Mayoral candidates say education is integral to solving city’s public health issues

     Democratic mayoral candidate Doug Oliver said that collaboration between the next mayor's administration and  Philadelphia's public health leaders will be an important part of addressing the city's public health problems. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Democratic mayoral candidate Doug Oliver said that collaboration between the next mayor's administration and Philadelphia's public health leaders will be an important part of addressing the city's public health problems. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates are promising to work with the city’s many public health organizations to address issues like health education and access to care. Six of the candidates spoke at a forum on public health hosted by PHMC.

    A surprising number of candidates suggested that city government would be unable to fix Philly’s public health problems.

    But Doug Oliver, Democratic candidate and former press secretary to Mayor Michael Nutter, says that means collaboration with the city’s public health leaders will be important for the next administration.

    “There are people who spend their whole professional lives studying one specific issue,” said Oliver. “In those cases they may not be a mile wide, but they are a mile deep on those issues. There’s no way that an elected official who is more like a general contractor of city services is going to be as expert as those folks in that room. That’s why it’s that important that you have a collaborative government, one that brings in those resources to inform the thinking.”

    In response to complaints about the current administration’s fractured approach to public health, candidates also promised to better integrate the city’s public health services.

    Several of the candidates turned to their public education talking points when answering questions about Philadelphia’s many public health issues, which include high obesity and smoking rates and poor access to affordable healthcare.

    Democratic candidate and Philadelphia City Council member Jim Kenney argued that integrating services with the public school system would take the pressure off of overburdened community health centers.

    Laura Wesolowski works for PHMC’s National Nursing Centers Consortium. She said the candidates failed to mention how health services would reach families through the public school system.

    “I have a feeling that will come to them later when they see that its not just the children; it’s the families and the communities in which those schools and those families live,” said Wesolowski. “Eventually they’ll make those connections but I think today they were mostly speaking to their major talking points and education is a big part of that.”

    Audience members polled at the event said that education was the biggest public health issue facing the city.

    PHMC is a funder of WHYY.

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