This week has been proclaimed “National Public Health Week” by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, who cited various achievements in public health and a goal to make this the “Healthiest Nation 2030”.
The actual “week” runs from Monday April 4 through Sunday April 10. A cooperative effort by the American Public Health Association, the Illinois Public Health Association, state and local health departments, academic institutions and community groups, National Public Health Week seeks to bring together communities across the country to recognize public health contributions and highlights issues that are important to improving our nation’s health. This year’s theme, “Healthiest Nation 2030,” defines one central challenge for Americans: to make the U.S. the healthiest nation in one generation.
Governor Rauner’s proclamation noted that some of the greatest achievements of public health include vaccinations, safer workplaces, control of infectious diseases, safer and healthier foods, motor vehicle safety, healthier moms and babies, fluoridation of drinking water, public health preparedness, and recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard. Rauner in proclaiming the upcoming week as National Public Health Week said collaborative efforts with individuals, communities, providers, and policy makers will help the next generation be healthier than the one before.
Americans are living 20 years longer than their grandparents’ generation, thanks largely to the work of public health. Still, people in many other high income countries live longer and suffer fewer health issues than we do. This is the defining challenge of our generation – a challenge that we, the public health community, are uniquely positioned to help overcome. Rauner called upon residents to “observe this week by helping our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and leaders better understand the value of public health and adopt preventive lifestyle habits in light of this year’s theme, Healthiest Nation 2030.”
Changing our health means ensuring conditions that give everyone the opportunity to be healthy. Communities throughout the country are celebrating National Public Health Week 2016 and asking all Americans to become a part of the movement for change:
Build a nation of safe, healthy communities
Health must be a priority in designing our communities, from healthy housing to parks and playgrounds. Walking and biking must coexist with cars and public transportation. We need lower levels of violence and crime so everyone can safely live, work, learn and play. Support farmers markets and local businesses that value health, such as retailers that don’t sell tobacco.
Help all young people graduate from high school
Education is the leading indicator of good health, giving people access to better jobs, incomes and neighborhoods. Call for policies that start with early school success and lead to higher on-time high school graduation rates. Be a champion for school-based health centers in your local schools. Become a mentor — you can make a difference!
The relationship between increased economic mobility and better health
The science is clear: Poverty and poor health go hand-in-hand. It’s time to fix our country’s growing income inequality and the unhealthy stresses it puts on adults and children. Support policies that ensure a living wage and remove barriers that make it harder to advance to higher incomes.
Give everyone a choice of healthy food
Our food system should provide affordable food with nutritious ingredients, free from harmful contaminants. For many families, eating healthy is a daily challenge. Call for policies that help eliminate food deserts and bring healthy food to all neighborhoods and schools. Support measures like menu labeling that help people make healthier choices. Start a community garden. Volunteer for a local food bank!
Preparing for the health effects of climate change
Our health is connected to our environments. What happens upstream to our environments at work, school and home affects our health downstream. Support policies that protect the air we breathe indoors and outdoors and the clean water we drink as well as those that help protect our health from natural and manmade weather events and disasters.
Provide quality health care for everyone
Health reform was just a start. To fulfill its potential, we must continue to pursue options for expanded access to quality care at the federal, state and local levels. But we also need to shift the main focus of our health system from one that treats illness to one that equally emphasizes prevention.
Strengthen public health infrastructure and capacity
Strong and consistent funding levels are necessary for the public health system to respond to both everyday health threats and also unexpected health emergencies. Support more funding for key public health agencies like the CDC and HRSA. These agencies strengthen the public health workforce and are a major source of funding for state and local programs.