Hooray for Pubic Health*!

I sometimes joke that I got into sex education through the back door.  No, not that back door, silly…I mean that I did volunteer work in the field before pursuing formal education.  Volunteerism is a way to take our minds off our sometimes petty problems; help others who have less than we do; and try something out without making a huge commitment up front.  As a volunteer listener on the Los Angeles Sex Information Helpline (now, sadly, defunct), I received 100 hours of free training in human sexuality and communication skills.  I handled phone calls that ran the gamut from “What’s the best method of birth control” to “Is it OK to masturbate” to “Am I gay” to “Is my fetish abnormal” to “I was molested.”  And I discovered that I like talking to people about sexuality.

I learned to be a great triage person for deconstructing a problem, giving the big picture and pointing the way to next steps.  I even worked my way into paying jobs at the agency and knew I wanted to continue working in the field.  And I made several lifelong friendships.

Without more education, I knew that my future job opportunities were limited.  Some sex educators go on to become sex therapists, but I was not drawn in that direction.  It’s important, but sometimes it’s toxic clean-up.  My interest lay in trying to prevent problems before they happen.  So I got into the field of Public Health.

I love Public Health.  It’s so nonjudgmental.  The numbers are the numbers.  If good research methods are conducted, and sound data collected, then it tells us what we need to do.  There’s no judgment in terms of right or wrong, good or bad.  It’s often just common sense.  But it’s amazing how often and easily we humans ignore common sense.

Here’s a sampling of some of the common sense things I learned:

Epidemiology:  In studying what kills us or makes us sick – guess what, it usually isn’t the rare diseases that we sometimes obsess about (hence the word “rare.”)  What we need to worry about are the heart disease and cancers, violence and accidents that are in our sphere every day.  We can study the risk factors for these things and change our behavior so as to try to prevent them!  Who knew?

Maternal child health:  The first thing I wondered about this was, where’s the father?  And it turns out that’s a pivotal question that women have been asking at least as long as men have been asking what women really want (a thinly veiled cover for ‘How can I get more sex?’)  One thing we want is for fathers to stick around!  But given that they sometimes don’t, then a mother is on her own.  And turns out that whether she is or not, kids do better – much better – when the mom is educated.  When the kid is breast-fed.  When discipline does not mean spanking.  When parents are supportive instead of punitive.  All supported by decades of sound research.  If one took the time to find out.

Nutrition:  Boy, this is a big one.  And I do mean big, with more than half our country overweight.  In fact, I’m so stressed about it that I need to go eat something.  (Something tasty but healthy, of course.)  I’ll tackle this in the next installment.  And it’s widely addressed in my upcoming book Licking the Spoon, a guide to food, mood, sex and relationships.

*This was a cheap-trick typo to get your attention!  Did it work?

                                  Pubic health+                            Public health+

+The irony here is that condoms aid public health by preventing sexually transmitted conditions, and breastfeeding helps a new mother’s sexual and reproductive organs return to their pre-birth state!

(To be continued…)

25 thoughts on “Hooray for Pubic Health*!

    • I wondered how to make health a little more exciting. Maybe the “pubic” helped! (Although one friend told me he didn’t even notice it said pubic.)


  1. I do believe that pubic health is really important!!! From the human sexuality class, I have learned lots of materials that I never heard before. It help me lots of thing that I have question with which include how to count period time, birth controlled pill, etc. I really wish class like this should be mandatory!! So, at least everyone knows what are they doing!!! 🙂


    • I’m glad you’re learning so much, Jeremy. You might consider taking my Contemporary Health Issues class, although it is not an Honors class.


  2. In regards to Human Sexuality, in particular, I’m glad its in our academic curriculum. The subject and its contents are so relevant to today’s society. Without its educational value American youth, and certainly myself, would engage in reckless behavior and soon after lead a misguided life. Education is key, in all aspects of life!


  3. I am also really interested in pursuing a Master’s of Public Health! and I will be attending UCLA in the fall 🙂


  4. One of my best friends is actually a public health major. It’s a fantastic major and he’s passionate about the field. He actually wants to do epidemiology, but he doesn’t want to be on the policy end of it!

    Side note: I read voyeurism instead of volunteerism, haha!


    • Voyeurism – a Freudian slip, perhaps? I love public health, too. And I REALLY loved my epidemiology class!


  5. Public Health is so important and I’ve never been so interested in it until you! You make it so interesting and hearing your personal experiences make me want to learn more. I never really take much away from certain classes but this class I have tons of information to walk away with, so thank you!!


  6. I think that is so interesting and awesome that you got your start from volunteer work! That must have been so rewarding to help others especially when there was not a lot of information out there (In class you mentioned you worked on help lines during the scare of HIV/ AIDS) Public Health/ sexuality is important and unfortunately a lot of people do not receive a proper education or information.


  7. I would love to go further into sex education. Working in the sex industry made me love it. I am also a huge believer in good nutrition. I lost a whopping 170 pounds, and its been quite a journey to get here! I am so thankful for it though.


  8. “This was a cheap-trick typo to get your attention! Did it work?” For sure did!
    Only two more weeks left in your class and I collected lots of information that are very useful even after this semester ends, Thank You 🙂


  9. It’s really wonderful that you are doing and studying stuff you are passionate about and find truly meaningful. I hope I can find my true passion too.


  10. Public health is such an important subject and covers a wide range of topics. It’s unfortunate that people don’t seem to give enough attention to this area of study. In fact, I wonder how many diseases and health issues we can prevent if more resources and emphasis were given to the area of public health!
    P.S Pubic Health and Public Health… although it’s meant to make the topic more interesting, but I think it’s also important to note that pubic health is without question a part of public health!


  11. It’s definitely interesting to learn that you got your profession from beginning in volunteer work. i definitely agree that Public health is very important and should be emphasised in our lives.


    • Some people just think of volunteering as “working for free.” But you can gain so much. Not just the good feeling of helping, but actual skills that can lead to jobs.


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