Published DateTo the editor,
Communities from coast to coast observe National Public Health Week every April, celebrating the work of public health and coming together in support of better health for all.
The value of a strong public health system is all around us — it's in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the places where we all live, learn, work and play. It's in the thousands of people whose lives are saved by seat belts, the young people who say "NO!" to tobacco and the children given a healthy start thanks to vaccines. These are examples public health's return on investment.
Good health doesn't happen by chance. Good health is shaped and nurtured — it's connected to the environments in which we live, learn, work and play. Personal responsibility and better access to quality medical care play a critical role in our good health . But that's not enough to turn around health care spending, curb disease rates and continue to move toward a healthier future. For example, while diabetes and obesity can be treated inside a doctor's office, the costly and preventable conditions won't be solved there. Tackling obesity and diabetes will take increasing access to affordable healthy foods; providing opportunities for physical activity in our community through smarter transportation and land use planning; educating the public on the science of nutrition, working with industry, schools and employers on common solutions; and collecting the data to see what works. These are the roles of public health.
By adequately funding public health and prevention, we can transform a health system that's now focused on treating illness to one focused on preventing disease and promoting wellness. And we all have a role to play. By taking small actions, we can help our communities, friends and families see the much larger benefits of prevention: Make just one positive change a day to improve your health. Small things such as eating healthy foods, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and staying up to date on vaccines can make a big difference in helping you live a longer, healthier life.
You have the power to make positive preventative changes in your community. Think about what your community needs most-more bike lanes, increased access to healthy foods, safer places to play outside-brainstorm solutions. Tell others about your ideas and take action!
Please join our staff and our partners in our desire to better understand the health problems confronting our citizens and in the development of strategies to respond to the public health needs of our community. Visit our website (www.lrpph.org) and others to learn more about public health issues such as obesity prevention, emergency preparedness, healthy aging, family caregiving, substance abuse prevention, access to area services and other relevant public health issues. Here's to your health!
Lisa Morris, Executive Director
Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health