Interview: Ron Davis

Community health education and health promotion are two of the top five areas of interest to our mentees in the FPHTC Online Mentor Program. Of course, there are many topics in which public health professionals play a significant role in educating the public about making safe and healthy lifestyle choices. Whether it’s energy conservation, preventing the spread of communicable diseases, or cessation of smoking and tobacco use, getting people to change is not always easy!

“While the education approach is important, it only works on a certain portion of the population,” says Rod Davis, Statewide Tobacco Policy Manager at the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida, Division of Community Health Promotion at the Florida Department of Health. Davis’ primary role is to establish the direction in which to pursue tobacco policy initiatives statewide. He provides training and technical assistance to local grantees to help them achieve policy success. “If you want to be successful in tobacco control and other realms of public health, it is essential to understand the local political process.”

Photo Credit: franciscopgomes

Photo Credit: franciscopgomes

Davis is a strong supporter of mentoring. “Mentorships can prepare future public health leaders for the realities of working in the public sphere,” he says. “One reality is that there can be a lot of frustration and a lack of appreciation for the efforts of public health. But another reality is that over time you get to see how your effort make a difference to society and how society comes to accept, appreciate, and benefit from the changes that you have made.”

Working in health promotion and community health education, especially tobacco prevention, requires tenacity and ambition. “Unlike many other arenas of public health, we face an opponent in the tobacco industry that is well-funded, well-connected, and highly adaptable,” says Davis.

When asked what skills are needed for success in this field, Davis stresses “a desire and an ability to learn.” Given that the field of tobacco control is constantly changing, public health professionals must have passion and persistence. They must be willing to study history and to develop the understanding of human behavior required to predict and combat the tobacco industry’s tactics for keeping people addicted.

Any mentee or future public health professional interested in entering the field of tobacco control should keep in mind the following:

  • Tobacco control is an interesting intersection of policy, politics, and public health.
  • Education is not the key focus of tobacco control, but a tool in its service.
  • A lot of work is done through webinars and conference calls with people throughout the state and nation.

A big thanks to Ron Davis for his insights. Click here to learn more about the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator


Interview: M.R. Street

We reached out to M.R. Street, Healthy Communities Program Analyst for Florida’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, for her thoughts on public health mentorships. “A mentorship relationship is a win-win-win. It benefits the [mentee], mentor and the public health system overall,” she says. Having mentored two students from Florida A&M University and assistant-mentored a third student, Street knows first-hand the rewards of a having a mentorship experience. The mentees’ broad range of skills and abilities, coupled with their passion for the field, is a good reminder of the reasons why she entered this field years ago.

Photo Credit: Michelle “Suncatcher Craft Eyes”

Florida’s Bureau of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion provides a comprehensive approach to preventing, detecting, and reducing complications of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In Street’s current role, she works to promote policy, environment, and systems-change strategies to improve community health, especially regarding healthful eating, physical activity, tobacco avoidance, and the built environment. “Chronic disease prevention is a fascinating field of public health and one that, in my experience, produces a high level of job satisfaction,” she says.

Unfortunately, chronic diseases account for 61.3% of all deaths in Florida and $86.3 billion in annual economic losses. To combat these effects, the bureau houses the following programs: Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Healthy Communities Healthy People, Diabetes Prevention and Control, Comprehensive Cancer Control, Breast and Cervical Early Detection, Arthritis Prevention and Education, and Epilepsy Services. But the existence of programs is not enough. “Return on investment is increasingly important as a measure of the benefit of public health programs,” says Street. It’s important that these programs are able to prove effective in impacting the overall health of Floridians.

We asked Street for her advice on must-have skills for those OMP participants wanting to enter or transition into this field. “Public health professionals should exhibit core competencies that align with the ten essential services of public health,” she recommends. Click HERE to learn more about these competencies. Of course, computer skills and certifications will vary depending on the job opportunity and location.

What can OMP participants do to prepare for a future in chronic disease prevention and health promotion? According to Street, more attention is being placed on the built environment and its impact on health. Having a greater understanding of the environmental role in healthy living could help public health professionals in encouraging healthier communities and designing effective programs.

A big thanks to M.R. Street for her insights. Click here to learn more about Florida’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator