Marta Moniz, PhD

NOVA National School of Public Health

What does public health mean to you?

The first thing that comes to my mind is “People”. I know, it sounds like an easy cliché. But oh well, every cliché has some truth background. Indeed, public health ends and begins with people and it’s always for them that all matters are or should be directed. Public health knowledge and measures can impact society to its core. Not only economically, social but also it sometimes has the ability to change people’s behaviors towards certain matter.

What inspired you to study public health?

I’m a curious person by nature. Anything that my brain can’t find a logical path or can’t fully understand right away, it intrigues me. And it gets stuck until I can decode it. It’s like an open browser with different tabs and pop up’s asking questions and showing newer hypothesis. So, when one asks me what inspired me to study public health, I would say, without a doubt, the epidemiology field. Or what some call “the disease detective”. The who. The when. The why. The where. To answer these questions, but to keep feeding the new tabs, that’s what drives me. I’m specifically fascinated about issues related to vulnerable population, namely the ones related to the impact that new global public health challenges have in these populations. To be able to make a difference. To improve one’s life. To be able to find out why something is affecting some more than others, so one can plan strategies to control that difference or even, in a brighter scenario, eliminate it. That’s definitely what inspires me the most about studying public health.

What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career or studies so far?

Being a PhD student in public health passionate about health communication I must highlight The GATE as the most rewarding experience so far. The GATE – Public Health Knowledge Centre is a live and digital knowledge center to empower citizens in Public Health literacy, to disseminate the latest developments in public health science and innovation to broad audiences of all ages, nationally and globally, opened to the community (with and for the community). It is an ambitious project of development and diffusion of science, research and innovation in Public Health, build on the campus of the NOVA National School of Public Health, and, in parallel, a digital center that aims to disseminate public health knowledge worldwide. Being part of this groundbreaking project since its conception and throughout its development has been an unforgettable learning experience that will always be an incredible important part of my career.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing public health today?

It’s hard to narrow it down to one big challenge. The two things that come to mind are the impact of globalization on public health and health communication. The impact that globalization have in the spread of infectious disease, changes in population dynamics that consequently affects the countries epidemiological profiles has a greater impact in vulnerable populations throughout the globe. On the other hand, it is very clearly to me that the one who communicates something should adapt to their audience and not the other way around. But how does one communicate in a broad and inclusive language, without losing accuracy and important scientific details? That is a specifically challenge in public health that I find very important, for I think only if one can reach to people, it has a chance to tangibly improve its life.

What advice would you offer someone who is thinking about a career in public health? 

The way I see it, Public Health it’s one of those areas you can spend your life working on and never getting bored. As soon as you find an answer to a certain problem two more arise, and you find yourself always driven to continue. And it’s that never ending but exciting quest that makes it so appealing. So be curious. Be passionate about health and people in all its complexity. And most of all, be confident about the change that your work can do to improve population’s health.