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Taylor Cusher
Associate Director, FasterCures
Taylor Cusher is an associate director at FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute, where she supports several programmatic areas including The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN), the Philanthropy Advisory Service and Consortia-pedia.
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3 Trending Topics in Public Health You Can’t Miss

By: Taylor Cusher
December 21, 2016

It is never worth the effort to reinvent the wheel. At FasterCures and the Milken Institute, we look to other sectors for outside perspectives to keep pushing forward innovation. When sectors collide, and different viewpoints are shared, everyone involved is pushed to think more creatively and consider how to get beyond the ways things “have always been done.”

FasterCures has done this by bringing stakeholders together at our annual conference, Partnering for Cures, where 3-D printing might be mentioned in the same breath as Oreo cookies. This type of engagement with other sectors poses a great opportunity for learning and developing even more fruitful efforts in the future. These learnings can come from not just fields that are far from the ones we work in, but also those that are more closely related. 

With public health and medical R&D being inextricably linked, here are three hot topics in public health that medical R&D that other fields should be paying attention to:

1. Big Data for Prevention

“Big Data” is a universally hot topic these days. As we generate more and more information by using smartphones, tablets, wearables and other connected devices, there are ample opportunities to harness this data for improving our health. In the medical research field, these types of data are looked to for informing patient preferences, gathering real-world evidence, understanding the influence of genetics and genomics on health, to name just a few applications. In public health, this data can be used for prevention efforts. From tracking steps to prevent obesity, to apps that analyze suspicious moles for skin cancer, the opportunities for harnessing the power of “Big Data” for prevention are endless. As the models for gathering and analyzing large quantities of data are maximized, the health of the public is poised to benefit immensely.

2. One Health

An emerging global movement, One Health recognizes the connection between the health of people, animals and the environment. The goal of this approach, which is promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The World Bank and the American Public Health Association, is to encourage collaboration and a multi-disciplinary approach to achieve the best health all.  At least 60 percent of infectious diseases that affect humans originate in animals, so understanding the balance and connection between people, animals and the environment is essential for the health of our world. November 3, 2016 was the first annual One Health Day and involved organizations around the globe hosting events, sharing messages, and highlighting the need for a more collaborative approach in this arena.

3. Outbreaks & Emergencies

Both research and public health are always preparing for the next outbreak or emergency response. As we’ve seen with Zika and health concerns related to natural disasters, a swift response is necessary and preparation is vital. Zika was not a new virus, it had been seen around the world since the late 1940’s and we shouldn’t have had to wait until Congress could pass emergency funding to begin looking for a vaccine or cure. Predicting and preparing for the next outbreak is up to all of us. Public health professionals are always looking for patterns of what might strike next or what disease could mutate or spread to cause epidemics and pandemics. The medical research field needs to be on its toes preparing for what condition may need emergency funding and coordinated research next.

The more we can bring sectors together to share ideas and collaborate, the more innovation we will see. That is the belief of FasterCures and the Milken Institute. Paying attention to the hot topics of related fields, like medical research and public health, creates opportunities that both fields, and anyone else paying attention, can learn from.

Additional Information:

As part of the Milken Institute’s 2016 mentorship program, I have explored Milken Institute’s overall work in public health and have looked at connections between public health and medical research to show how systemic issues, barriers to progress, and innovative solutions can be shared between FasterCures’ focus and the foundation of the new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Center for Public Heath.


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