Howard Koh and Public Health Campaigns for Tobacco Control and Organ Donation
Years before Harvard University Professor Howard Koh was appointed by President Barack Obama as the 14th U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health (2009-2014) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where he went on to address a vast portfolio of health challenges, he played a leading role in two highly impactful coalition-based public health campaigns focused on tobacco control and organ donation. The tobacco tax and organ donation campaigns illustrate how public health advocates can effectively build and rally coalitions of diverse groups around a results-focused health mission. They underscore the perseverance and other leadership traits that public health leaders like Koh harness to push through innovative strategies in the face of powerful entrenched groups committed to preserving the status quo. And while the campaigns also demonstrate the difficulties of sustaining public health initiatives due to changing political and economic circumstances, leaders like Koh must surmount disappointments to find new ways to continue the mission over the course of a long career.