School of public health

School Notes: School of Public Health
July/August 2022

Melinda Pettigrew (interim) |

Course considers storytelling as a public health tool

Students in the Yale School of Public Health’s (YSPH) new Soda Politics class are learning how storytelling can be an important tool for public health.

Led by Neil Baer, a pediatrician with more than 30 years of experience as a writer, producer, and showrunner for several television series, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and ER, the class examines how soda became a multibillion-dollar industry and how it has affected public health along the way. 

“The course is about looking at a company or an organization through different lenses to understand its impacts,” said Baer. “We’ll be using health, environmental, governmental, philanthropic, advertising, economic, and storytelling lenses.”

Storytelling is a key part of YSPH’s Humanities, Arts, and Public Health Practice at Yale (HAPPY) Initiative, an interdisciplinary effort focused on health and the humanities. “This idea is the foremost element of the HAPPY Initiative. How do we draw on the humanities and arts to tell stories grounded in science that can make a difference in promoting public health?” Baer said.

Why Me? YSPH study examines causes of cancers

Yale researchers have developed a new molecular analysis approach that makes it possible to quantify the factors causing changes in DNA that contribute most to cancer growth in tumors of most major tumor types.

The process brings clarity to a longstanding debate over how much control humans have over developing cancer over time. “We can now answer the question—to the best of our knowledge—‘What is the underlying source of the key mutations that changed those cells to become a cancer instead of remaining normal tissue?’” said YSPH professor Jeffrey Townsend, the paper’s senior author.    

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