Monday, December 06, 2004

The Train is Leaving the Station: All Aboard

There has been considerable talk about the mysterious "Revere" and no little speculation. It is best to think of "him" this way: Revere doesn't exist in the real world, only online. There is no claim that Revere is a single person. Perhaps he/she/they are multiple identities or a composite identity. Or perhaps not. I can say this much: Revere represents considerable experience in public health science and policy and the foundation(s) of that experience are not "unknown" in the profession.

The choice of a "virtual" rather than a specific identity allows Revere to speak with a distinctive voice and a diction (choice of words) not constrained by the careful words required of public persons. Revere wishes that voice to include the language used daily around lunch tables and water coolers in agencies, health departments and universities when health workers are speaking plainy. Revere's language on Effect Measure can be saltier, more direct and blunter. We need plain speaking at this moment. But that kind of language can also provoke reprisal and retribution. Revere does not wish any program staff, agency or university funding to be jeopardized by his/her/their utterances off the job. Could that happen? This is the Bush Administration, dear Reader. They play rough and by their own rules. We must expect that.

Public health in America is leaderless, rudderless and dispirited. The failure is across-the-board, including the leadership of virtually the whole federal health establishment, our state health departments, our universities and schools of public health, and our labor unions, among others (Revere is an equal opportunity offender). We must not only feel free to Speak Truth to Power, but just as importantly, to Speak Truth to Each Other. That might mean challenging long held "conventional wisdom" in public health. Revere wants the freedom to do this without unintentionally alienating respected friends and colleagues. It is Open Season.

One of Revere's (not so modest) objectives is to jump-start the process of reconstructing and re-invigorating the progressive public health movement in this country and by speaking in a distinctive voice, to advance the conversation. When wrongheaded, Revere will rely on your astuteness and passion for public health to correct, cajole and inspire. We are all in this together.

There will be more, shortly, as Revere begins to discuss with everyone the nature of public health leadership, what we need, and why. The answers have yet to be articulated, but we know the old responses and styles haven't worked. This has left a vacuum that is sucking up resources and attracting the worst elements. We need to understand why this is happening, roll up our sleeves and get to work to fix it.

Since the social movements of the 1960s, in which Revere took part, a whole generation has matured, and yet another appeared. Within the ranks of public health are many young, savvy idealists. Revere (who will henceforth return to the first person, "I") believes they are ready to take the lead in a new public health movement. Climb aboard.