Monday, July 15, 2013

Local Politics Done Right

(Yes, this is basically a clip show.  But it's 97 degrees outside and we could all use a little P&R.) 

(Photo credit:
Parks & Recreation is my favorite show on television.  Writer/creator Mike Schur is my hero and this episode should be required viewing in every health policy program.  Set in fictional Pawnee, Indiana ("the 9th most obese city in the US"), the hilarious show has some surprisingly real public health moments, especially when it exemplifies the tension between population health and individual freedom as well as those between eating and abstaining from Paunch Burgers.  In today's post, we break down, on a scale of 0 to Public Health, which character is the most public health of them all.

Ron Swanson:  0

If this scale could tip negative, Swanson's steady diet of bacon, distaste for child labor laws, and distrust of the medical establishment, would send his score far below 0.  Despite being the Director of the Parks & Recreation department, Swanson practices what he preaches, and that is anti-government intervention.  It's true, Ron, people were much tougher back then, but there were also more dead babies.

(Also scoring 0s: Jerry Gergich, Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, and Pawnee Animal Control.  Councilman Jamm doesn't deserve to be scored.)

Donna Meaglepp

Donna is a tough one.  Sure, her tweets are great, she knows Ginuwine, and subscribes to the Treat Yo' Self philosophy.  But all that cunning and self interest neither promote nor deter population health.  She does, however, invest in local business while also working toward public interest, and is one of the department's few competent employees.  For her embodiment of successful public-private partnerships, we give her a little credit.

Tom Haverfordpp

See also, Donna Meagle.

Andy Dwyer & April Ludgateppp

No one commits like Andy.  Whatever he lacks in his knowledge of the healthcare system, he makes up for with a steady devotion to the Department and the public's well-being.  Sure, he could not be more detrimental to his own well-being, but he is a faithful public servant striving for the public good.

April is the perfect yin to Andy's yang.  He cares, she does not.  She's shrewd, he's not.  But when she puts her mind to it, April is a savvy policy maker in the making and has an eye for the big picture- a must have in public health.

Ann Perkinspppp

Technically the only character who works for the Department of Health, Ann Perkins scores high for trying, though often unsuccessfully, to mount public health campaigns in the city, including sex education for city employees, water fountain sanitation, and curbing candy consumption.  In her personal life, though, Ann is a noted jogging and salad hater (though who can blame her).

Chris Traegerpppp

With a resting heart rate of 23 beats per minute, Chris Traeger is the healthiest person in Pawnee and an indefatigable promoter of well-being.  Unrelentingly upbeat, unfortunately, Chris's downfall is his perfection: others find his diet and exercise un-relatable and gives public health a bad name.

Ben Wyattpppp

He has a cute butt, a sensible lifestyle, and the political savvy to put progressives in office.  In essence, Ben is the anti-Ron Swanson.  But like Chris, Ben's downfall is in his inability to make public health promotion seem fun.  Most notably, his horrendous Low-Cal Calzone Zone idea.

Leslie Knope: 11,004p  (yes, out of 5)

Leslie's worth is in her work: through her tenures at the Parks Department and on the City Council, Leslie has created green spaces, reduced obesity rates, and contained the city's animal control problems.  But that doesn't mean she's a model of individual health herself:  Leslie puts sugar in spaghetti sauce, has a waffle addiction, and could be in better shape.  But through her imperfections, she embodies the give and take required of good public health practice.

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