Reflection on Coca-Cola

Conflicted Feelings About a New CDC Director

President Trump has finally appointed a new CDC director. Brenda Fitzgerald, an OB/GYN, is already on the job. Before she took this assignment last week, she was Georgia’s public health commissioner. From colleagues and non-partisan policy folks, we hear high praise. From more ideological folks, we hear a little grumbling.

“An Ideal Leader from the Front Lines of Public Health”

Fitzgerald is president-elect for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. This group represents public health agencies and their staffs. Executive director Michael Fraser praised her appointment:

Dr. Fitzgerald’s firsthand experience working at the front lines of public health and dealing with real-time health emergencies make her an ideal leader.

Likewise, APHA executive director Georges Benjamin expressed high hopes for the leadership Fitzgerald will provide.

Grumbling about the Georgia SHAPE Program

The grumbling relates to Fitzgerald’s signature program in childhood obesity. The Georgia SHAPE initiative won praise for promoting physical activity in schools. But it also attracted criticism for accepting a million dollars in support from Coca-Cola.

That grumbling is tiresome. It reflects an intolerance for dialogue that has no place in a thriving democracy. Dialogue, integrity, and transparency are all vital. Public-private partnerships can support public health, as the Partnership for a Healthier America and the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation have shown.

Set the grumbling aside. Fitzgerald is clearly a professional who believes in the mission of public health.

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Reflection on Coca-Cola, photograph © LadyDragonflyCC / flickr

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July 11, 2017