An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

By Ceseley Haynes, MPH

Today marks the beginning of National Public Health Week (NPHW), an annual observance sponsored by the American Public Health Association (APHA) to celebrate the contributions of public health, highlight issues critical to improving the health of our nation, and mobilize communities with a shared call to action.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, research on disease and injury prevention, and the detection and control of infectious diseases. Health promotion, preventative care, and public health awareness efforts have helped contribute to an improved overall health status of individuals in America, and around the world. These efforts have helped the United States achieve public health milestones and increase the life expectancy rate of the American population as a whole.

Despite these continuing advancements and spending the most money on health care globally, the United States is not the healthiest nation in the world. 1 Chronic disease, communicable illnesses and obesity are a few of the many health problems that America faces. These public health issues are even more detrimental to vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations include those who are racial or ethnic minorities, children, elderly, socioeconomically disadvantaged, underinsured, or those with disabilities.2 These individuals are more likely to experience worse health outcomes compared to the general population. To advance the health of the nation and reduce health disparities, it is imperative that our health promotion and disease prevention programs and policies reflect the needs of vulnerable populations.  

This year’s theme for NPHW is “Healthiest Nation 2030” – a continuation of last year’s theme calling on individuals to help make the United States the healthiest nation in one generation. We can all work together to improve the health of all individuals. How can we do this? NPHW has prepared a list of items that are necessary to focus on in the trek to the healthiest nation.

  • Build a nation of safe, healthy communities
  • Help all young people graduate from high school
  • Understand the relationship between increased economic mobility and better health
  • Address social justice and health
  • Give everyone a choice of healthy food
  • Prepare for the health effects of climate change
  • Provide quality health care for everyone
  • Strengthen the public health infrastructure

We can also commit to helping create the healthiest generation by signing the pledge and committing to taking two steps:

  1. Creating a healthy me.
    We promise to make choices that improve our health and set an example for our family and friends.
  2. Creating a healthy we.
    We deserve the opportunity for a long and healthy life. We promise to support efforts to improve the social and environmental factors that affect everyone's health and limit the ability for many people to make healthy choices.

The steps listed above are only a starting point to becoming the healthiest nation by 2030. Continually helping to further the mission of New Editions to enrich the lives of all people through the areas of health, disability, education, and human services serves as a jumpstart to your lasting contribution to the improvement of the health of our nation. Let’s continue to work together over the next 14 years and beyond to become the healthiest nation in the World!

 

Additional Resources:

American Public Health Association National Public Health Week Coverage

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Public Health 101”

National Public Health Week

 

References

1The Commonwealth Fund (2015). U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective

2 Waisel, D. B. (2013). Vulnerable populations in healthcare. Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology, 26(2), 186.