Allison CasolaRichard CohenThis guest post is by APHA members Allison R. Casola, PhD, MPH, CHES, immediate past chair of APHA’s Student Assembly; and Richard J. Cohen, PhD, FACHE, president and CEO of the Public Health Management Corporation.

This week marks the milestone 25th anniversary of National Public Health Week. In the past quarter century, we have made substantial progress in efforts to raise public health awareness. We are tackling health disparities, equity and racism with vigor and might. We are steadily developing successful multi-sector partnerships to improve the lives of people everywhere. 

At the same time, in the face of COVID-19 and the dire public health challenges this type of virus presents, we must also be responsive to urgent needs, determine how we can sustain our progress, and prepare for what is yet to come. To do so, we must look to a new wave of public health trailblazers — our students and early-career professionals — to carry our call to action into the next decade. 

Students and early-career professionals are the future of public health. These dynamic, eager individuals have been creating change and highlighting key health issues across local, state, national and international levels. These young leaders are shedding light on the critical health, education, environmental and social concerns plaguing the places we eat, sleep, work, live and play. 

They are urging people of all ages, backgrounds and lived experiences to take control of their own health as well as the health and well-being of their neighborhoods and communities. Further — and perhaps most importantly — they are working together, as a cohesive unit, sharing responsibilities, ideas and workloads to keep the field of public health moving forward. 

The NPHW theme this year, “NPHW @ 25: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” could not be timelier. If we want to be smart about where we are headed, let’s be sure to understand where we have been. So, where does public health go from here? What do we do? 

There is no doubt that we will face great uncertainty, just as we are right now in trying to #FlattenTheCurve, control the spread of the , and ultimately address the physical, economic, emotional and mental aftermath of COVID-19. These are sizable undertakings. 

So while we are thinking globally, let’s be sure to act locally. Use this current crisis to raise your voice through social media. Stay informed about COVID-19, debunk myths and spread the message of “social distancing” to support children, elderly and other vulnerable populations in your communities. 

The most direct ways to move public health forward are to activate your voice and work together to harness the energy of the next generation of public health game changers. This new wave of leaders will take our research, advocacy, engagement, policy and community mobilization efforts to new heights. 

Speak up, get involved and join forces. And together, we will create the healthiest nation.