National Public Health Week (NPHW), organized annually by the American Public Health Association (APHA), presents an opportunity for communities across the United States to reflect on the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation. More importantly, NPHW serves as an excellent reminder of why public health exists: to tackle the underlying causes of poor health and disease risk – which are rooted in where we live, learn, work, and play – and ensure that everyone in our nation has a chance at a long and healthy life.
While federal and state public health agencies are a critical part of the fabric that makes up the nation’s public health infrastructure, the work being done locally is invaluable. Embedded at the community level, local health departments (LHDs) are a trusted and steady provider of information, making them well-positioned to address public health concerns. Their familiarity with community attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors enables LHDs to connect individuals to the services, resources, and care they need.
This week, NACCHO celebrates local public health’s role in creating a healthier nation and we are pleased to spotlight some of the events our members are leading in honor of NPHW.
The Cambridge Public Health Department and the Institute for Community Health are hosting Real World Public Health, a free, half-day seminar to give future public health professionals exposure to the complexity and excitement of governmental public health.
Launched in 2004 and led by local public health experts, the seminar allows students to discuss current scenarios and learn more about “real life” challenges and opportunities, beyond their classroom training. Presenters speak candidly about funding and political challenges, data, advocacy, and sustainability. The event includes: an interdisciplinary panel of local public health leaders and practitioners, three interactive workshops, special guest Lauren Powell, MPA, PhD, health equity consultant for the Cambridge Public Health Department, and a networking lunch.
“These students are the next generation of practitioners,” said Claude Jacob, NACCHO president and chief public health officer for the city of Cambridge. “We owe it to them to share our knowledge and experiences, and well as gain their perspective.”
The Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) and the University of Tennessee Extension will co-host the Walk the Talk: Health Equity Symposium, where community members, practitioners, and health department staff will engage in dialogue to better understand the connection between the root causes of health and outcomes.
The symposium’s goal is to broaden awareness of issues related to health equity, including integration of concepts into practice; reflect on examples of key policy changes making positive impacts in other communities; and generate ideas for the Shelby County Health Equity Collective, which was formed as a result of Shelby County’s M.A.P.P. (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships) process.
“It is the responsibility of the local public health department to advocate for equity,” said Alisa Haushalter, DNP, RN, director of the Shelby County Health Department. “As we continue this ongoing journey, it is important for everyone, including private and public sectors, to ‘walk the talk’ with each other to improve equity for all.”
Attendees will hear from keynote speaker, Sheila Savannah, Prevention Institute; participate in PechaKucha-inspired breakout session led by local leaders; view a Memphis College of Art display featuring a closer look at root causes of health in local neighborhoods; and, receive an invitation to join the Shelby County Health Equity Collective, a coalition which identifies and advises on policy issues relevant to community health.
The Houston Health Department showcased its health services and programs during the second annual Houston Health Day, a free event full of activities, games, and prizes. “Public health serves as the guardian of various at-risk groups in our community,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health
Department. “National Public Health Week allows us to highlight our services and at the same time help these vulnerable Houston residents learn more about their health and steps they can take to adopt healthier lifestyles.”
Houston Health Day will feature interactive stations to help participants learn about health conditions and engage with the department’s programs and services, including immunizations, childhood lead poisoning prevention, chronic disease prevention, and tuberculosis. The department’s mobile units will offer free testing for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases, along with family planning services. Through these activities, Houstonians will learn how the department can connect families to medical care, adolescent health services, an array of community and human services, and emergency and disaster preparedness resources.
Howard County, MD
The Howard County Health Department (HCHD) hosted an EXPO, “Public Health Matters – Public Health is Your Health,” to showcase its public health services and roles in the community, emphasizing collaborative efforts to improve the social determinants of health for all who live, work, and visit Howard County. The event was held at The Mall of Columbia, a location where much of the community congregates. “Working with our partners in non-profit, government, faith-based and private sectors, we are creating an environment that will change the health outcomes of our community for current and future generations.” says Dr. Maura J. Rossman, Howard County Health Officer.
NACCHO applauds our members for the excellent effort put in year-round to make the U.S. the Healthiest Nation in One Generation. As APHA encourages, let’s continue to celebrate the power of prevention, advocate for healthy and fair policies, share strategies for successful partnerships, and champion the role of a strong public health system.