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Health Department Notes: Public Health Week - changing our future together

Everyone deserves the opportunity to live a long, healthy life free from preventable disease and injury. In fact, that’s what public health workers strive toward every single day. Inside health departments in every corner of the country, public health workers ensure the basic foundations necessary for good health - clean water, safe food, breathable air and access to life-saving vaccines, just to name a few. But to truly become a healthy nation, we must also take momentous steps toward achieving health equity. And achieving health equity means taking on the social determinants of health that often put good health and longevity out of reach for so many in America.

We want to change that dynamic, and it will take all hands on deck to do it. This National Public Health Week, we hope you’ll join us in engaging communities and all sectors in a conversation about the role each of us can play to put good health within everyone’s reach.

Where we live, learn, work, worship and play impacts our health and our opportunity to ward off disease and injury. With that in mind, let’s partner across public and private spheres to create healthier people, families, communities and, eventually, the healthiest nation. We can do it if we work together.

Healthier people can learn better in the classroom, more easily pursue economic mobility and civic participation, and better care for themselves and their loved ones. But health is more than just a personal responsibility; it’s also a foundation upon which we prosper as a nation. By now, it sounds almost cliché to say that improving the nation’s health is an investment in our future. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Health is also a moral imperative. In the U.S. today, significant and life-threatening disparities in health care access, disease burden, premature death and infant mortality persist across our communities and between neighborhoods only a few miles apart. This is unacceptable in a country as wealthy and medically advanced as ours. We can do better.

Ensuring the right to health requires a commitment to public health and prevention. Much of today’s most burdensome and costly diseases, namely, chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer, can be avoided or their health impacts lessened by widening access to preventive care, investing in evidence-based public health and supporting smart public policy.

Ensuring the right to health means creating the conditions that enable good health, acknowledging the inequities that perpetuate poor health, and considering health in all policies. For example, communities that improve neighborhood sidewalks help encourage physical activity; better product labeling can help people eat healthier; and boosts in the minimum wage can result in more babies being born at a healthy weight and fewer infant deaths.

All people deserve the opportunity to live long, healthy and productive lives. In fact, offering all people the tools and conditions associated with better health and less disease is an investment that comes with generations of positive returns.

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