White House Champions of Change: Prevention and Public Health

September 10, 2013

Team FIU in DC was present today as the White House honored eight leaders helping communities focus on prevention and public health by tackling everything from childhood obesity, reducing health disparities, fighting healthcare acquired infections, and taking various innovative steps to move us towards a healthier.  The eight finalists who were honored were selected from a pool of over 900 candidates from around the country. Honorees included Myriam Escobar of USF’S Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and others.

 Key Administration officials included:

  • Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary for Health in the HHS department,  outlined the Affordable Care Act’s National Prevention Council 4 strategies for building a healthier nation. The strategy focuses on building healthy and safe community environments, providing preventive services, individual empowerment, and eliminating health disparities Dr. Koh would be a good prospect for future FIU engagement.
  • Tom Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who talked about some of the CDC programs that have been successful thanks to resources from the Public Health Fund under the Affordable Care Act. He estimated that after 12 weeks of its “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign 100,000 people were able to quit smoking.
  • Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Policy for the Office of Health Reform in HHS, who was pleased to note the FIU presence at the event, spoke on the great number of prevention and public health projects that are being implemented throughout the country and the prospects for greater action under the Affordable Care Act.


Much of the event’s emphasis was centered on disease prevention at the community level. To illustrate this point, Assistant Secretary Koh shared that “it is not just about the goldfish, it is also about the water.” It was heartening to note that much of the Champions’ examples mirrors strategies employed in our own innovative NeighborhoodHELP™ program.  


Neighborhood HELP™ sends interdisciplinary teams of FIU students into communities of need to track and monitor the health of families throughout those students' education. Each team, which will work with 1-2 households, will include a medical student and his or her counterpart in social work, nursing and public health. Currently, there is no other known outreach program in the country that allows students and in need families to develop a long-term relationship that enhances the education of the student and the wellbeing of the family.