The Power of One
Posted on: Friday, January 22, 2010A “mom” who works with me in a county public health department sent me an e-mail. Her son was going to be a college freshman in the fall. She was concerned because he had just received a coupon book from the college athletic department. The coupon book was a fundraiser for the athletic department and contained coupons for various businesses within the college town. Included were coupons for free or reduced-price alcohol at local bars. Given that these coupon books appeared to have been sent to the entire student body, and that the majority of freshmen and sophomores as well as some juniors were likely underage, this mom was concerned, not only for her son, but for the message that this was sending to underage students. She made repeated attempts to contact the college athletic department, but did not receive a satisfactory response.
I asked her permission to forward her e-mail and concerns to a Listserv of people who were interested in reducing alcohol and other drug-related problems. People on this list worked in public health, schools, law enforcement, and community organizations across the state.
The e-mail was sent and the response was quick. Within a day, someone on the list, who was good friends with the dean at the college, contacted me. She expressed her displeasure at what the school was doing and the potential message it was sending. It went against the college’s own efforts to reduce binge drinking among underage students. Within a few days there were apologies from the athletic department and statements the policies would change.
This story illustrates the important role networking can play in public health. One woman’s concerns were quickly relayed to people who could effectively advocate for healthy messages being given to underage students at the college.