College of Health and Human Services
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Virginia Health Commissioner Visits Mason on Listening Tour

November 9, 2018

By Danielle Hawkins

Dr. M. Norman Oliver spoke at George Mason University October 30, 2018 as part of his Listening Tour across Virginia.

At Mason, Oliver spoke about the history of public health and how it has become increasingly important to build broad coalitions that address social conditions related to public health. Since health is found in all policies – including where shopping centers and highways are built within communities – public health practitioners must ensure that health outcomes must be improved for the health and well-being of the community being affected.

Oliver shared his vision of Public Health 3.0 with the audience, a period he sees as focused on population health. Oliver also discussed some of his priorities for public health:

  • Core Functions
    The top priority is ensuring the Virginia Department of Health continues to do an excellent job on its core functions.
  • Emergency Preparedness
    Oliver also sees emergency preparedness as a priority to ensure that when disasters happen, we are prepared to respond to them, because it’s not a matter of if they will happen, but rather when.
  • Behavioral Health
    Behavioral health is a priority, including opioid addiction. He refers to addiction as “a disease of despair” and emphasizes the importance of addressing the root causes of the despair, so it is not just replaced with a different drug tomorrow.
  • Women’s Health
    Women’s health is also a priority and one full of disparities across the commonwealth. In some areas of Virginia, women must drive two hours for an appointment with an obstetrician.

Community members at Mason also discussed issues they were concerned about with the health commissioner including climate change, undocumented individuals, preventing gun violence, personalized medicine, opioid abuse, and palliative care.

Oliver concluded with remarks for Mason students, highlighting the tremendous need for both public health and clinical medicine professionals and encouraged a joining of forces between the two. 

The listening tour continues, and you can still communicate your concerns and the issues most important to you. Visit the Virginia Department of Health website to tell Dr. Oliver your thoughts and ideas about the future direction of public health in Virginia as well as any issues and challenges you feel are barriers to improving the health of your community.