When Barton County commissions meet Monday morning, County Health Director Lily Akings will ask they proclaim the week as National Public Health Week. But, Akings said, despite this recognition, many people don’t understand just what public health means.
“We just want people to know we are still out there watching,” Akings said. “We want the public to be aware that we are still here working for the community.”
There is a difference between what her department does and what is done at hospitals and doctors’ offices, she said.
“They deal with individual health,” she said. “We have the responsibility of looking at the community, studying the data and seeing where the problems are.”
Sure, the Health Department offers shots, immunizations and other medical tests, but these are done with the big picture in mind. “We want to get as many people protected against diseases as possible” to contain possible wide-spread outbreaks.
The same reasoning applies to their efforts to help residents stop smoking and encourage them to live healthier lifestyles by exercising.
Since 1995, when the first full week of April was declared National Public Health Week, communities across the United States have observed NPHW as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation.
Each year, NPHW focuses its effort on a different theme, and this year’s theme is “Public Health is ROI (return on investment): Save Lives, Save Money.” The 2013 NPHW theme was developed to highlight the value of prevention and the importance of well-supported public health systems in preventing disease, saving lives and curbing health care spending.
In keeping with this theme, Akings said Barton County is aligning its observance with the national effort. There will be a different public health topic featured each day of the week.
• Ensuring a safe, healthy home for your family – health and safety begin at home. Make prevention a fun family tradition.
• Providing a safe environment for children at school – schools are the perfect setting for improving child health. Plus, children’s health is a rallying point few can ignore.
• Creating a healthy workplace – wellness and safety in the workplace are good for health and for business. Let’s make prevention work for us.
• Protecting you while you’re on the move – safety on the go is often in our own hands, but it’s also tied to community design. Together, we can turn our streets into roads to better health.
• Empowering a Healthy Community – Support public health efforts that create healthy opportunities for all. Good health is a community affair.
The American Public Health Association serves as the organizer of NPHW and 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.