Achieving It Together: Healthy People in Healthy Communities
Despite what we often hear and read, Americans are not the healthiest people in the world. In the U.S. we spend more on health care but live shorter lives and suffer more health issues than our peers in other high-income countries.
“In order to change our health, we need to ensure conditions that give everyone the opportunity to be healthy,” said Michele Bever, PhD, MPH, executive director at South Heartland District Health Department. “During National Public Health Week 2016 (April 4-10) we are promoting several steps that will help build a healthier South Heartland District, including Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.”
Bever encourages all residents to become a part of the movement for change and consider how they might be involved in one or more of these National Public Health Week healthy community focus areas:
- Build a nation of safe, healthy communities
Health must be a priority in designing our communities, from healthy housing to parks and playgrounds. Walking and biking must coexist with cars and public transportation. We need lower levels of violence and crime so everyone can safely live, work, learn and play. Support farmers markets and local businesses that value health, such as retailers that sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Help all young people graduate from high school
Education is the leading indicator of good health, giving people access to better jobs, incomes and neighborhoods. Call for policies that start with early school success and lead to higher on-time high school graduation rates. Be a champion for school-based health initiatives in your local schools. Become a mentor — you can make a difference!
- The relationship between increased economic mobility and better health
The science is clear: Poverty and poor health go hand-in-hand. It’s time to fix our country’s growing income inequality and the unhealthy stresses it puts on adults and children. Support policies that ensure a living wage and remove barriers that make it harder to advance to higher incomes.
- Social justice and health
Everyone has the right to good health. We must remove barriers so everyone has the same opportunity to improve their lives and their health. Demand a fair allocation of community resources. Provide opportunities for community input. Everyone needs a voice in improving our communities.
- Give everyone a choice of healthy food
Our food system should provide affordable food with nutritious ingredients, free from harmful contaminants. For many families, eating healthy is a daily challenge. Encourage initiatives that help bring healthy food options to all neighborhoods and schools. Support measures like menu labeling that help people make healthier choices. Start a community garden. Volunteer for a local food bank!
- Preparing for the health effects of climate change
Our health is connected to our environments. What happens upstream to our environments at work, school and home affects our health downstream. Support policies that protect the air we breathe indoors and outdoors and the clean water we drink as well as those that help protect our health from natural and manmade weather events and disasters. Encourage smoke and vapor-free outdoor public spaces. Participate in a medication take-back event. Reduce mosquito breeding sites in your yard.
- Provide quality health care for everyone
Health reform was just a start. To fulfill its potential, we must continue to pursue options for expanded access to quality care at the federal, state and local levels. But we also need to shift the main focus of our health system from one that treats illness to one that equally emphasizes prevention. Employers can put wellness policies in place to help their employees have access to physical activity opportunities, healthy foods, preventive screenings and more.
- Strengthen public health infrastructure and capacity
Strong and consistent funding levels are necessary for the public health system to respond to both everyday health threats and also unexpected health emergencies. Support more funding for key public health agencies like the CDC and HRSA. These agencies strengthen the public health workforce and are a major source of funding for state and local programs, including for South Heartland District Health Department.
“We can do this together,” said Dr. Bever. “To create the healthiest nation, we all need to start by pledging to take two steps:
First – Pledge to “Create a healthy ME”
Promise to make healthy choices that improve our health and set an example for our family and friends.
Second – Pledge to “Create a healthy WE”
Everyone deserves the opportunity for a long and healthy life. Promise to support efforts to improve the social and environmental factors that affect everyone’s health in order to make it easier for many people to make healthy choices.”
“It is only when we come together locally that we are strong enough to reach our South Heartland vision of ‘Healthy People in Healthy Communities’,” said Dr. Bever. “And, it is only when we join together across the country that we are strong enough to create the healthiest nation in one generation.”