On August 11th, 2021, the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Board of Trustees approved the “Resolution for Disability, Ableism, and Health Equity in Public Health Education & Health Promotion Practice” thanks to the work of 2nd year Public Health Education Ph.D. student, Rose Ewald.
While attending the SOPHE 2019 Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Ms. Ewald, who uses an electric wheelchair, experienced mobility barriers which led to open conversations with SOPHE leaders, and the opportunity to create the resolution. Ms. Ewald utilized her time during the COVID-19 lockdown last summer to write the first draft of the resolution and worked with several other members of SOPHE to craft the final version of the resolution. All of the “Whereas” statements are backed by fact-based research, and the “Therefore’s” in the resolution have been written to provide practical, useable action steps that can be taken by educators and practitioners.
In the fall of 2018, Ms. Ewald, who has a form of myopathy, went from walking across the UNCG campus to using a wheelchair. Simple, daily tasks became barriers that had to be well thought out and planned; routes to campus buildings need to be navigated with caution or simply avoided; doors that are built to keep a fire from spreading throughout a building, impede the progression of a person that has trouble standing on their own. Even rain, while somewhat inconvenient when traveling across campus, can wreak havoc on an electric wheelchair!
Though Ms. Ewald is constantly adapting to navigate the physical infrastructure, her passion for research and education has not been obstructed. Here at UNCG, Ms. Ewald was instrumental in establishing the Zeta Phi chapter of Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society at UNCG, where she serves as chapter president. Delta Alpha Pi was established at East Stroudsburg University in 2004, and celebrates and supports the academic success of students with disabilities, educates the community, and provides mentoring and leadership roles to its members. Since its inception at UNCG, Ewald has led countless Zoom meetings with members and guest speakers, and has participated in safety walks with campus and city officials. Zeta Phi Chapter was created to support students, faculty, and staff with disabilities, and people of all abilities are welcome.
Ms. Ewald is currently working with SOPHE in preparation for the 2022 Annual Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Ewald hopes the new SOPHE resolution will serve as a much needed educational and advocacy tool for public health educators and professionals.
Our students, through their compassion, education, and real life experiences, are truly “the future of public health!”