The film industry has the Oscars and musicians are honored by the Grammys. Public health’s big event is coming up: National Public Health Week (NPHW), which began Monday and runs through Sunday.
Of course, NPHW is not so much about giving ourselves a pat on the back as much as highlighting the work done by Monongalia County Health Department and all the other public health organizations in the United States.
That’s pretty easy, because it’s simple to look around and discover ways in which public health has improved the lives of not only Americans, but also people all over the world.
For instance, no case of polio has originated in the U.S. since 1979. In the 1950s, people who got the disease sometimes experienced paralysis or had to use a cumbersome and life-limiting iron lung to help them breathe. But the polio vaccine has practically eradicated the disease around the world and dramatically reduced the numbers of cases in the places where it still exists.
That’s just one example of how vaccines have saved lives. There are so many diseases that have been eliminated, such as smallpox, or greatly reduced, such as pertussis and diphtheria, because of vaccines. And as we’ve noticed from current measles outbreaks all over the world, once the number of vaccinations go down, the numbers of illness begin to rise again.
Then there is the public water system, which provides treated water at a low cost to most places in the nation. What’s more, it even contains fluoride, which helps protect teeth against cavities.
Enacted nearly 45 years ago, the Safe Water Drinking Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for drinking water quality and oversee all states and water suppliers. The U.S. Public Health Service had protected interstate waters and its standards were adopted for the new legislation.
And as situations with drinking water continue to emerge, such as in Flint, Michigan or with the discovery of polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of chemicals, in systems, public health continues to educate the public, look for answers and solve problems.
Those are just a few examples on the importance of public health, which has been bestowed with the duties of preventing illness, protecting the public and promoting this vital information to people.
Monongalia County Health Department, which in April is coincidentally celebrating 90 years of helping the community, has five programs to accomplish this mission:
• Environmental Health, which protects the public in many ways, including through training food handlers and the inspections of restaurants, pools, hotels and motels, tattoo studios, farmers markets, food trucks and more. This program also conducts radon tests, an important service in a county that has a high rate of high levels of radon—1 in 5 homes compared to 1 in 15 homes nationally.
• Clinical Services, which provides immunizations for infants, children, teens, adults and travelers—i.e., everybody—as well as free and low-cost birth control, free sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and breast and cervical exams for women.
• Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides breastfeeding support to new mothers as well as nutritional education and supplements to pregnant and breastfeeding women and children up to age 5.
• MCHD Dentistry, a full-service dental office where visits can be covered by private insurance, CHIP, Medicaid, a sliding-fee discount, CareCredit financing, and, of course, cash, check or credit card. And, launched last fall, MCHD Smile Express is a mobile unit and crew that travels around North Central West Virginia to provide dental treatment to students and others.
• Threat Preparedness, which holds drills, conducts classes for first responders and community members and helps keep the region safe during crises caused by everything from bad weather to bad people.
MCHD even has a regional epidemiologist on staff to help track diseases such as influenza, hepatitis B and C, food-borne illnesses and more.
We also utilize a website, monchd.org, as well as Facebook, Twitter and now, Instagram, to get our message out. Our social media handle is @wvmchd.
So, to paraphrase the immortal Jerry Maguire—the lead character in an eponymous film that was nominated for some Academy Awards, by the way—help us help you. Follow us on social media and check out all the information available on our website so you don’t miss important news that can impact your health. We’re here to serve.