Archive for 2009

Looking ahead

Thanks to the hard work of public health professionals across the nation, National Public Health Week (NPHW) 2009 was a great success.

Along with events held in hundreds of communities across the nation, NPHW also saw the launch of the new Healthiest Nation in One Generation viral video campaign. So far, more than 20,000 people have viewed the video online and thousands more have seen it at meetings, conferences and other events. Keep spreading the word!

And even though NPHW 2009 has come and gone, our work is far from over. In the months ahead, APHA will work to build on the momentum of all the individuals and communities who have committed to making America the healthiest nation in one generation.

Along with expanding the Healthiest Nation in One Generation campaign, this means supporting and working with other organizations that are committed to the same goal. One great example is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America.

Like APHA, the Commission believes that there is more to good health than health care. To this end, the Commission recently issued 10 recommendations that identify how to help Americans lead healthy lives. The recommendations – which focus on how and where people live, learn, work and play – call on each of us to take responsibility for our health and for leadership to promote greater opportunities for every one of us to live healthy and productive lives. Visit to learn more.

With all of us committed to the same goal, we’re on the right path to making America the healthiest nation in one generation.

Home, sweet home

Today, as National Public Health Weeks draws to an end, we’re focusing on public health in the home. By this we mean not just the healthiness of the homes themselves and the food, water and other items contained within, but also the healthiness of the family that lives there.

This is a logical place to end the 2009 observance of National Public Health Week. which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of public health in the current health reform discussion.

Although it is an essential part of the picture, health is so much more than just access to care, which is most frequently discussed. It’s federal funding that provides for public health programs across the nation, it’s communities that are built in a way the supports physical activity, it’s workplaces that provide resources to help employees become tobacco-free, it’s schools that offer healthy food choices and it’s families that support each other in living and adopting healthy behaviors.

To keep our nation’s families healthy, we must work to ensure that public health continues to be able to support them through the lifespan. And our nation’s families have to keep up their end of the bargain too. They have to work to live a healthy lifestyle and set an example for the children that could help us become the healthiest nation in one generation.

Public health will do its part. What will you do?

School’s in session

Today’s lesson: How we can improve the health of our children through schools?

As we all know, the majority of the children and adolescents in our nation spend a large proportion of their time at school. So, as it makes sense to work to help adults make healthy choices in the workplace, it is equally effective to target children through schools.

Public health professionals have made great strides in raising awareness of the importance of getting unhealthy vending machines out of schools and replacing them with healthy options. They’ve also done a good job making the case that children need opportunities to be physically active, both to be healthier and to learn.

But it’s not enough. Too many schools continue to sell high calorie foods because they need the additional revenue to cover budget shortfalls. Too many schools continue to cut physical education classes because they need the time to prepare for tested subjects. Too many schools continue to be built in areas that are only accessible by car or bus, making it impossible for students to walk or bike to school.

This has to change. We must continue to help parents understand that healthy schools are essential to raising healthy children. And we have to let our legislators know that true health reform will require an investment in programs that create schools that support healthy behaviors.

If we can keep our children healthy and nurture the positive behaviors that will help them grow into healthy adults, we will be well on our way to becoming the healthiest nation in one generation.

Working our way to health

Even though it isn’t all that fun to think about it, we can’t escape the reality that most of us will spend a large proportion of our adult life at work. I’ll give you a second to let that sink in…

OK, now that we’ve come to terms with this fact, let’s look at the bright side. Because we spend so much of our lives in our workplaces, they are uniquely positioned to be a significant factor in our health and the health of our nation.

One model that has been continually gaining support is the creation of wellness committees to guide worksite health promotion. These committees advocate for healthier food options in the company cafeteria, set up discounted gym memberships for employees, offer workshops on stress reduction and much more. They work to ensure that the workplace helps workers become healthier, rather than serves as a barrier.

As we think about health reform and the role that public health must play if we are truly going to improve health, workplace health promotion needs to be a part of the solution. Whether it involves incorporating prevention and wellness activities into workplace culture, opening up stairwells and making them more pleasant so people will use the stairs more, or insurers lowering premiums for organizations who implement worksite wellness policies, workplace health has to be a part of a holistic approach to health in this nation.

Share your worksite wellness ideas. What has your workplace done to support the health of its employees?

You are where you live

Our roads. Our air. Our food options. Our water. Our sidewalks. Our local laws. Our transportation options. Our schools. Our access to health services. Our social support.

Each of these elements within our communities — or sometimes the lack thereof — plays a significant role in whether or not we’re able to eat healthy, be physically active, breathe freely or get preventive care. They help determine whether or not we’re healthy.

On the second day of National Public Health Week, as we focus on the role that where we lives plays on our health, it’s a good time to think about how we get the word out. How do we make sure that people understand that simply providing health insurance to all Americans isn’t enough to make us healthy? How do get our family, our neighbors, OUR COMMUNITY, to demand that we invest in ensuring that the places we live are supportive of our health?

