Since 1995, when the first full week of April was declared National Public Health Week (NPHW), communities across the United States have observed NPHW as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation.
Each year, NPHW focuses its effort on a different theme, and this year’s theme is “Public Health is ROI: Save Lives, Save Money.” The 2013 NPHW theme was developed to highlight the value of prevention and the importance of well-supported public health systems in preventing disease, saving lives and curbing health care spending. This year, we hope you’ll join us in championing the work of public health and its significant return on investment (ROI).
The American Public Health Association (APHA) serves as the organizer of NPHW and develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers and practitioners about issues related to each year’s theme. APHA creates new NPHW materials each year that can be used during and after NPHW to raise awareness about public health and prevention.
Please direct any questions regarding National Public Health Week to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NPHW 2013: Why Is It Important?
Good health doesn’t happen by chance. Good health is shaped and nurtured — it’s connected to the environments in which we live, work and play; it’s tied to the resources available in our communities; and research shows that it’s undoubtedly linked to a person’s access to health care. These are the intersections where you find public health and prevention.
Yes, personal responsibility and better access to quality medical care are critical. But that’s not enough to turn around health care spending, curb disease rates and continue to move toward a healthier future.
For example, while diabetes and obesity can be treated inside a doctor’s office, the costly and preventable conditions won’t be solved there. Tackling obesity and diabetes will take widening access to affordable healthy foods; putting opportunities for physical activity back into our communities through smarter transportation and land use planning; educating the public on the science of nutrition; working with industry, schools and employers on common solutions; and collecting the data to see what works. These are the roles of public health.
We also need public health to monitor West Nile virus cases and implement prevention strategies; make sure new moms have the resources and knowledge they need to have healthy babies; enforce food safety rules and investigate food-borne illness outbreaks; respond to and prepare communities for natural disasters and emergencies; provide access to vaccines; test our drinking water; ensure safe working and housing conditions; track chemical exposures for possible health risks; and so much more.
The irony is that the ROI of public health is so broad in terms of improving our quality of life that it’s nearly impossible to comprehend its impact in its entirety. And yet, it’s also often said that public health is invisible — that most people don’t know what public health is or how it impacts their lives.
This NPHW, help us make public health visible and stand up for the value of public health and prevention in our lives. Help us spread the word that investing in public health is an investment in our nation’s health and by extension, our future. During your NPHW events, talk to your communities about what public health does and collect the stories that illustrate the difference public health has made in people’s lives. We need to protect the public health system — this vital piece of our everyday lives — and everyone has a role to play.
There are big health challenges ahead, but current budget cuts mean many public health agencies are struggling just to maintain the hard-fought gains we’ve made. These cuts compromise the public health system’s capacity to protect community health and leave us all more vulnerable to preventable illness and injury as well as higher medical costs.
• In 2012, the ACA-authorized Prevention and Public Health Fund, the nation’s first mandatory funding stream dedicated to disease prevention, was cut by 33 percent. More than one congressional attempt has been made to eliminate the fund entirely and advocates warn that it is still at risk.
• From July 2010 to June 2011, 55 percent of all local health departments reduced or cut at least one program, with programs for mothers and children among the worst hit. From January to June of 2011, local health departments lost a collective 5,400 jobs.
• President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal would reduce the budget at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by $664 million, which means the agency will have absorbed $1.4 billion in cuts since fiscal year 2010.
• Federal funds for state and local emergency preparedness have gone down more than 25 percent between fiscal years 2005 and 20112222; states have cut about $314 million from state maternal and child health programs since 200723; and as of 2011, state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation had been cut by more than $260 million in the previous four years.
• Nearly 1 million Americans die every year from preventable diseases. Chronic, preventable illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, account for 75 percent of U.S. health care spending or $1.5 trillion per year. Yet only 3 percent of our health care dollars go toward preventing disease.