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$21 Million Gift Launches Center for Health and Happiness

By Kenton K. Shimozaki, Contributing Writer

A $21 million gift from the Lee Kum Kee family has established the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Harvard School of Public Health, the school announced last week at a signing ceremony in Hong Kong.

The Lee Kum Kee family, who runs the Hong Kong-based Lee Kum Kee Sauce Group and LKK Health Products Group, chose to name the Center after their ancestor, Lee Kum Sheung, who invented oyster sauce in China in 1888.

According to the Center’s website, the Center’s goal is to bring together researchers across several disciplines, including health communications, medicine, and psychology, in order to investigate the connections between external factors of psychological well-being and their effect on physical health.

“Public health is very much focused on how do we help people live healthier, longer, and now also happier lives,” Julie F. Rafferty, associate vice dean for communications at HSPH, said.

Although not the first project to investigate this relationship, this endeavor represents a continuing “paradigm shift” in the field of public health to look at not only risk factors, but also social and environmental factors that can result in adverse effects on health, according to Laura D. Kubzansky, a professor of social and behavioral science and co-director of the Center.

“One of the priorities of the Center is to think about health from a fundamentally different perspective,” Kubzansky said. “With the establishment of the Center, we will have the opportunity to do this in a more systematic way.”

Much of the research in public health is often dominated by investigating diseases and disease prevention, according to health communication professor and Center co-Director Kasisomayajula Viswanath. The new Center, he added, presents the opportunity to better understand optimal health by looking beyond solely disease-related factors.

“Our healthcare system is organized in treating diseases,” he said. “If you define a problem from the perspectives of a disease, then the solutions you offer are to treat that particular disease.”

According to Kubzansky, the Center is already “off and running.” In the future, she said she hopes the Center will be able to use its research to influence public policy and train the next generation of scholars of the field.

The donation is one of many large pledges made to the School of Public Health in recent years. In 2014, billionaire Gerald L. Chan’s $350 million gift to the school, the largest single donation in Harvard’s history at the time, led to it being renamed after Chan's late father.

Harvard recently surpassed its public goal of $6.5 billion in its capital campaign, breaking a higher education fundraising record. Prior to the Chan gift, the School of Public Health had initially set a fundraising goal of $450 million. HSPH administrators declined to comment on their progress relative to their capital campaign goals.

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