Now more than ever, it's time to celebrate Public Health
By Kenzie Bostick
The American Public Health Association, which organizes National Public Health Week, typically devotes each day of the week to a topic. This year is no different, but those topics were tweaked to take the COVID-19 pandemic into account.
Monongalia County Health Department usually throws a little celebration this week, but of course, we are busier than ever fighting this disease, along with all other health departments in the country.
This year’s topics are Monday, Mental Health; Tuesday, Maternal and Child Health; Wednesday, Violence Prevention; Thursday, Environmental Health; Friday, Education, Saturday, Healthy Housing; and Sunday, Economics.
Let’s explore those here.
The COVID-19 pandemic can really take a toll on your mental health. It can be difficult to be stuck at home, not knowing what is going to happen next or when this will end. It can be equally difficult for the essential workers who have to wonder each day if it’s the day they catch the virus.
While it may seem beneficial to stay up to date with COVID-19 news, it can be overwhelming to constantly read about it. Try limiting the amount of news you consume to once or twice per day. Try to focus on positive stories of recovery or communities coming together. Find time to do things you enjoy or healthy activities, such as exercising or meditating.
While research shows that children and pregnant women are not more susceptible to catching COVID-19, they are still considered to be at risk. Currently, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from mother to baby. These groups should exercise caution and good hygiene. Pregnant women should look into using telemedicine for their prenatal appointments, if possible, in hopes of limiting exposure. Toys, stuffed animals and other things children often touch should be washed and sanitized, if possible.
Another element of public health that everyone should be aware of is violence prevention. Since the novel coronavirus has spread all over the world, microaggressions and violence against people who look Chinese or Asian. Be kind to others, everyone is struggling right now. There also has been an uptick in domestic violence and other domestic situations, including here in Monongalia County.
One positive outcome from COVID-19 forcing everyone to stay home is that the environment can improve. Air pollution is decreasing. And it’s important to continue to be environmentally conscious. Continue to recycle, advocate for water infrastructure improvements and funding for public health workers as the health effects of climate change become more evident.
In these unpredictable times, it is important to advocate for quality education in our schools. With schools in West Virginia being closed currently, many students are left without secure access to food or the technology they need to complete the online work. Try to find ways to help schools out during this time, such as handing out meals to students or volunteering to help with online school.
With everyone staying home now, it is important to advocate for access to safe and affordable housing. Issues such as mold and secondhand smoke can lead to health problems later. It is also important to acknowledge the economic effects of the pandemic. Being out of work or receiving large medical bills can cause significant financial problems. Advocate for paid sick leave and improved wages.
Make sure to continue to practice social distancing and only leave your home for work or essential errands. Only hang out with people you live with, avoid large groups, and practice good hygiene to reduce your chances of becoming ill.
When the next National Public Health Week rolls around in 2021, we hope to be looking back at how health departments along with researchers and heath care workers, rose to the occasion and conquered COVID-19. Then we will really have something to celebrate.