UW Graduate School

Lawrence Wallack

Lawrence WallackWalker Ames Lecturer

  • Emeritus Professor, Oregon Health & Science University/Portland State University School of Public Health

February 6, 2019  |   7:30 p.m.
Kane Hall, room 110

Advancing the First Language of Public Health: Community, Prevention, and Social Justice

The mission of public health — improving the health of populations — focuses on creating conditions in which people can be healthy. It is also fundamentally about social change. The goal of social change, creating a more fair and just society, is difficult to advance in public discussion. This is because a language to express the values animating that goal is inadequate.

The first “language” of American culture is individualism. A second American language of community is rooted in progressive social values that are common to the American experience. It also serves as the first language of social change and the first language of public health.  While these values resonate with many Americans, they are not easily articulated. There is also a very strong tradition of not trusting government, particularly “big government,” that is embedded our first language.

Consequently, personal-behavioral, individualistic understandings of public health problems prevail. Advancing a social change/public policy approach to the nation’s challenges such as prevention requires invigorating America’s second language by recognizing the underlying core social justice values that are the basis for public health.

About Lawrence Wallack

Lawrence Wallack is Emeritus Professor, Oregon Health & Science University/Portland State University School of Public Health and Distinguished Fellow of the Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness in the OHSU School of Medicine. He is also Emeritus Professor of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.  He served for nine years (2004-13) as Dean, College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University.

Dr. Wallack has been honored with various awards and was one of the original recipients of the Innovators Award (2000-05) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  This award recognized lifetime achievement and innovation in the area of prevention. In 2018 he was named one of the 75 most influential alumni in the 75 year history of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.  He has been a member of several Institute of Medicine committees and is a Lifetime National Associate of the National Academies based on “extraordinary contributions through pro-bono service to National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.”

Dr. Wallack’s current work focuses on (1) translating the science of developmental origins of health and disease into public health policy and practice on a community, regional, and statewide level in Oregon; and, (2) developing communication-framing strategies to advance social justice- based policies to improve the public’s health.

Sponsoring Departments

  • UW Graduate School
  • School of Public Health
  • Department of Communications
  • School of Social Work