Fredrickson: This week, recognize public health around you

Michelle Fredrickson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.  

It’s National Public Health Week, and CSU’s master of public health students have created events all week to celebrate. This week, students should take the opportunity to recognize what public health is, why it matters and get engaged with the community.

Ad

As a public health master’s student myself, I see public health everywhere. And yet, before enrolling in this program I had very little idea of just how much public health was influencing the world around me. It’s something that everyone should be aware of and everyone should be engaged in.

A red sticker reading 'this is public health' is stuck atop a green bumper sticker reading 'please don't litter'
The ‘This is Public Health’ sticker campaign aims to show how widespread public health is. (Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland School of Public Health)

Part of National Public Health Week is placing stickers reading ‘This is Public Health’ on things that represent the field. You might see these stickers pop up around campus this week on bike racks, bus stops, study desks, gym lockers, desks, etc. In that way NPHW tries to promote the idea that everything contributing to the greater societal health is part of our charter.

Public health is looking at the overall health of the community on a societal level, and the factors in the community that are influencing that health. We want to stop disease and malaise before they happen, and address the things in the community allowing things harmful to the community’s health to occur.

While public health officials play huge roles in responding to things like cholera and the Ebola epidemic, the majority of what public health is can be seen in a much more day-to-day way.

Around Fort Collins, I see public health in the bike racks on campus and the bike lanes in the city. The number of people who bike around here is a public health victory, because increased movement and decreased use of cars leads to better health and happiness for the population as a whole.

Smoke-free zones on campus and in town are an example of public health, because it prevents exposure to second-hand smoke and discourages cigarette smoking, which is a major health hazard.

I see it in the Get Yourself Tested campaign the CSU Health Network is currently putting on, trying to stop STIs before they spread and encourage treatment and awareness. I see it in the huge number of flu shots the Network gave out this year.

Public health is the homeless shelters and activities aimed at reducing homelessness. Many disease outbreaks happen in this population, because they are vulnerable, exposed to many hazards, and usually unable to access healthcare. Public health is concerned with addressing every single one of these issues.

Health is a multi-faceted issue, and public health deals with all of it. Not just the pathogen causing a disease, but the underlying social condition that creates an environment where unhealthiness can thrive.

It’s a much broader look at health than a medical perspective, because public health takes into account the social factors that are contributing to negative health effects. Racism, poverty, and access to healthy foods and healthcare are all public health issues.

Ad

Public health is why there’s clean tap water to drink. It’s why you can trust the food you get at the grocery store. It’s why we have emergency preparedness drills and why we have emergency management teams in place. It’s why rabies in the human population has been virtually eliminated in the United States.

If you want to get more involved in public health, join us tomorrow for group fitness on the Oval at 12:30 p.m., or stop by the Colorado School of Public Health table in the LSC on Thursday, or come to our school’s tenth birthday party on Friday.

There’s a lot that goes into keeping a population healthy, and most of it goes on behind the scenes. Public health workers and officials do what they do with no expectation for recognition. But this week, National Public Health Week, take a moment to acknowledge where you see public health in your life, and appreciate the people who work on behalf of the health of the civilization.

Michelle Fredrickson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @mfredrickson42