“You cannot be healthy in an unhealthy community: the population pushes us away or toward health.”

Richard J. Jackson MD, MPH ’79 is an emeritus professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and volunteer faculty at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. A pediatrician, he served in many leadership positions in environmental health and infectious disease with the California Health Department, including the highest as the State Health Officer. He was instrumental in the creation of laws to reduce risks from pesticides, especially to farm workers and to children. For nine years, he was Director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, where he led the federal effort to ”biomonitor” chemical levels in the U.S. population. He hosted the 4-hour public broadcasting series on Designing Healthy Communities and authored three books on the subject.


On public health and the challenges we face

Public Health is the junction node of the biggest issues humanity faces, ranging from food to climate, from behavior to policy, from taxes to death. I assert that there is no more inherently interesting or cogent profession.

Public health dream team

For me, the most pressing challenge is society collapse, driven by greed, racism, climate change, racism, and resource depletion. If I could not get Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius, Henry Thoreau, and Chuck Darwin, I would settle for their nearest surrogates.

Theme song while at Berkeley

These lyrics from George Harrison: “With our love we could save the world, if they only knew … Try to realize it’s all within yourself, no one else can make you change … And to see you’re really only very small … And life flows on within you and without you.”


Honoree in the Media:


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