I would like to see Georgia consider what benefits this may have for us, and look for ways to implement such activities.”

In a May visit to Taiwan, Dr. Fitzgerald and others toured local and rural communities to observe Taiwanese health systems and customs, and to speak with officials at the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, Health Promotion Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration.

In June, Dr. Fitzgerald was part of a delegation of state officials joining Gov. Nathan on a five-day economic and information-sharing mission to Israel.

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