The American Public Health Association sets aside this week each year to remind Americans about the importance of public health in their lives.
In conjunction with this observance, Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed April 2-8 Public Health Recognition Week in Minnesota.
“The successes of public health often go unrecognized,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “In fact, most people may not know that public health accomplishments, not medical care, were responsible for 25 of the 30 years of life gained by Americans during the 20th Century.” Those accomplishments include vaccines, control of infectious diseases, safer and healthier foods, motor vehicle safety and recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard.
“Minnesota’s public health system is one of the best in the nation,” said Gov. Dayton. “I want to applaud the public health professionals at the Minnesota Department of Health and at local public health and tribal health agencies across the state for doing such a stellar job of protecting our health and improving our overall quality of life.”
Ehlinger encourages Minnesotans to observe this week by considering the often unrecognized successes of public health.
“Public health is so often invisible because our job is to prevent problems before they occur,” Ehlinger said. “Only when the occasional problem pops up, like a foodborne disease outbreak, does the public get a good sense of the work we do around the clock to protect and improve their health. But public health is so much more.”
Ehlinger noted the many ways in which life is improved with public health.
- Public health officials safeguard our drinking water systems, preventing cholera, dysentery and other illnesses.
- The Newborn Screening Program screens babies in Minnesota for serious congenital disorders that can lead to deafness, illness, physical or intellectual disability or death.
- Public health restaurant inspectors search out and prevent serious foodborne diseases caused by E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens.
- Universally provided immunizations protect children from diseases such as polio, small pox and diphtheria.
- Environmental health specialists help homeowners eliminate lead paint, asbestos and radon in their homes, thus reducing their risk for serious disease.
- The WIC program provides infants with the nutrition they need to get a healthy start to life by offering healthy nutrition choices for mothers and children.
- Inspectors and investigators provide peace of mind to families that their loved ones in health care facilities are given the best care.
- Public health emergency planners and responders are ready to help Minnesota respond to serious public health emergencies, including acts of bioterrorism.
- Public health researchers and statisticians provide policy makers with the information they need to make informed health policy decisions, including the extent to which we have significant health disparities in Minnesota.
- Public health professionals provide accurate information about risks for serious chronic diseases and injuries so that people are able to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.
Ehlinger noted that public health success cannot be achieved by public health professionals alone.
“Achieving true public health success would not be possible without the contributions of many organizations in Minnesota, including local health departments, other state agencies, non-profit and community organizations, health care providers, schools, faith communities and citizens, Ehlinger said. “We hope Minnesotans will observe Public Health Week by thinking about the improvements made through public health and by appreciating the leadership we have in Minnesota that makes us one of the healthiest states in the nation.”