Public Health Awakened: A movement whose time is now

Donald Trump made many promises on the campaign trail, many of which were unconscionable to those working to advance health, equity, and justice. Those promises and the harmful and hateful rhetoric of the campaign are well embodied in Trump’s 100 Days Plan — a set of proposals articulating the Administration’s agenda and priorities.

If anything is clear from these initial weeks, it is that Trump and his enablers are ready and willing to act, often spitefully, on this regressive and anti-democratic vision of America.

About the plan, let us say loud and clear: There is no end to the harms that may be inflicted on people, families, and communities. Both because of the actual policies proposed AND because of the ethos of divisiveness and bigotry that undergird every element in this plan.

In this climate, public health advocates — especially those operating from a structural and social determinants framework — have endless opportunities to resists the harms to health. One of our first responsibilities is to understand, what is at stake for the health of communities?

Here’s a snapshot:

Illustration of social determinants of health

Original drawing of social determinants by Sam Bradd. HIP adapted this drawing to include impacts resulting from the 100 Days Plan. Learn more about the origins of this image and the indigenous communities it was created with at:

In brief, you can see that every building block of health — at the individual, institution, or community level — is bound to lose, with the impacts disproportionately felt among black and brown folks, immigrants, queer folks, and others who don’t identify as part of our dominant society.

Today, many health stakeholders are setting their sights on protecting as much of the Affordable Care Act as possible, including the Public Health and Prevention Fund. It’s understandable. However, as people passionate to get at the root causes of poor health and health inequities, we must figure out how to align and be in solidarity with wider social justice movements to protect all these other elements as well. We must remember to keep our sights set on this big picture and figure out how to multiply our power and voice.

One way Human Impact Partners is doing that is through Public Health Awakened, an emerging movement organizing for health, equity, and justice — formed in response to the Trump administration. We work with social justice movements on strategic and collective action to resist the threats faced by communities of color and low-income communities and to create a world in which everyone can thrive. We are calling on public health nonprofits, government agencies, academics, and others to courageously step up and use their power — their evidence, expertise, voice, and resources — to protect and promote people’s lives and communities.

You can request to join Public Health Awakened.


One of our initial activities was to publish Public Health Actions for Immigrant Rights: A Short Guide to Protecting Undocumented Residents and Their Families for the Benefit of Public Health and All Society. You can read more about this resource in our recent blog post here.

We’ve also got a group of folks diving deep into a health-frame analysis of a few areas in the 100 Days Plan — immigration, infrastructure, ACA — to better understand the impacts and identify ways to respond.

For a long time, I lamented that ours is a profession that does not maximize its voice and power — and no doubt, I have been guilty of the hedging and risk avoidance that comes with my public health training. A community organizer I talked with described public health as “under-leveraged” and ripe to be organized.

Since the election, I’ve felt moved to confront this reality. There is no doubt at all that our time has come and the moment is now. If not now, in the face of all these risks, then when?

To stay connected with this work and other things Public Health Awakened will do, please join us.