Public health works to prevent disease and prolong the lives of individuals. To accomplish this, public health works at a community level to improve and protect the health of our communities and empower them to achieve health goals and make lasting changes. There are many different social determinants that shape the lives of communities throughout the United States and public health officials work to provide services needed for all populations. The Center for Disease Control has created a Healthy Communities Program in which 331 communities and 52 local state departments help sponsor. This program focuses on the prevention of chronic disease which affects 50% of Americans with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. They work to promote health and identify preventable disease factors such as low physical activity levels, smoking habits, and poor nutrition. The CDC’s website offers great resources and information on their program. The work of public health sometimes goes unnoticed because it involves so many aspects of our daily lives! Some great examples of the roles that public health may play within your community are listed below-
- Increasing safety of parks and outdoor recreational areas to ensure the safety of your children while they play and take part in healthy physical activity
- Assure access to healthy fruits and vegetables and work to support local farmers
- Create neighborhood watch programs to lower the risk of crime rates and improve street safety in a specific area
- Promote health within community areas such as schools, churches, city halls, etc.
- Create a local health movement within a community such as a walking or running group, a healthy food co-op, gardening club, play groups for children, etc.
- Create economic opportunities for low-income communities
- Increase health care enrollment within a community
- Improve air quality—work to lower rates of asthma
- Offer the use of food stamps at local farmers markets
- Work with residents who lack homeownership
- Reduce diabetes and obesity rates within a community
- Introduction of a WIC program
- Work to lower unemployment rates and increase educational attainment
- Create youth development programs such as building a community garden
The list could go on and on! Public health plays such an important role in each of our communities so that we can live safe, healthy, and happy lives and receive the resources that are essential to us. Next time the garbage truck comes to pick up your trash, remember that it is yet another public health system working to keep your community clean. When you are strolling down the sidewalk on a sunny day, remember public health worked to provide you with a walkable community and increase your physical activity. Working to improve the health of communities one by one, we are slowly improving the health of our nation as a whole!