DLSPH Open: Reflecting on our brand story

December 14/2017

Dear colleagues,

Over the last year, our community has been deeply engaged in figuring out how to tell our shared story – who we are, why we do the work we do, and our unique edge in improving health and health systems in Canada and globally. Referred to as the DLSPH Brand Exercise, defining our brand story is important because it helps us tell the world about our approach to public health, how we support the broader public health and health system ecosystems, and what we stand for as Canada’s leading school of public health.

Having a defined narrative will allow us to fully leverage our strengths and competitive advantage to attract the best students, faculty and staff, while producing top quality graduates, research, health services and programs.

Last month I shared one take-away from the exercise: that DLSPH is a vital connector that bridges past and future; students and practice; evidence and change. Now I’d like to give a bit more insight into what we’ve been hearing from our community, and how this feedback will help us tell our story.

Three key themes heard over and over were research, reach and relevance, which would be applicable at a number of universities or institutions, but a closer look reveals some uniquely-DLSPH qualities that l are core to our identity.

We asked our community to describe DLSPH at its best, and we heard that we’re at our best when working in partnership with communities and the health system to achieve more together (we are greater than the sum of our parts); when we’re at the forefront of developing new tools to address problems; and when we stick our necks out with evidence to support a position. Taking leadership to develop evidence-based solutions in a constantly evolving environment is a key role for us, and putting a stake in the ground with a firm position on thorny public health and health system issues will be part of our story going forward.

Another important piece of feedback from our community consultations was that our public service and social justice lens is our uniquely Canadian strength. It’s also why many students choose to study here. Highlighting why we do what we do may also be a distinctive feature of our brand, whether we seek to achieve impact, meaningful change, public service, or social justice (or all of the above). These motivations are enabled by a combination of rigour and passion, which came shining through in our discussions and survey.

We also heard constructive criticism and areas for development. Our community told us that while DLSPH is collaborative, socially responsible and rigorous, we need to become more influential and innovative. Many believe that we need to talk less about our disciplines and silos, and focus on the common challenges and goals that our community tackles. It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that reducing health inequity, better management of addictions and mental health, chronic disease, and health system sustainability are the top four issues in Canadian health that our community identified, regardless of divisional affiliation, area of expertise or political stripe.

I’d like to sincerely thank all the faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners who took the time to participate in the brand exercise survey, consultations and meetings. It’s been an enlightening process that will help us build on our achievements of 2017 – including our strong showing in global rankings, funding competitions and awards — and set a strong foundation on which the school can build  to improve health and advance health systems.

I’d like to thank everyone for their participation, engagement and energy over the last year and I hope you enjoy a restful holiday.

Happy holidays,

Adalsteinn Brown
Interim Dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Dalla Lana Chair in Public Health Policy