The other day while I was driving, I heard an old favorite on the radio. The song was from Brothers, an album by The Black Keys. Brothers was released in the summer of 2010, the same summer I spent immersing myself in Detroit and learning about what I would later recognize as public health.
That summer I was a part of a small team of college students given the opportunity to experience the history and community of Detroit and who witnessed and participated in health education and advocacy. I learned about harm-reduction strategies and, through a youth-led Photovoice project, the power of storytelling to mobilize. The team spent much of our time getting to know the city’s offerings, and, as we drove along Woodward and Cass, we listened to Brothers. I think now about how that summer set me on my path to public health and how I’m fortunate to have a sort of soundtrack to bring me back to the beginning of that journey.
Now, I’m many years into my public health journey, and I find myself back in Michigan. You see, most recently, I was living in Denver and working at the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. My job was to support state lawmakers from all the states and territories by providing research and policy options on a variety of public health topics. Staff or lawmakers from a particular state might reach out and ask what other states were doing to prevent teen dating violence or substance misuse, for example. I enjoyed providing such support and I learned a great deal in my role, but I also often found myself wondering, “Is Michigan facing this issue? How are lawmakers in Lansing tackling this challenge?”
That’s because I’m from Michigan. I grew up here–in a small town near Kalamazoo. I graduated from high school, college and graduate school here, and, although I spent some years living and working outside of the state, I was never apt to stay away long. Thus, while the Colorado sunshine was strong, it was ultimately no match for the pull I felt toward my home state.
And so I’m back, ready to once again support public health in Michigan. I’m ready to analyze the state’s budget and uplift the perspectives of Michiganders from across the state. I’m ready to advocate for greater access to health services and write fact sheets about what’s going on with Healthy Michigan work requirements. I’m ready—and grateful—to be a part of the important work at the League.