Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed March 11, 1998
Contact: Scott Turner

Public invited to kick-off conference for new Public Health Program

The public is invited to a free conference to discuss public health policy and the role of a public health agency. The event will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, March 20, 1998, in the Ray Conference Center at Butler Hospital in Providence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Concerns over meningitis have prompted Rhode Islanders to question what roles a public health agency should play and how public health policy should relate to the medical community.

Those questions - and how public health policy should interact with academic medicine - are major themes of an inaugural conference for Brown's newly created Public Health Program. The conference will take place from 1 to 5 p.m., Friday, March 20, in the Ray Conference Center at Butler Hospital in Providence. It will be free and open to the public.

The conference's opening speaker will be Phillip Lee, M.D., former assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services and the first director of the Physician's Payment Review Commission. Advisor to two presidents, Lee is considered an originator of modern health policy. Lee will discuss the role of public health in a changing health care delivery system. Other speakers include David Lewis, M.D., and Patricia Nolan, M.D., MPH.

Lewis, who directs Brown's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, has campaigned to redirect the nation's war on drugs from battling illegal narcotic use to a public health approach that treats addiction as a chronic illness. In 1997, he established Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, a distinguished group of doctors who are reviewing the drug war and developing new policy directions. His talk will cover that effort.

Nolan is director of the Rhode Island Department of Health and clinical assistant professor at Brown. At the forefront of state efforts to respond to the realities and anxieties of meningitis in Rhode Island, Nolan will discuss the changing role of her department from service provider to regulatory agency to data distributor for consumer review.

"Dr. Nolan will help us explore what public health policy is going to be like in the next century," said Vincent Mor, organizer of the conference. "Many public health departments are structured as a way of getting information to the public and as a way of holding insurers accountable, especially insurers of the poor such as Medicaid.

"As for the meningitis concerns, Dr. Nolan's presence is a chance to discuss how the health department is responding, how public health clinics are being set up and how department personnel are responding to public health needs."

The conference inaugurates the Public Health Program, which brings together faculty, staff and students from the Brown University School of Medicine who study public health disciplines, ranging from medical sociology to HIV treatment.

"This new program will consolidate both their presence and influence in medical school education and allow them to better respond to public health issues," said Mor, who currently leads the Public Health Program. He is also director of Brown's Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research and chair of the Department of Community Health.

For information on the conference and the Public Health Program, call (401) 863-3490.