Public Health: Healthy People, Healthy Communities

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Lauren Staffen, MPH | Carson City Health and Human Services

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday’s health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Carson City Health and Human Services is proud to be our community’s local public health agency.  We work closely with many groups including schools, hospitals, non-profits, and others who care about keeping our community healthy.  This first week in April is National Public Health Week.  We invite you to take a moment to think about the important role that public health plays in your daily life. Also, take time to think about what is needed to bring about change and improve our community’s health.  Here are a few things to consider during this year’s National Public Health Week.

Healthy Communities

It is hard to separate our personal health from our community’s health. Improving your individual health does not stop at going to the doctor.  Everything around us can impact our health to include transportation, housing, or parks and green space.

Carson City Health and Human Services is dedicated to providing the best possible public health services to our community.  Our agency is proud to be Nevada’s first accredited health department. It is through partnerships across the community that we continue to work towards improving the health of our residents. We could not be successful in our efforts without these partners.

Rural Health

Rural communities continue to struggle with health issues including higher risk for the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, accidental injury, lasting lower respiratory disease, and stroke.  Why is that the case?  Some rural areas have features that put residents at a higher risk of death, like long travel times to emergency rooms or exposure to unsafe chemicals.  Rural Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure, be overweight, and smoke cigarettes, than those that live in cities.  They are also less likely to wear seatbelts and report having less physical activity during their free time.  Overall, those factors along with lower income rates, less access to healthcare, and lower rates of health insurance coverage can lead to poor health outcomes.

The good news is you can improve your health by making positive choices.  You can quit smoking or using tobacco products, eat more fruits and vegetables, or start walking more.  If access to a doctor or mental health provider is difficult, smartphone apps or telemedicine may be an option to support office visits.

Violence Prevention

Violence remains a serious issue in the United States.  In 2016, there were over 19,000 victims of homicide and almost 45,000 suicides.  But death from violence is not the whole story.  Victims of violence can have long-term mental and physical issues, which impacts all areas of their lives. 

Violence can involve people from all walks of life.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • One in three women and one in four men, experience sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes.
  • At least one in seven children has experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year.
  • One in ten Americans aged 60 or older has experienced some form of elder abuse or possible neglect.

You can help those facing violence by supporting violence prevention policies in schools and workplaces, stopping situations involving violence (when safe to do so), and reporting child and elder abuse to protective services.

Technology and Public Health

New technologies are shaping public health. Telemedicine can provide healthcare services to people from the comfort of their own homes. There are programs that can help predict health threats.  Technology has also opened up more ways to share and receive information.  Health departments nationwide can reach a large number of people by social media, which can be useful during disasters or emergencies.  Text message services allow for clinic appointment reminders and educational outreach.  For example, the free Text4baby app provides text messages to pregnant women and new moms about staying healthy during pregnancy, safe newborn sleep, and infant feeding.

Public health is everywhere in our community, from the water you drink and the air you breathe, to the safety features in your car. This week, think about how public health touches your life.  Learn more by going to: http://www.nphw.org/nphw-2019.  Stay up-to-date on everything going on at Carson City Health and Human Services by visiting www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or by “liking” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CCHHS. You can also call us at (775) 887-2190 or visit us at 900 East Long Street in Carson City.