During the first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation's health.
Everyone deserves to live a long and healthy life in a safe environment. To make that possible, we need to address the causes of poor health and disease risk among individuals and within our communities. Where we live, learn, work, worship and play affects each of us and can determine our health and life expectancy. In the workplace, let's partner across public and private sectors to make sure decisions are made with the public's health in mind. Within our communities, let's start new conversations with our neighbors and become advocates for positive change. Working together, we can build healthier communities and eventually, the healthiest nation. But we need your help to get there.
Each day this week will focus on a different public health topic that's critical to creating the healthiest nation. This page contains information about each of these health topics, including ways the Sarpy/Cass Health Department is addressing them. Consider following our Facebook and Twitter pages for additional information.
Tuesday: Advancing Racial Equity
Wednesday: Strengthening Community
Thursday: Galvanizing Climate Justice
Friday: Building COVID-19 Resilience
Saturday: Uplifting Mental Health and Wellness
Sunday: Elevating the Essential and Health Workforce
Rebuilding doesn’t mean getting back to where we were before the COVID-19 pandemic – it means having the vision to create a better, more inclusive, more just world through public health. Public health infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and reinvested in: less than 3% of U.S. health spending is on public health. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. faces a growing shortage of health care providers. Racism is a public health crisis, causing health disparities, including in the rates of COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths. The pandemic has illuminated how race, place and income can affect a person’s health, and even survival, in the U.S. A lack of investment in maintaining the built environment, such as removing lead pipes from city water, is costing the U.S. money, health and lives. And one in four people in the U.S. does not have access to high-speed internet, which can prevent academic and economic achievement.
ADVANCING RACIAL EQUITY
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequities in health care, income, housing, education and many other factors that influence health and well-being. These inequities are largely driven by racism and bias that are embedded in our systems, institutions, policies and practices. This structural racism results in a lack of access and opportunity, increased sickness and premature death among communities of color. Compared to white women, Black women (across socioeconomic status) are three times more likely to die within one year of childbirth. American Indian/Alaska Native, Black and Latinx youth graduate high school at rates significantly lower than white youth. In addition, Black, American Indian and Latinx Americans all have a COVID-19 death rate that nearly triples that of White Americans. The public health community must address racism as the key driver of health disparities.
Community encompasses every aspect of our lives – it’s where we live, work, learn, play and pray. These make up the social determinants of health, and too many people in the U.S. face community barriers to health and well-being. At least 4 million U.S. households are home to children exposed to high levels of lead, and around 6 million U.S. homes are considered substandard. Our social communities affect our health behaviors, too. Teens are more likely to engage in risky health behaviors like smoking, texting while driving or not wearing a seatbelt if their friends do the same. Additionally, elderly individuals, who live alone and feel lonely, are at 26% higher risk for mortality. Even among the general population, loneliness has been found to be a greater health risk than obesity.
GALVANIZING CLIMATE JUSTICE
BUILDING COVID-19 RESILIENCE
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that when governments fail to act before and during a public health crisis the public’s health suffers tremendous consequences. By January 2021, the U.S. had nearly 24 million reported cases of COVID-19 and almost 400,000 deaths. When response to the pandemic has been slow, other parts of life in the U.S. have suffered: Millions of people lost their jobs, and more than half of the people who were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic are still unemployed. Food insecurity only increased during 2020, and the number of people facing food insecurity could climb to as high as 50 million in the U.S. Where schools weren’t prepared with plans on how to continue students’ learning during crises, including natural disasters and pandemics, students’ educational attainment suffered. And more than half of U.S. adults say their mental health has been negatively affected by the pandemic. In short: The U.S. is suffering, and without action, things are likely to get worse.
UPLIFTING MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Mental health is a critical component of public health. It consists of emotional, psychological and social well-being and is important from childhood through adulthood. In the United States, mental illness is one of the most common health conditions. In a year, one in five Americans will experience mental illness. Fifty percent of mental illness begins by the age of 14, and 75% begins by the age of 24. People who identify as being two or more races are more likely to report mental illness than other races, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Caucasian and Black populations. For all racial groups, except American Indian/Alaska Native, women are more likely than men to receive mental health services.
ELEVATING THE ESSENTIAL AND HEALTH WORKFORCE
About three-quarters of all U.S. workers have jobs that are difficult or impossible to do from home – meaning the majority of us are at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-income workers have higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Millions of health care workers are not getting the supplies or pay they need during the pandemic. Where public health services are not being accessed, or where they’ve been cut, COVID-19 cases and deaths have increased. And family leave protections do not cover all workers, keeping many people, who work at large employers like grocery store chains, in health and financial peril.