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Saving Lives, Strengthening Communities: On a mission to inspire students to become change agents for healthy living
For more than a decade, Anne-Marie Coleman has been on a mission: to stamp out teen smoking and tobacco use and ultimately save their lives, their families and their communities from the high cost of smoking-related consequences including loss of life, medical care, lost wages and increased disabilities.
Coleman, PhD, MPH, LSSGB, a visiting professor for Chamberlain’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program, is passionate about helping people to make empowered health and lifestyle decisions that ultimately will improve the quality of life in their communities.
“Even as a child, I saw firsthand with my family and community the challenges some people have either because the health and help resources aren’t available to them, or they didn’t know how to connect to them,” says Coleman, an Atlanta resident, who is an active member and former president of the Georgia Society for Public Health Education. “I always knew I wanted to be a part of that bridge that could connect and strengthen communities of people, though I grew up thinking I would have to become a medical doctor to do so.”
That is until she discovered public health and the opportunity the career gave her to be the change agent in her community. Today, she works with her students at Chamberlain on their last semester e-portfolio projects, hoping to inspire them to also become agents of change who will work toward sustaining healthy communities.
“It’s very exciting and I am very proud to see the projects they are doing in the community and to invest my time in encouraging and helping them,” she says. “Some of them work in hospitals and are creating or evaluating health education programs that will make a huge impact on healthy lifestyles in the community. Others are with nonprofits and other sectors doing the same.”
In her role at Chamberlain, she teaches with words, but inspires with actions.
She also works as a consultant with policymakers and local organizations on putting processes in place on the local, state and federal level in case another population health crisis or pandemic ever happens.
Coleman especially cherishes her role “helping the next generation see the difference they can make in public health while creating positive social change.”
For her it is personal and professional.
It was during college, that she experienced a light bulb moment while taking a population health course and since then has set a course that has educated her on both the political side of health policymaking and the human side of educating people and putting policy into action to address the social determinants of health.
Coleman made a beeline from Florida where she grew up to Atlanta because “it is the public health mecca,” home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia State and other universities and organizations doing pioneering work in public health.
As the former health policy analyst for a state health agency, she took an interest in the plight of patients suffering from secondhand smoke exposure.
The statistics about smoking are staggering. And the devastation to youth even more so, she says. That’s where she dove headfirst into several projects working to educate youth on the dangers of smoking to prevent them from starting and to eliminate their exposure to secondhand smoke. She also has worked with businesses to encourage them to stop selling tobacco products, eliminate illegal sales of tobacco products and inspire quit smoking programs.
These days she’s also looking forward to what lies ahead and any other opportunities to strengthen community through her experience and work in public health.
“Working with youth showed me how smoking can be a gateway to so many other unhealthy things, like drugs and addiction, not to mention poor nutrition, or lack of exercise,” says Coleman. “There are just so many things we can do, and I look forward to all of them.”
Below are some resources for how to engage in local public health work:
Society for Public Health Education: https://www.sophe.org/advocacy/
American Public Health Association: https://apha.org/APHA-Communities
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials: https://www.astho.org/events.aspx
Chamberlain celebrates the contributions of public health professionals in making our communities safe and healthy, especially as the nation currently addresses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This National Public Health Week, join us in recognizing how public health is Building Bridges to Better Health.
Interested in learning more about how you can work with communities and populations throughout the world to promote healthy living and prevent community health problems?
By Mary Beth Sammons
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