OPINION: Public health a global concern

Published 11:32 am Thursday, April 4, 2019

The first week of April is set aside as National Public Health Week, a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues important to improving the health of the nation.

This year, each day of the week is set aside for a different theme, according to NPHW.org. Here is some information about the different tenants of public health being recognized this week: 

— Healthy Communities: “People’s health, longevity and well-being are connected to their communities — the places we live, learn, work, worship and play. For example, national health officials report at least 4 million U.S. households are home to children who are being exposed to high levels of lead, and about 6 million U.S. homes are considered substandard.

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“Exposure to air pollution is linked to serious respiratory conditions such as asthma, and millions of Americans still get their drinking water through lead pipes.

“Communities of color often face greater community health risks — such as poorer air quality — and have fewer health-promoting opportunities — such as safe places to walk — than their white counterparts.”

— Violence Prevention: “National data show gun-related deaths are on the rise. Between 2015-216, the U.S. was home to nearly 27,400 homicides and nearly 45,000 suicides involving guns. Those numbers are the highest documented levels in a decade.

“About one in four women and one in nine men experience some form of intimate partner violence, and one out of every six American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape.

“In 2016, 676,000 victims of child abuse and neglect were reported to local officials.

“Not all communities face the same rates or kinds of violence. For example, black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.”

— Rural Health: “Rural communities face a range of health disparities, from higher burdens of chronic disease to limited access to primary care and prevention services.

“When compared to people living in urban areas, rural Americans face a greater risk of death from the five leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke.

“Suicide rates are also higher in rural America than in urban areas, with that gap growing steadily since the early 2000s.

“The opioid addiction and overdose crisis has hit rural communities especially hard — the rate of fatal overdoses is higher in rural communities than in metropolitan ones.

“Complicating matters, rural residents are often more likely to face social determinants that negatively impact health, such as poverty, transportation barriers and lack of jobs that pay well.”

— Climate Change: “Tapped as one of the greatest threats to public health, climate change is expected to have — and is already producing — serious impacts on people’s health and well-being.

“Climate change is linked to more frequent and extreme natural disasters, such as hurricanes, flooding and drought; is expected to negatively impact food security, water and air quality; and exacerbates the risks of vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

“Like so many health threats, climate change is also expected to disproportionately impact already-vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, young children, families living in poverty and people with chronic diseases.

“On a more global scale, researchers warn climate change will likely result in forced migration and civil conflict.”

— Global Health: “America’s health and the world’s health are fundamentally connected.

“Consider that during the H1N1 flu pandemic, the virus quickly traveled around the world and a global effort was required to track its movements and eventually contain the disease.

“Across the world, communities still struggle with preventable and often-neglected diseases. For example, while global measles deaths have massively decreased since 2000, the vaccine-preventable disease is still common in many developing countries, affecting about 7 million people in 2016.

“Malaria — a preventable condition often described as a neglected disease — caused 435,000 deaths worldwide in 2017.

“The World Health Organization’s top 10 threats to global health include: pandemic flu, cholera, violent conflict, malaria, malnutrition and natural disasters.”

While this might seem like a lot of information and the solutions complicated, there are a few simple ways we can help support public health as individuals and families.

First, work to improve your own wellbeing through healthy eating, exercise, regular doctor’s visits, vaccinations and more.

Secondly, help improve the overall wellbeing of the community by reducing your footprint through recycling, smart purchasing, reducing energy use, preserving water, cleaning up litter, etc.

Finally, support funding for programs that promote public health on a local, state, national and global scale.

Good public health can improve the lives of millions of people around the globe. It starts with you and your own family, though.