The Healthiest Nation in One Generation video makes the case and one way to get the word out is to make sure as many people as possible have a chance to see it.

Another great opportunity is to contact your legislators. Make sure they know that their constituents want to ensure that public health is the foundation of health reform.

What other ideas do you have for helping our communities understand that health involves more than just individual behaviors and health care?

You’re invited to be a part of the Healthiest Nation in One Generation

National Public Health begins today with the launch of a new video campaign entitled the Healthiest Nation in One Generation. We're hoping to make this video viral, so we need your help to spread the word.

This campaign is important because, let’s face it – as a nation we’re not nearly as healthy as we should be. Compared to other developed nations, we’re lagging far behind.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With your help, we can make America the healthiest nation in just one generation. By focusing on public health we can turn things around and start moving toward a healthy tomorrow.

The video follows a child through his life and tells the story of how public health is there each step of the way. Want to know more?

Watch the video today and visit to learn more.

Help us reach our goal of 100,000 views by the end of this week to celebrate National Public Health Week! Share the video with your friends and family and encourage them to get involved.

America can make this the healthiest nation in one generation. We all have to do our part. What will you do?

Just around the corner

After months of preparation and hard work, National Public Health Week is finally upon us!

This year’s observance (April 6-12) kicks off Monday with the launch of an exciting, new viral video campaign. The video tells the story of the many ways that public health touches our lives and makes the case that through public health we can become the healthiest nation in one generation. Check back Monday for a first look!

In anticipation of NPHW, this week APHA released its Agenda for Health Reform. The document highlights the most critical changes we must make to improve the public’s health, based on long-standing APHA policies, as well as the best current evidence. Check it out today and let us know what you link!

Along with events at the national level, NPHW events are happening all around the nation. From Boston to Topeka, public health professionals are using this week as an opportunity to support public health in our nation. Click here to find out what’s happening in your community.

We hope you’ll join us next week and from here on out as we work to build the foundation for a healthy America.

Share your NPHW news

As you hold your National Public Health Week events in the coming weeks, be sure to keep APHA’s official newspaper, The Nation’s Health, in mind.

In an upcoming issue, The Nation’s Health will feature coverage of events held around the nation, and your activity could be one of them. Send us a short summary of your activities, when it was held, who was involved and what was accomplished. National Public Health Week photos and artwork are also welcome.

If possible, digital photos should be at a resolution of at least 300 dpi and should be e-mailed as separate JPEG attachments. Printed photos may be mailed. Please note if a photo credit should be given.

"This is your chance to share your ideas and experiences with public health colleagues from around the country," said Michele Late, the newspaper’s executive editor. "Everyone who sends us information will be mentioned. We would love to showcase your work."

Information should be e-mailed by Friday, April 24, to or mailed to: Editor, The Nation’s Health, 800 I St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001-3710. Everyone who sends their information via e-mail will receive a submission confirmation. Click here for more complete details on submitting your events to the newspaper.

The Nation’s Health will send extra copies of the issue to participants who send in their news, so be sure to include your mailing address and the name of a contact person.

For more information on submitting your National Public Health Week news to The Nation’s Health, call 202-777-2488 or e-mail

(Still not sure how or what to submit to The Nation’s Health? Check out last year’s coverage.)

Bad news + inspiration = ACTION

How’s our health faring in these new and troublesome (and sometimes frightening) economic times? Not too well, according to a recent article in The Nation’s Health newspaper, “U.S. economic crisis having worrisome effect on health.” As if the nation’s uninsurance problem wasn’t bad enough....

And check out this new video (below) from the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation about the public health response in a Kansas town devastated by a category 5 tornado. It’s pretty inspirational and illustrates just how vital our public health system truly is.

Bad news + inspiration = ACTION. So, visit President Obama’s health reform site to submit public health-related questions to regional health reform forums or just get involved in making sure public health has a seat at the table.

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Health reform goes local

Yesterday marked the launch of a series of White House regional health forums that will be held across the country in the coming weeks. The first forum was held in Michigan and was attended by politicians, reporters, doctors, nurses and the public.

The day’s events included individuals sharing personal stories of how their lives have been impacted by astronomical health care costs, small business owners talking about their struggles to provide their employees with health coverage and politicians talking about their commitment to reform.

And according to an APHA member who attended, many of the principles APHA is endorsing for health reform - such as universal coverage, access to health services, emphasis on wellness and prevention, and reducing health disparities – were also mentioned by participants in the forum.

Does this forum sound like something in which you’d like to be involved? If you live in Vermont, Iowa, North Carolina or California, you’re in luck – these are the states hosting the next health forums. You can find out the dates and other information here.

Don’t live in one of those states but still want to get involved? You can play a role by submitting ideas or questions for the upcoming forums here.

What topics do you want to see covered at the forums? Do you think they are a good way to get more people involved in and supportive of health reform? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Full steam ahead

What a week!

This Tuesday, Americans heard President Obama say that health reform is critical to our nation’s economic future, that the recovery plan “makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that's one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control,” and that “health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” [You can find a transcript of the speech here.]

