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.”
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 OMP@health.usf.edu.