This blog post is co-authored by Kathryn Glendon, CHES
Did you know that, nationally, investing $10 per person each year in community-based public health activities could save more than $16 billion within five years? This week is National Public Health Week. Its theme this year is “Public Health is Return on Investment: Save Lives, Save Money.” Always the first full week in April, National Public Health Week originated in 1995 and is sponsored by the American Public Health Association.
This year’s theme highlights one of our most powerful tools to meaningfully promote health and health equity: investments in public health.
Public health is all around us: the water we drink, the immunizations we receive, and the environment in which we live in. The purpose of National Public Health Week is to highlight health achievements, increase awareness of public health, and improve the general health of the nation through educating the public about health issues and how to address them to improve quality of life.
The daily themes for each day of this week are:
- Ensuring a Safe, Healthy Home for Your Family;
- Providing a Safe Environment for Children at School;
- Creating a Healthy Workplace;
- Protecting You While You’re on the Move; and
- Empowering a Healthy Community.
Every Connecticut resident is served by one of 74 local health departments, each working to promote these goals. For example:
- The Northeast District Department of Health (serving Brooklyn, Canterbury, Eastford, Hampton, Killingly, Plainfield, Pomfret, Putnam, Sterling, Thompson, Union and Woodstock) and other partners in a regional collaborative launched the WriteSteps School Walking Initiative pilot project to add a daily walk at school in the Plainfield School System. During walks, students discussed an assigned topic each day and wrote about it upon returning to the classroom. The no-cost program has decreased reports of disciplinary problems, improved test scores, and enhanced physical activity for both students and staff.
- The Eastern Highlands Health District (serving Andover, Ashford, Bolton, Chaplin, Columbia, Coventry, Mansfield, Scotland, Tolland and Willington) helped implement Safe Routes to Schools programs, which examine conditions around schools and conduct projects and activities that work to improve safety and accessibility and reduce traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As a result, these programs help make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing transportation choices, thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.
- The Norwalk Department of Health, in collaboration with the Norwalk Department of Recreation and Parks, secured an obesity prevention grant to transform an overgrown and unused property into Fodor Farm Community Garden. Each year, families and community groups register for use of 220 garden plots. Fodor Farm also offers educational sessions on cooking and nutrition and a seasonal farmers’ market.
National Public Health Week’s focus on “return on investment” brings public health to the forefront, highlighting the significance of preventing disease and promoting wellness to transform the health system; promote health equity; and improves community well-being—all while saving money.
Want to take action? Be an advocate for your community’s needs, whether they be increasing access to healthy foods, making safer places for outdoor play, or adding more bike lanes. Use this National Public Health Week to make an investment of your time, passion, and experience in your community, and watch the returns on your investment unfold.
Kathryn Glendon, CHES, is currently an Advocacy Intern at the Connecticut Association of Directors of Health and is earning her Master’s in Public Health at Southern Connecticut State University. In addition, Kathryn works as a Prevention Coordinator at Youth & Family Services of Haddam-Killingworth and manages the local coalition to promote wellness and reduce substance abuse in the community.