• September 22, 2020

CATES:Community and public health - Odessa American: Health

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CATES:Community and public health

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Posted: Monday, July 27, 2020 6:45 am

There is a great deal of talk and action in how much healthcare providers are heroes. I continue to be awed by the people of the Permian Basin and how they support those of us in the healthcare profession during this pandemic.

There are just not enough thank-yous possible to give the people on the front lines of this pandemic in our community and those people who pray for us, say thank you, donate things like food and personal protective equipment to make the lives of the front line folks a little easier. One group of people though that are very much unsung heroes among those of us in healthcare not just now but every day are the public health folks.

I firmly believe that healthcare is a calling, but in my opinion public health is at a whole different level of calling. The folks that do public health are beyond amazing, they do so much with so little, and unfortunately far too often these people are not thanked at all, they are scorned.

I think most of us when we hear “Health Department” we think about restaurant inspections or immunization clinics. But they are so much more. As we have found, they are often our first line of defense when it comes to alerting us about disease outbreaks — like COVID back in late February and early March, but it’s not just COVID.

In Texas there are more than 40 other conditions they actively track to minimize disease outbreaks. They watch our water quality, they have input in how we set up parks and schools to maximize healthy behaviors and minimize risks of illness and disease. They have a huge burden that on most days goes largely unnoticed.

One of the best things that public health folks do is prevention. A great example of this is the Healthy People initiative. Every 10 years, public health experts from around the U.S. get together to discuss things that they can concentrate on to make Americans healthier in the next 10 years.

Right now we are still working on the Healthy People 2020 goals — some of which we will likely be working on with the Healthy People 2030 goals currently in development, but the things they do with these prevention initiatives is pretty special.

The Healthy People 2020 goals include things like access to health services.

If you read my column on a regular basis, you know how much I stress having a relationship with a primary care provider: a physician, a nurse practitioner, or a physician assistant, who you go to for regular check-ups, not just when you are sick so you get good preventative care.

Public health’s job in this case is to set up systems where everyone can get to a primary health care provider — no matter their socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender, or any other difference.

That is a huge job and a huge challenge — figuring out not only where those things are needed, but then getting the people, supplies and other resources in place to make it a reality.

Another thing in the Healthy People 2020 goals that is very near and dear to my heart: healthcare-associated infections.

Hospitals have been working very hard at decreasing those for years, and getting public health involved expands the number of experts looking at the problem — which means more opportunity for solving that problem. That is an awesome thing.

One that is newly added to the Healthy People 2020 goals is Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) Health is not just a physical thing. Health is also about mental and emotional well-being and often that mental and emotional well-being can make a big difference on the physical.

I think we have all had days where we are physically tired, not from physical work or exercise, but from mental and emotional stress. As a nurse, I have seen more than one person who has become so ill because of the stressors in their life that they require hospitalization. The role of public health in HRQOL is setting up systems and resources so people can find that sense of well-being.

That can come in a variety of ways from education to things like parks and green spaces in communities so people can “get away.” If you are interested in learning more about Healthy People 2020, please visit their website at HealthyPeople.gov.

Community and Public Health people are such amazing folks with a dedication to serving others that is matched by a very few. They are such a huge part of the front lines in the battle we are waging with the COVID-19 pandemic and deserve a great deal of thanks, not just now but every day. Please add them to your list of heroes in our community.

Odessa, TX

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