Although George Downs, PharmD, dean emeritus of Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and professor at USciences, was recently honored by the Health Promotion Council (HPC) for his 30 years of leadership, his service to the organization dates back even further.
At right: Dr. Downs (center) with Vanessa Briggs, executive director of the Health Promotion Council, and Dr. Michael Rosenthal, chair of the HPC board of directors.
Before HPC was founded 30 years ago, The South Eastern Pennsylvania High Blood Pressure Control Board stood in its place. With a passion for bringing pharmacists to the forefront of public health, Dr. Downs recruited a battery of aspiring pharmacists to flood the community, taking blood pressure of those at risk for hypertension. Much like today’s obesity epidemic, hypertension—as a silent disease—emerged as a hot-button issue during Dr. Downs’ reign with the Blood Pressure Control Board.
Resistance from the medical community did not stop Dr. Downs from succeeding in his mission to raise awareness of hypertension. His entrepreneurial spirit offered the necessary means for the evolution of the organization into the now Health Promotion Council.
Dr. Downs led the Health Promotion Council as president of the board of directors for many years. He has since entered a past president role and remains available for consulting to provide leadership and direction for the thriving organization.
“The patients we’re most interested in are what we call the ‘vulnerable population.’ That population is basically the poor, especially the working poor—people who don’t have healthcare and do not have Medicaid,” Dr. Downs explained.
HPC, whose mission is to, “promote health, prevent and manage chronic disease, especially among vulnerable populations through community-based outreach, education, and advocacy,” stands as an affiliate of Public Health Management Corporation with unique programs advocating healthy lifestyles, especially for underrepresented minority groups.
An interesting venture of HPC included a sort of “sting operation” where minors attempted to buy cigarettes from area vendors. Those vendors willing to sell to minors faced intervention. Existing data shows the earlier a person begins smoking, the longer the habit will prevail throughout his or her lifetime. Because preventative messaging only goes so far, HPC saw a need for making the product more difficult to obtain. Signage in businesses reminding customers that the sale of cigarettes to minors is illegal affirms the impact of HPC’s work.
Most recently, HPC has taken an interest in chronic disease risk prevention and management, community capacity building, and professional education. From tobacco concerns to nutrition deficits, HPC helps make are communities healthier.