My first foray into college was at Texas A&M University. Yes, I am a very proud Aggie.
In my freshman year there, I was taking chemistry and I was really struggling with the concept of electron shell theory.
I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Finally, I went to my professor and he said to me, Carol, do you have brothers? I told him yes. He said when you have pepperoni pizza at the house and there is not the same number of pepperonis on every slice, your brothers fight, right? I said yes. He said that is basically electron shell theory.
You put the pepperoni slices around the pizza in circles moving outward so there are the same number of pepperonis on each piece. That analogy made the concept click for me and I never struggled with it again.
A couple years later, I was talking to this same professor and mentioned to him how much that meant to me and how I appreciated him putting things in terms I could understand. He replied, “Carol, genius is not being able to explain a concept to your peers, genius is being able to explain a concept to anyone.”
I will never forget those words. I think about them every time I talk to someone about health conditions. Medical language can be intimidating and hard to understand for people who don’t work in the health care field, even for people with a lot of education.
And it is so important that people who are seeking health care resources understand what the doctors and nurses are talking about. If they don’t understand, it’s hard to follow the recommendations and it’s hard to make good decisions when it comes to consenting for procedures or medications, or anything else. That is why I am so excited that the Health People 2030 initiatives added a strong emphasis on health literacy for the next decade.
The Healthy People Initiatives were started in 1979, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set up a series of goals for the next 10 years to address the health of Americans and to try to make us healthier as a population than in the 10 previous years.
This program has been really successful because it sets a base structure for how we plan to move forward together. We just finished the Healthy People 2020 decade and are moving into the Healthy People 2030 goals.
There are a whopping 355 goals for Healthy People 2030. Those fall into five major categories: health conditions, health behaviors, populations, settings and systems, and social determinants of health.
Those categories look at things as far reaching as specific disease conditions like cancer, diabetes, and infectious disease, to things like health disparities and health literacy. It even looks at things like housing and homes. I think many people in the Permian Basin understand why housing and homes is a health issue.
It’s not just about homes that are unsafe because they are in ill repair, but also about the cost of housing. If housing costs are high, it affects so many things for people, from paying their water and electric bills — which has a big impact on health, to also things like affording nutritious food and being able to seek health care. That one thing has so pretty-far reaching implications if you think about it, and it’s exciting that HHS is putting emphasis on addressing those issues over the next decade.
As I said earlier, one of the things in the Healthy People 2030 goals that I am really excited about is health literacy. That category looks at two objectives, first to improve the overall health literacy in the U.S., and second to improve literacy in kids.
I hope you have heard about the P.O.W.E.R. Initiative here in the Permian Basin. That program and its focus on early reading for the youngest of the citizens in the Permian Basin actually helps meet one of those Healthy People 2030 goals! Our community started that initiative before the Healthy People 2030 goals came out, so it shows we have a great bunch of community leaders who are right on the leading edge of best health practices for our kids.
If you want to learn more about the Healthy People 2030 goals and things you can do to help us move towards a more healthy population in 2030, go to the Healthy People 2030 website at www.health.gove/healthypeople