My Turn: Honoring the critical role of public health workers

For the Monitor
Published: 4/11/2020 6:00:10 AM

This week through April 12 is National Public Health Week, a week that has been celebrated for 25 years to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation’s health.

Sadly, this year the week falls just as we are being told by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, “This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives,” in reference to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Now more than ever, the critical role of public health workers in keeping our nation healthy and safe is clearly apparent. Our thanks go out to our New Hampshire public health partners at the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services and local public health as they work countless hours to track this virus, follow contacts, face the media, and strategically plan to lessen the effects of this pandemic and address the needs of the people in our state.

While these efforts are critical and invaluable, public health is and has been so much more than COVID-19. We hope that you will join us in celebrating National Public Health Week this year by looking back at public health’s successes and moving forward to eliminating health disparities.

Every year, New Hampshire public health workers educate people about the flu and give out the flu vaccine. They help pass laws to eliminate smoking in public places and to ensure that children ride in car seats and are screened for lead poisoning. Public health workers develop home visiting programs to promote the health and well-being of pregnant women and their children. They implement fall-prevention programs for seniors to keep them living safely in their homes.

It is public health workers who review data to understand the health disparities that exist among some populations, such as higher maternal mortality rates among African American women, and seek to eliminate such disparities.

But we know that making the U.S. the healthiest nation can’t be done in a week. That’s why we’re encouraging members of our community to learn more and take part in the All of Us Research Program (allofus.nih.gov), a historic effort to collect and study data from 1 million or more people living in the United States. The goal of the program is better health for all of us.

We hope you’ll join us this National Public Health Week as we celebrate the power of prevention and preventive care, advocate for healthy and fair policies, educate our community about healthy behaviors, and work to build a strong public health system across our country.

And please take a moment to thank and support our public health workers for the crucial work they are doing throughout the long days, weeks and months of this pandemic.

(Joan H. Ascheim is executive director of the New Hampshire Public Health Association.)


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