And then less than 48 hours later, the president released a budget proposal including a $634 billion fund for health reform - calling it a “down payment” on universal coverage.

Taken together with the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program last month, the new administration has thus far lived up to its promise to work to ensure that everyone one in our nation has access to the health services needed to stay health. Additionally, there has also been a broad recognition of the role that public health and prevention must play in reform, which is a giant step toward better health in our nation.

APHA is pleased with the direction things are heading for health reform. Are you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Hear “Why Public Health Matters”

In support of National Public Health Week 2009 and its theme, “Building the Foundation for a Healthy America,” APHA is pleased to announce the release of a new video series – “Why Public Health Matters.”

Available for viewing on the NPHW Web site, the videos feature public health professionals from around the nation sharing their views on public health. The topics they consider include the greatest public health successes, the relevance of public health, challenges facing public health and much more.

Check them out today and then add your voice to the discussion by submitting your personal story of what public health means to you.

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Putting a face on public health

As our leaders debate the merits of the public health provisions in the economic stimulus bill, one wonders how best to make the case for this important funding.

Health departments, local coalitions, associations and people like you have been writing letters to elected officials, speaking with local media and doing everything they can to explain why investing in public health makes sense. We’ve highlighted how prevention will save money, how the funds will create jobs and how they will allow more people access to important public health services during these difficult economic times.

But this isn’t enough. Despite all the evidence in support of these provisions, they are still in danger of being stripped out of the Senate’s version of the bill. So we need a new approach. Perhaps the problem is that we haven’t succeeded in telling the story of public health – we haven’t given a face to the many lives touched by our work.

We need to share our stories with our leaders and our communities. Share how your clinic has been inundated with people who have lost their insurance and need to see a doctor, but you don’t have the funds to meet demand. Share how your public education campaign resulted in record high numbers of people getting their flu shots. Share how you finally quit smoking after your state required your work to go smoke-free.

Whatever your story, share it. If our elected leaders are able to hear the real-life stories of the lives improved through public health, we might just have a chance to change some minds.

Obama gives public health a shout out

With the world’s eyes on D.C. this week, public health got a boost from none other than President Obama himself. The high-profile acknowledgement came during this week’s Youth Inaugural Ball, which was billed as a celebration of the role young people can play to serve their communities.

As he addressed the crowd, Obama said:

“We know that young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different then what has come before. Where there is war they imagine peace, where there is hunger they imagine people being able to feed themselves, where there is disease they imagine a public health system that works for everybody, where they imagine bigotries they imagine togetherness.”

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself (the quote starts at about the 3:00 mark)!

As we seek to impart the importance of public health to our nation’s health, it’s encouraging that millions of people heard our new president call for establishing an effective, comprehensive public health system – not a health care system, mind you – as a means of preventing disease!

What did you think Obama’s public health mention?

Calling for action

With D.C. gearing up for next week's inauguration, APHA has released a list of its public health priorities for the new Congress and administration.

These recommendations are part of NPHW efforts to urge our elected leaders to recognize the importance of public health as the foundation for a strong national health system that is able to address the many health challenges facing our nation.

Check them out here and then share your thoughts in the comments. What other legislative asks do you think the public health community should promote?

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NPHW 2009 toolkit now available!

The "Building the Foundation for a Healthy America" toolkit is now available. The toolkit includes fact sheets, media outreach materials, suggested community events, legislative information and resources for everyone to use throughout NPHW. Start planning your NPHW event today!

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Coming up short

Add this to the looming hurdles on the road to health reform: A recent Physicians’ Foundation survey of 12,000 doctors — mostly primary care physicians — found that half are planning to reduce their patient load or stop practicing altogether. Translation: When the health care doors open to the nation’s 45 million uninsured, will anyone be there to welcome them?

It’s a prediction complicated even more by a September study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed only 2 percent of graduating medical students are planning a career in general internal medicine, and an earlier Health Affairs study that predicted a primary care physician shortage of up to 44,000 by 2025.

The problem? Just take a look at Massachusetts. A couple years ago, the state passed sweeping health reform legislation resulting in near universal health coverage in the state. The downside? Not enough primary care doctors to see the hundreds of thousands of newly insured residents.

Pretty sobering. Primary care physicians, along with pediatricians, nurses and other primary care providers, are like the backbone of the health care delivery system, providing the regular check-ups, screenings, preventive advice and treatment that keep people healthy. Plus, the primary care provider is often the person that we learn to trust — something that can’t be overestimated when it comes to staying healthy.

So, what to do? Policy-makers at state and national levels have been working on legislation to beef up the primary care work force, with incentives such as loan repayments and scholarships for medical students and nurses willing to work in under-served communities. But with such massive shortages predicted, will that be enough?

Read more about the problem from AMA and let us know your thoughts.

P.S. Our country is also facing a major public health worker shortage. But since it’s the new year, I’ll stick to one piece of bad news at a time.

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