This post originally appeared on ETSU College of Public Health.

Kenny Alphin and Bill Frist

In 2014, Senator Bill Frist, “Big Kenny” Alphin, and I worked together to identify twelve issues that we believed needed to be addressed to make a lasting change on the quality of life in our country and around the world.  While some of the data have changed, I think these issues remain as important today as they were when we posted them in early 2015.  I hope everyone will take a few minutes to re-read these posts, and think about how each of us can engage in this  “Essential Conversation.” 
-Dean Randy Wykoff

There can be no doubt that compassion for those less fortunate is a long and strongly held part of our national character. While some might argue that we have, as a Nation, lost some of that compassion, the three of us believe that it is still firmly rooted in who we are, and how we engage with the world.We believe that this sense of compassion is something that still binds us together, and we call on people from all sectors and sections of our country and beyond to join us in a conversation to identify and address some of the greatest threats to our global community.

While the modern world presents many challenges, it also provides a unique opportunity to come together and change the lives of the world's least fortunate. As a starting point in this dialogue, we have identified twelve issues that we believe demand action to help ensure the world becomes a better place for future generations.

Perhaps you will agree with our list, or perhaps you will identify other areas where we should focus our attention. Perhaps you have further information about these twelve topics and how we can make lasting changes at the local level, or perhaps some of these are issues you haven't spent much time considering.

No matter where you stand today, in 2015, we challenge you to be part of the conversation.

All we ask is that you set aside any pre-conceived notions; that you open your mind to new ideas and challenges; and, most importantly, that you approach these issues, and the people they affect, with compassion and caring.

We look forward to hearing from you. #Conversation2015 

Dr. Randy Wykoff, WK "Big Kenny" Alphin, and Senator Bill Frist 

The authors would like to thank Ms. Katie Neel, MPH, for conducting initial fact-checking for this article. The authors would also like to thank Alli Proffitt, Kate Etue, Brad Lifford, and Dara Young for remarkably thoughtful and insightful editing and other invaluable contributions.  

This article reflects the personal views of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of their employers, co-workers, or others. 

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