Public Health: Start Here

April 01, 2014

The week of April 7-13, 2014 is National Public Health Week. The theme this year is “Public Health: Start Here.”  The daily themes associated with the slogan are: Be Healthy from the Start; Don’t Panic; Get Out Ahead; Eat Well; and Be the Healthiest Nation in One Generation. What do they mean for you?

Public health works to protect our nation’s health and safety. It focuses on the community, rather than the individual. It offers scientifically based recommendations and strategies to be implemented before populations and communities become sick or injured.  Through research and science, it provides credible information to enhance health. Many of its successful programs affect your daily life in some way. However, most people do not have any idea of how public health works in their lives. 

Public health works to: Prevent epidemics and the spread of disease; Protect against environmental hazards; Prevent injuries; Promote and encourage healthy behaviors; Respond to disasters and assist communities in recovery; and to assure the quality and accessibility of health services.  Public health campaigns have targeted issues such as seat belts, child safety seats, smoking, lead poisoning, child and adult immunizations, carbon monoxide poisoning, helmet use, cardiovascular disease, and HIV/AIDS.

Perhaps the way public health works is clearer from the following story. You wake up and jump into the shower, taking for granted the safety of the water.  As you flush the toilet, public health is working there to provide proper sewage  disposal. You enter the kitchen.  You reach for the milk with confidence that is a safe, healthy food for your healthy children, all of whom have been immunized against diseases, which were deadly in days gone-by.  You pack the kids in the car, remembering to buckle up seat belts and safety seats.  It’s a habit now, thanks to public health messages.  One child is dropped off at the day care center, and the other at school.  You know that their environment is safe and healthy, thanks to public health inspections and training. You go to work in a smoke-free environment, now commonly occurring thanks to those committed to public health.  For lunch break, you eat at a near-by restaurant.  You see their license on the wall, thanks to public health inspections of the facility.  At the end of the day, your family decides to go for a swim at the community pool.  Did you know that public health is working there too, to protect you by inspecting pools? 

Public health campaigns are intended to promote and encourage healthy behaviors to reduce illness, and prevent injury and premature death within our communities.

Public health begins with you! Public health professionals can provide the advice on how Americans can enjoy better health, live in healthier conditions, know more about how to take care of their health, and live longer than at any other time in the past. However, the advice needs to be put into action by you. You can “start here” with taking action on any of these simple steps: Wear your seatbelt; Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; Follow food safety rules: Chill, separate, cook, clean!; Use insect repellent when you are outdoors; Prepare for emergencies and make a supply kit; Use sunscreen; Take a family walk; Immunize your children. Get flu shots for the whole family;  Drink water when the weather is hot; Have your children wear bike helmets when biking, skateboarding or roller blading.

To learn more about Public Health visit www.whatispublichealth.org.  Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call 203 248-4528 or request by email, dculligan@qvhd.org if you do not have internet access and would like written information.