April is National Public Health Month. In celebration of this special month, the Chatham County Public Health Department is raising awareness of the role of public health in your daily life. We would like to take you through a typical day and highlight the public health impact.
You hear your son laughing in the other room as your spouse gets him ready for school. Public health assured that he is a healthy boy, thanks to mandatory vaccinations that ward off the diseases that used to be deadly 100 years ago. Your son has a healthy breakfast of cereal and fruit so that he can start the day off right and concentrate in school. Nutrition education and food labeling has taught the public how important healthy eating habits are.
It is time to leave for work and you buckle seatbelts around yourself and your son. It is a habit now, thanks to public health laws and messages that have greatly reduced automobile-related deaths in this country.
Your son is excited because Healthy Chatham‘s Team FIT will be coming to school that day to do a presentation on the importance of physical activity and help start planning for a new community garden on school grounds. The health department’s School Health Liaison is working with school staff to establish a wellness program to encourage a healthy school environment. A healthy school environment will put policies and environmental changes to the school in place to make it easier for staff and students to eat healthy and be more physically active.
Heading on to work, you stop at your favorite fast food restaurant. You know that the quality of the food was prepared in a safe and sanitary manner because the local health department inspectors have awarded 98 out of 100 possible points. Public health has placed all restaurant grades online for public information. Instead, a different public health message gets stuck in your mind; I need to limit my salt intake because my blood pressure is high. You choose one of the more healthful items that have been added to the menu.
Work is good and relatively stress-free. You feel good because you have started a lunchtime walking program with five of your colleagues. The walking trail at Town Lake Park is a great option for afternoon walks. The recent upgrades and signage by the Active Chatham Coalition makes the trail feel safer. The exercise increases aerobic fitness and helps your stress level for the rest of the afternoon. Public health studies have shown the positive effects of avoiding or lessening the risks of chronic disease by exercising routinely.
At a late afternoon community organization meeting, you choose water and an apple from the snacks provided. The organization has passed a Healthy Foods Policy which requires water and at least one other healthy option at all meetings and functions.
Following the meeting, you pick your son up from afterschool care and head over to Southwest Park to play Frisbee with your new puppy, Spot, that you recently adopted from the Chatham County Animal Shelter.
The day grows dark and the two of you head home. Your spouse has made dinner so you spend the rest of the evening relaxing with your family and watching the news. There is a story about a diabetes support program and a local public health educator points out the positive outcomes that as a result of the community’s prevention efforts.
As you lie in bed thinking about the day, you realize that public health is not a one-day or a special week, but an everyday thing that we celebrate by living.
This has been adapted from “A Day in the Life of Public Health” from the Colorado Department of Health.
For more information on programs mentioned in the article, please contact Marissa Jelks at 545-8517, go to the website at www.chathamnc.org/publichealth