Empowering a healthy community

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April 1-7 is National Public Health Week

It’s impossible to separate our individual health from our community’s health. When it comes to good health, a rising tide lifts all boats. Public health systems work to carefully monitor that tide, pinpointing choppy waters and struggling vessels and taking action to ensure that all boats have an opportunity to sail smoothly to healthier destinations.
Resilient, well-supported public health systems are critical to our nation’s health and future. They maintain the health victories we’ve accomplished so far, such as dramatic reductions in tobacco use, and are essential to confronting today’s big problems, such as rising chronic disease rates. We also need public health to monitor and protect us from emerging health threats, keep vaccine-preventable diseases at bay, provide life-saving services for vulnerable populations and so much more.
Just as important, we need public health’s unique ability to rally communities around the many social determinants that shape people’s health. The future of health is empowering communities with the tools, knowledge, resources and opportunities to make lasting change.

Did You Know?

• More than 80 million U.S. residents do not have access to fluoridated water, which reduces tooth decay by 25 percent. Every dollar spent on fluoridation saves more than $40 in dental care.
• Despite high immunization rates in the U.S., about 42,000 adults and 300 children die every year from vaccine-preventable disease. Every dollar spent on childhood immunizations alone saves $18.40.
• If 10 percent of adults began regularly walking, $5.6 billion in heart disease costs could be averted. Also, a sustained 10 percent weight loss could reduce an overweight person’s lifetime medical costs by up to $5,300 by lowering the costs linked to hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol.
• More and more research finds that community health workers can help reduce health care costs. For example, in Baltimore, community health workers helped residents with diabetes better self-manage their health, resulting in a 27 percent decrease in Medicaid costs.
• If every state without a comprehensive smoke-free policy adopted one, they could reduce smoking-related deaths by 624,000. They would also save more than $316 million in lung cancer treatment and more than $875 million in heart attack and stroke treatment over five years.
Start small...
• Stay up to date on recommended vaccinations for yourself and your loved ones.
• Look up the national physical activity guidelines for Americans to see how much physical activity you should get on a daily basis and encourage family and friends to do the same. Visit www.health.gov/paguidelines to learn more.
• Support local farmers markets and other access points to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s not only good for your health; it’s good for the local economy too.
• Join your Neighborhood Watch program.
• Inquire about volunteer opportunities at community health centers.
• Take part in national health observances, such as National HIV Testing Day, National Youth Violence Prevention Week and National Minority Health Month.
• Submit a letter to the editor to your local newspaper about the importance of National Public Health Week.

Think big...
 • Encourage local restaurants and sports parks to provide nutrition information on their menus and healthier choices.
• Voice your support for smoke-free policies.
• Partner with local parks and recreational facilities to increase access to safe places to be outside and physically active.
• Work with local authorities to initiate violence intervention and prevention efforts.  
• Reach out to clinical partners and engage them in community health and prevention efforts.
• Volunteer to speak about the importance of public health and prevention at local schools, houses of worship, workplaces and community organizations.
• Write a letter to the editor or to your policymakers in support of community health efforts, especially efforts connected to the landmark Prevention and Public Health Fund, the nation’s first mandatory funding stream dedicated to preventing disease.
• Create a local health movement! Start a healthy food co-op, organize a canning circle, gather a walking group or form a club dedicated to volunteering.
There is much more you can do to help empower a healthy community. To learn more, visit www.nphw.org.