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Five Powerful Public Health Quotes

July 26, 2021

Throughout the ages, great public health leaders have helped inspire extraordinary solutions to pressing public health issues.1 Inspiration can come from anywhere, however. Sometimes the most inspirational and powerful public health quotes come from people who aren't technically in the public health field. It may be that a speaker's prominence that sparks our interest, and deservedly so, but it's ultimately the quote itself that inspires our souls, ignites our willpower and energizes us to take action. From small communities to entire nations, people who are inspired by powerful words often find within themselves extraordinary energy to fix ailing healthcare systems, meet longstanding needs and care for suffering neighbors.

In this post, we offer five public health quotes that are sure to inspire and energize you. We share the origins of these public health quotes and explore the names and brief biographies of the people who offer us such powerful inspiration.

Five Public Health Quotes That Will Inspire & Energize You

These 5 public health quotes are full of simple truths that spark the soul and hopefully fuel your passion to help better public health. We think you'll agree that the lives and projects of the quote authors are truly impressive, too.

Josette Sheeran

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This isn't one of those rare diseases that we don't have the solution for. We know how to fix hunger. A hundred years ago, we didn't. We actually have the technology and systems [now].
Josette Sheeran, speaking at an official TEDGlobal Conference in July 2011

At the time of this speech2, Ambassador Josette Sheeran was the executive director of the UN's World Food Program (WFP). She was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006. In 2012, Sheeran assumed the role of vice-chair of the World Economic Forum where she helped advance global initiatives such as Grow Africa, attracting $4 billion to help end hunger and malnutrition in Africa.

Currently, Ambassador Sheeran is serving as the executive chairman of the [Sen. John S.] McCain Institute.3

Michelle Obama

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Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women.
Michelle Obama, speaking at the US State Department Women of Courage Award Ceremony, March 11, 2009.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama spoke these inspirational words on Women's Day in the first term of her husband, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America4. She is the first African-American First Lady, an impressive role model for women, and a strong advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education and international adolescent girls education.

Michelle Obama is also a lawyer and an author.5 Since leaving the White House, Michelle's influence has remained strong. For three consecutive years (2018–2020), she has ranked #1 in Gallup's Most Admired Woman in America Poll.6

Daniel Akaka

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A tremendous amount of needless pain and suffering can be eliminated by ensuring that health insurance is universally available.
US Senator Daniel Akaka, Democrat from Hawaii

The original event and date of this powerful statement are unknown but the quote is widely published online. US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard attributed these words to Senator Akaka on Sept. 29, 2017, predating Senator Akaka's passing.7

Daniel Kahikina Akaka served as a US Senator from Hawaii from 1990 to 2013. He was the first Senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry and the only Chinese American Senate member.8 Senator Akaka was highly regarded as a champion of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans during his time in Washington, DC. He sponsored bills enhancing Hawaiian education programs and a resolution acknowledging the role of the US government in the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. In 2014, the National Education Association awarded the Human and Civil Rights Award to Akaka, recognizing him as a ground-breaking educator who introduced the Native Hawaiian culture and language into schools.9

When Senator Akaka passed away at age 93 on April 6, 2018, Former President Barack Obama remembered him as a "tireless advocate for working people" and a leader who embodied the aloha spirit.10

Tom Frieden

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I loved clinical practice, but in public health, you can impact more than one person at a time. The whole society is your patient.
Dr. Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, speaking to Newsweek, May 18, 2009

Dr. Tom Frieden related to Newsweek11 that he recognized his calling to serve public health when he was working with Manhattan's Dominican community while still in medical school. Clearly appreciative of Dr. Frieden's intense dedication, Newsweek responds, "Frieden brings passion to a field that few people think of passionately." Newsweek continues, "At 48, Frieden has created in New York what is arguably the most effective and innovative public-health department in the country."11

Frieden's experience and prominence paid big dividends. With the rise of the H1N1 Swine Flu in 2009, President Obama appointed Frieden as the new head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).11 These days, Dr. Tom Frieden is president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a Vital Strategies Initiative. He also serves as a Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations.12

Jamie Oliver

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The public health of five million children should not be left to luck or chance.
Jamie Oliver, speaking in an interview with The Guardian, April 21, 2012

Campaigning for more than a decade to improve school food nutrition13, Jamie Oliver successfully helped usher in Britain's nutrient-based standards for school meals in 2008. Oliver, a celebrity TV chef and food campaigner, responded publicly in 2012 as the UK education secretary offered support to flagship academies seeking a waiver from the national school nutrition standards. Clearly fired up about the issue, Oliver criticized, "This mantra that we are not going to tell [academy] schools what to do just isn't good enough in the midst of the biggest obesity epidemic ever."13

Chef Jamie Oliver's rise to fame began in 1999 with the launch of The Naked Chef, a TV series in which Oliver stripped his recipes down to the bare essentials, demonstrating the simplicity of food preparation. The series ran for three seasons, after which Oliver established the Fifteen Foundation in 2002. Based in London, the program offered opportunities for underprivileged youths to gain culinary work experience at Olivers' Fifteen Restaurant. This successful project was chronicled in Jamie's Kitchen, a 5-part documentary TV series that aired in late 2002.14

Feeling Energized?

As you can see from these powerful and inspirational public health quotes, people from all walks of life have helped protect countless lives by promoting greater awareness of public health. If you're feeling energized about making positive changes in the public health field, our affordable and 100% online MPH will inspire you to start climbing the ladder of public health without having to take time off to get a master's degree.

With three dynamic specializations, Epidemiology, Health Policy and Management (HPM), and Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS), an online Master of Public Health from Kent State will equip you with the exceptional skills, training and knowledge to accomplish your highest goals.