Next week marks National Public Health Week and, given what we have been through during the past year, I would say that now more than ever we need to be cognizant of our collective wellbeing.
Observed April 5-11 and coordinated by the American Public Health Association, National Public Health Week highlights the many issues critical to improving Americans’ health.
Every year, the APHA focuses on educating health care practitioners, politicians and the public at large on specific issues related to public health and prevention.
Each day of Public Health Week features a different theme, all of which are of great importance and can be put into action with the right amount of motivation and solidarity.
Here are this year’s daily themes, and what you can do to help put them in motion:
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to do everything we can as a nation to improve our public health infrastructure. That includes increasing government spending to do everything from replacing lead pipes that damage city water supplies, to better preparing for future pandemics and other large-scale health crises, to ensuring people from underserved communities have access to high-speed internet.
Tuesday: Advancing Racial Equity
COVID-19 has also revealed to us the myriad inequities that exist in public health, given the staggeringly heavy toll it’s had on people of color. According to a recent study conducted by American Public Media Research Lab, the COVID mortality rate for Black, Native American and Latinos is triple what it is for white Americans. And those grim numbers don’t just pertain to COVID, but to all facets of health care. Since last summer’s nationwide protests, the country has been engaged in an uncomfortable yet very necessary conversation about racial inequality. At the same time, we need to be having similar discussions about ultimately achieving better health equity as a society.
Wednesday: Strengthening Community
No person is an island unto themselves — we all need a solid support system in order to improve our health and overall sense of wellbeing. Family and friends are key to this, but so are community initiatives aimed at protecting the vulnerable, including children, low-income families and the elderly. Luckily, Northeast Pennsylvania has abundant opportunities for us to volunteer our time to a good cause, be it a health clinic, a food pantry or a senior center.
Thursday: Galvanizing Climate Justice
Simply put, climate change is real and we are increasingly seeing the disastrous effects of it, from the recent extreme winter weather in Texas to the reoccurring wildfires in California. Natural disasters cause severe public health crises, so we need to advocate for stronger measures to both reverse the effects of climate change and assist those now most at risk of the health threats caused by it.
Friday: Constructing COVID-19 Resilience
This one is easy, in that we must do all we can to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are equitably distributed across the population, while continuing to stress to the public the importance of adhering to the protocols put in place to mitigate the virus’ spread, namely wearing masks, practicing social distancing and engaging in proper personal hygiene. We must remain vigilant.
Saturday: Uplifting Mental Health and Wellness
In addition to taking a severe physical toll on the population, COVID-19 has also done untold damage to people’s mental health thanks to all the grief, stress and isolation associated with it. If anything, it’s only made us more aware of the nation’s profound mental health crisis and why now more than ever, we need additional funding and advocacy to further destigmatize and properly treat this horrible scourge.
Sunday: Elevating the Essential and Health Workforce
While many people have had the opportunity to work from home throughout the pandemic, health care professionals and other essential workers, such as supermarket employees, have diligently reported to work every day in service to the public good. As such, it’s critical to advocate that they be better protected — physically and legally — and compensated.
I know this seems like a lot. However, if we all try to do our own small part on behalf of America’s public health, it will eventually pay huge dividends for everyone.
For more information on National Public Health Week, visit www.nphw.org/nphw-2021.
Jignesh Y. Sheth, M.D., a primary care physician dually board-certified in internal medicine and addiction medicine, leads The Wright Center for Community Health as Chief Medical Officer and serves as Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. He sees patients at the Wright Center’s Jermyn practice and lives with his family in Clarks Summit. Send your medical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.