The Total Advocate

daniel thompson

Thompson assumes alumni board presidency

Daniel Thompson 01Ox 03C 08MPH is not shy about stopping legislators in the halls of the State Capitol to advocate on behalf of children's health. Nor does he hesitate to tout the benefits of his Rollins education to current and perspective students. He talks up both ably as a key member of the government affairs department for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and this year's president of the RSPH Alumni Association Board.

Thompson's interests are rooted in his family ties to Emory. Both his father and grandfather are graduates of Emory's medical school. His father, John D. Thompson 48C 51M, served 25 years as chair of Emory's Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics and was the youngest chair ever appointed. His mother, Rita, was a neonatal information specialist at Grady Memorial Hospital for 10 years before joining the presidential campaign for Jimmy Carter. She still works with the former president and first lady at the Carter Center, one of Rollins' local partners.

Choosing a different path than  his forebears, Daniel majored in sociology at Emory College and health policy at Rollins, where he was "turned on" to the public health argument for children's access to health care in a class discussion about state insurance programs led by Professor Kathleen Adams.

"I started thinking about access to health care for kids and how to better ensure their health through well-child visits and other preventive measures," Thompson says.

After completing a fellowship at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, he returned to Georgia and soon joined Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to research policy related to child health promotion. Within the year, Thompson was asked to join the government affairs department.

"Children's is the largest pediatric hospital system and Medicaid provider in the state, so most of our lobbying efforts focus on the state level," he says. "We maintain a sharp focus on the Georgia Department of Community Health, which oversees Medicaid, and the staff and legislators who decide what the Medicaid program looks like at the state level."

While Children's is known for its excellent clinical care and research, the hospital system devotes considerable resources to prevention. It's Strong4Life program—which attracted praise and criticism for its provocative television and print ads showing obese children—aims to reduce Georgia's 40% childhood obesity rate—the second highest in the nation after Mississippi.

"Our leadership took a good hard look at that," says Thompson. "Children's launched Strong4Life to help families make healthy choices about nutrition and lifestyle. We want their children to grow up to become healthy adults free of the chronic comorbid conditions associated with obesity such as asthma and diabetes."

Children's and other pediatric stakeholders in Georgia are working with the state to devise a new health delivery system for children covered by Medicaid. The model would be based on quality and outcomes instead of volume of services, notes Thompson. "It requires working at the state and federal level to develop a model that affords greater financial predictability so that when the economy slows and there is less state revenue to fund critical programs, kids don't suffer."

As an advocate for children's health, Thompson relies daily on his public health training to educate legislators and other constitutents on policy issues affecting Children's and pediatric health in Georgia.

"I believe in Rollins' mission and the ideals instilled in me through my education," says the new alumni board president. "I want to help Rollins' reputation grow stronger and impress upon students that it's important to do the same."—Pam Auchmutey

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