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Breslow Lecturer Calls for Evidence and Empathy in Public Health Communications

Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, called for public health specialists to focus on evidence, but go beyond dry facts, when communicating with the public as the speaker at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s 46th Lester Breslow Distinguished Lecture

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021
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Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the 46th UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Lester Breslow Distinguished Lecturer, called for public health specialists to focus on evidence, but go beyond dry facts, when communicating with the public.

“We’re taught in public health to respect evidence,” said Fineberg, former president of the U.S. Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), at the March 3 virtual event. “This was Lester Breslow’s absolute point of emphasis: we know the plural of anecdote is not evidence.”

The lecture honors Dr. Lester Breslow, a former dean of the Fielding School and among the first public health experts to quantify the health benefits, risks, and associations with life expectancy of exercise, diet, sleep, and smoking. More than 400 attendees registered for the event, with audience members from across the United States.

During the event, three fellowship awards were presented. Impact Fellowship winners Anna Peare (MPH '20) and Taylor B. Rogers, an FSPH doctoral student of health policy and management, as well as Kamila Tan (MPH '20), who was honored with the school’s Lester Breslow Impact Fellowship for her poetry destigmatizing eating disorders and illustrating her personal journey and path to health.

“It’s time to break the stigma— break down walls and destroy barriers and listen to one another,” Tan said. “Because it’s in the times when my heart was beating less than 40 beats per minute during the day, and I was so sick. And so lost.”

During Fineberg’s lecture, titled “Truth and Trust in Public Health,” he used Tan’s work as an example of how to reach the general public.

“People crave stories, they want to know about what happened to an individual, and those stories are memorable and convincing,” Fineberg said. “Imagine if Kamila (Tan) had taken her time just to recite facts about eating disorders; I think none of us would have been so gripped, engaged, and moved by what she was saying.”

The distinguished lecture in honor of Breslow takes place annually and includes the Lester Breslow Student Fellowship Fund awardees. A pillar of public health, Breslow’s service included his roles as president of the American Public Health Association, director of the California Public Health Department, and as a frequent advisor to the United States federal government.

To see the entire event, view here: