Behind the Coat – Gerardo Maupome, BDS, MSc, PhD.

Gerardo Maupome, BDS, MSc, PhD. headshot

Behind the Coat – Gerardo Maupome, BDS, MSc, PhD 

Our focus this April is public health. We chose to shine our spotlight on a public health pioneer who fights for health equity among all Hoosiers, Dr. Gerardo Maupome, a professor at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.  He discusses the expansive scope of public health, from understanding the complexities of health and disease to tackling mental health stigma and addressing the needs of underserved populations. 

What is the best part about doing research in Indiana? 

There are plenty of public health issues to be addressed in the real world of Indiana. 

What are your specific areas of research? 

Health of minoritized groups, immigrant health, socio-economic-cultural- behavioral factors and mechanisms underlying health and disease. 

Was there a specific incident or concern that led you into this field? 

 I literally overstayed in a lecture hall, cleaning class notes in graduate school, and started listening to the lecture of a major figure in public health in Britain. His lecture offered multiple new dimensions to placing health and disease in the larger socio-economic-cultural-behavioral dimensions. That event shifted my growth away from what had been until then a clinical career. 

Can you describe the scope and responsibilities of the public health system? Does the system primarily deal with infectious and contagious disease? 

 Any public health system has expanded its horizons to encompass health and disease well beyond the initial contagious disease paradigm. Now, these systems integrate a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying health and disease phenomena to make better sense of the complex landscape. Previously unknown mechanisms at the macro and micro levels have led to a sophisticated (and ever-expanding) perspective of where the health and disease continuum resides—from social, economic, global and cultural domains where health and disease are manifested, to their genetic, biochemical and evolutionary dimensions. 

 How do we improve the perception/reception of public health services in the community? 

By offering realistic, accessible, and relevant learning opportunities to the public so that they may acquire evidence-based knowledge to understand 1) what the health of the public means, 2) what the public health discipline is, and 3) which tools are available to prevent, investigate and solve public health problems. 

 How does the public health system address the community’s mental health needs?

It’s a huge challenge at every level. The longer-term strategies must encompass how a society is addressing now mental health problems, how common they are, how its stigma may be removed, and identifying evidence-based measures to ameliorate and treat mental public health impacts. 

What is the role of the public health system in providing the services to older adults? 

By taking a hard and rational look at how our society sees age, longevity, and the value of human life at every stage of its evolution.  

How is climate change a public health concern? 

Climate change is a public health concern through several mechanisms. It makes challenging situations more extreme (e.g., inhospitable weather); it undermines the ability of human societies to produce food and wealth (e.g., droughts); it accelerates the movement of huge masses of people (e.g., making uninhabitable large swaths of land); and it pits social groups against each other for the resources available. 

What about immigration? 

Immigration is a result of unequal access to wealth and health opportunities. As a sign of our times, drivers for immigration are becoming more important (e.g., climate change), without simple and ready solutions. 

The poor and less privileged are under-served and often overlooked, yet they may be the population that needs public health services the most. How can programs like All IN for Health help highlight the needs of that population, and the benefit of doing so for the community at large? 

Through shedding light on the socio-economic-cultural-behavioral dimensions that frame, affect, drive and condition manifestations of health and disease.