Barton County Health Department Public Health Educator Janel Rose has been at her job for 24 years. A former teacher, she has put her passion for learning into improving the lives and health of county residents.
Rose was approached about her career and what it meant to her. Through a series of questions, she reveal someone dedicated to her cause. Below are her responses in her own words.
What first drew you to this project/community involvement?
My career as a teacher led me to being a public health educator where I have the opportunity to teach people of all ages. I have been working with tobacco use prevention, cessation, and reducing secondhand smoke exposure since I began working in Public Health in 1991. I started working with individuals doing stop smoking group classes and individual counseling, but the focus in Public Health moved to working with entire populations where our work can make the biggest impact. I have progressed to working with policies, systems, and environmental changes in tobacco use prevention and cessation, increasing physical activity, and improving access to healthy foods in our communities.
This year I am working with schools on tobacco free policies that include all new tobacco products (e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices), with cities and recreation commissions on tobacco free parks and playgrounds policy, and with promoting training for health care providers on short interventions to help patients stop tobacco use. I also continue to work with community groups to establish community gardens, farmers markets, and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to increase access to healthy foods. I have been a part of the Leadership Team for Be Well Barton County since it began and we are working towards a Master Bike and Pedestrian Plan for the entire county.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
In a nutshell, I enjoy working with groups of people for the betterment of our entire community. It has been my pleasure to coordinate the Central Kansas Partnership, our coalition that addresses Chronic Disease Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention, Alcohol & Drug Prevention, promotion of breastfeeding through Central Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition, and increasing physical activity opportunities through Be Well Barton County.
How has it changed since you first began?
As an example, years ago I worked with helping local restaurants to adopt a tobacco-free policy individually and giving public recognition to businesses that had a family-friendly tobacco free policy. Then in 2010 the Kansas Legislature passed the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act that helped all restaurants, all public buildings, and most bars transition to a tobacco free policy throughout the entire state. This policy helped to reduce secondhand smoke exposure for millions of Kansans, decreased the number of kids that start smoking, and increased the number of Kansans who would quit tobacco use. Today our children and families expect tobacco-free clean air wherever they are and count on a healthy, safe environment in their community.
What changes do you anticipate in the next 5-10 years?
In the next 5 - 10 years I expect the public health focus to continue to be on policy, systems, and environmental change that will impact the majority of the population in ways that will improve personal and community-level health. I think that communities who demonstrate a high level of community livability and progress towards being healthy, vibrant places to live, for an entire lifespan, will grow and move forward. Millennials especially want to live in communities where they can enjoy a healthy lifestyle that provides opportunities—from walking and biking paths and greenways, to locally produced healthy foods, to vibrant downtowns with cultural activities and clean, healthy environments. They will choose communities that fit their lifestyle and that provide the types of jobs and careers they want. I hope that we will see a return to active transportation—more people biking and walking for short trips to community destinations. Walking or biking to school should become the norm again in many residential areas, because it is healthier and makes economic sense.
What is left to be accomplished?
If I could have one wish about the future concerning public health, it would be the eradication of tobacco use throughout the entire world. Tobacco is the still the number one cause of preventable deaths in the US, and is a leading cause of preventable death worldwide. Not only would people have nearly $83 billion actual dollars in the US to spend on everything from food to vacations instead of tobacco, there would be savings from less sickness and death due to tobacco use and exposure. (CDC Tobacco Fact Sheet, Cigarettes Sales) Imagine what people could accomplish with the extra funds and with greater productivity and longer lives.
In Kansas, 4,400 adult smokers die by cigarette smoking every year, and 2,300 new youth smokers start every year. In Kansas there are 191,200 kids now alive who will become smokers, and 61,000 Kansas kids now alive who will die from smoking (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids).
Based on the national numbers and information from the Surgeon General’s report, that would be like two kids in every third grade classroom in our state will die from smoking.
Our adult smoking rate in Kansas has recently decreased to about 18 percent and is comparable to the national rate (BRFSS data).
Among high school students, Kansas has a rate of about 10 percent versus the national rate of 15.7 percent (Tobacco Free Kids Coalition data).
The tobacco industry spends about $1,000,000 per hour on marketing in the US, much of it aimed at kids, their targeted “replacement” tobacco users.
(Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids).
In Barton County, 23.9 percent of adults smoked in 2013, the latest data we have available at county level.
With Tobacco-Free Awareness Week reminding us of the societal and economic costs of smoking, which total more than $320 billion a year and rising, the personal finance website WalletHub today released its report on The True Cost of Smoking by State.