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National Public Health Week focuses attention on prevention
new deh barton county commission public health pic
Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider glances through a volume of a ledger containing a detailed accounting of contagious diseases in Barton County from the 1940s through the 1960s. The book shows the long-standing importance of public health in the county. The County Commission Monday approved a proclamation Monday denoting National Public Health Week April 4-10. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 With the goal of making the United States the world’s healthiest nation by 2030, the Barton County Commission Monday morning passed a proclamation marking April 4-10 as National Public Health Week 2016.  

“Good health and quality of life for everyone in Barton County is an important goal for our community,” Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider said. The “Healthiest Nation 2030” promotes the idea of making this happen in one generation.

“Public Health is the science of protecting and improving families and communities through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases,” Schneider said. “Recognizing National Public Health Week allows for a focused opportunity for the public to learn about the public health concerns and celebrate local success stories.”

Schneider discussed the community goals of healthy eating, active living, reduced poverty, improved access to health care and mental health care that will make this community a healthier place to live.

This message was made clear in the proclamation. It encouraged all residents to “invest in their health today, instead of paying for their sickness tomorrow, by eating healthier, being active and quitting tobacco.”

“I’m in my 70s now and I never thought I make it that far,” commission Chairman Don Davis said. “This is something everyone needs to be aware of.”

“I find it interesting that they say 70 is the new 50,” Schneider said. “We gain these years and its great if we have good bodies to take us into those years.”

But, if we live longer without caring for ourselves, that could create a new crisis. “That’s the importance of prevention,” Schneider said.

The history of public health

Public health traces its roots back nearly 200 years, Schneider said. Pioneers included Florence Nightingale and Lillian Wald who advocated for “That’s kind of where public health starts,” Schneider said. The concepts promoted in the 1800s still apply today. 

Schneider they ran through what the Centers for Disease Control consider the top 10 public health achievements of 20th Century. “I think it reflects what Barton County has been doing.”

1. Immunizations.

2. Motor vehicle safety, particularly the use of child seats.

3. Work place safety.

4. Controlling infectious diseases, although this is an on-going issue.

5. Decline in deaths from heart disease and stroke. She said public health is credited for adding 25 years of life through these preventative measures.

6. Safer and healthier foods.

7. Healthier mothers and babies.

8. Family planning.

9. Fluoridation of drinking water.

10. Tobacco as a health hazard.

“I am anxious to see what they will come up with in the 21st Century,” she said. “We will see were that takes us.”

Public Health Week background

Americans are living 20 years longer than their grandparents’ generation, due in part to the work of public health. Still, people in many other high-income countries live longer and suffer fewer health issues than Americans do.

That’s why the American Public Health Association has created Generation Public Health. The goal is to make this nation the healthiest nation in one generation, by 2030.

During the first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation. 

For over 20 years, the APHA has served as the organizer of NPHW. Every year, the Association develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers and practitioners about issues related to each year’s theme. APHA creates new NPHW materials each year that can be used during and after NPHW to raise awareness about public health and prevention.