They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but changing unhealthy behaviors is not always a simple matter—as anyone who has tried to stop smoking or lose weight can tell you. It’s that much more complicated when the goal is encouraging healthy choices for an entire community. The public health work of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, described by Jennifer Kaylin in this issue’s cover story (“Promoting Health, From the Ground Up”), is even more ambitious in that its goal is to help not just one community but a half-dozen New Haven-area towns. When you consider that Yale-Griffin is one of 28 such centers across the United States, you get a true idea of the scale and scope of the undertaking.
Nonetheless, the guiding principles of the projects are that the solutions to some national public health challenges are local, rather than global or grandiose, and that people will solve their own problems when aided by solid information derived from careful research. The community-academic partnership has already produced results: close to half the suburban high school students enrolled in the center’s smoking cessation program quit cigarettes, and in New Haven a dozen churches have educated their parishioners about diabetes prevention through a partnership with Yale-Griffin.
The other feature article this summer (“The Silent Scourge of Development”) looks at a public health crisis in Africa that evolved predictably but without restraint over several decades and has affected hundreds of thousands of people. Here, too, the prevention of disease—in this case schistosomiasis spread by freshwater snails in the Senegal River—was a key goal championed by Yale researchers hired in the 1970s to evaluate the public health impact of dam construction. Unfortunately, their recommendations were ignored. Kohar Jones, M.D. ’05, who wrote her medical school thesis on this topic after several trips to Senegal, does a skillful job of describing the economic and cultural backdrop to the crisis and telling a story that connects several generations of Yale scholars.
On a sad note, we received the news that the former managing editor of Yale Medicine, Marjorie B. Noyes, died on May 7. A 1953 graduate of the School of Art and Architecture, Noyes kept the magazine on the mark and on schedule from 1971 to 1986, according to former Editor and Deputy Dean Arthur Ebbert Jr., M.D., now a professor emeritus of medicine. “She was a very careful, very meticulous editor,” says Ebbert. “We would discuss what we wanted to put in each issue, and then she made sure it all got done.” Noyes’ history of New Haven industry, co-edited with Preston Maynard, was published in January. This issue of Yale Medicine is dedicated to her memory.