Public Health Professor Serves as President of Kentucky Public Health Association

Published on April 18, 2022

Eastern Kentucky University associate professor of public health Dr. Molly McKinney has served the past year as president of the Kentucky Public Health Association (KPHA). One of McKinney’s final acts will be to preside over the annual conference scheduled for April 20 - 22 in Bowling Green. 

McKinney’s term has been interesting as she’s led the association through one of its toughest times.

“This past year has been one of incredible stress, overload and resilience for the public health field and its practitioners,” McKinney said. “As president of KPHA, I hoped to lead the organization through the post-pandemic world. My focus this year has been on practitioner resilience and self-care, as well as equity in public health for underrepresented groups including: racial, ethnic and sexual orientation/gender identity. As the first LGBTQ+ president of the organization, this push for equity is of the utmost importance to me.”

Founded in 1949 as a nonprofit volunteer organization, KPHA’s mission is to “promote healthy communities through advocacy, education and leadership.” 

McKinney said various members of the organization are intimately involved in the legislative process as part of their full-time jobs and were able to advocate for specific topics on the agenda, such as fluoridation of drinking water and the local control of tobacco and vapor products. Other members submitted letters of support on behalf of the group on these issues. 

Other items on McKinney’s agenda included self-care for public health professionals and professional development programs. 

“The Workforce Development Committee is working diligently toward creating professional development programs for Kentucky public health practitioners and professionals,” she said. “This will be a great opportunity to grow our organization while assisting the workforce. These programs are designed to also benefit students and professionals early in their careers.

The mission of KPHA, which was organized in 1949, is “to promote healthy communities through advocacy, education and leadership.” The importance of public health and the role of KPHA was evident over the past year in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. KPHA as a member organization is positioned to address “critical issues relating to legislation at the local, regional, and state levels” and provides numerous workshops and seminars for members and interested citizens each year.  

Dr. Michelyn Bhandari, interim chair of the Department of Health Promotion & Administration  noted that “Dr. McKinney’s heart for service, equity, and social justice make her a perfect fit for this leadership position.  She is also gifted at bringing smiles to the faces of those around her.   After a challenging year for public health, I think Dr. McKinney’s leadership is just what we needed.” 

McKinney joined the faculty at EKU in 2011. Her primary teaching responsibilities include Introduction to Global Health, Social Marketing and Advocacy in Public Health, Women’s Health, Human Sexuality and Mental Health Education. 

Although McKinney’s term in leadership with KPHA is nearly complete, she said she will continue to work toward equity in this field. 

“Health should be seen as a human right,” she said. “Every single person should have the capacity to attain and maintain his/her/their health. No ifs, ands or buts. With this ideology, equity within public health and healthcare is the standard. Unfortunately, there are many people who do not believe that health is a human right. Consequently, there are many underrepresented groups who do not have equal access to health, especially quality health”

She said she is seeing a sea change in the public health profession, which will positively impact the future. 

“Luckily, I do see more students from underrepresented groups electing to take on the challenges of public health. They have lived experiences in the inequity of the current system and want to be the ones to change the world,” she said. “There is nothing better and more powerful than that.” 

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