LETTER TO THE EDITOR - The doctor of the community

Thursday, April 5, 2001

The goal of public health is helping to create an environment where people can live in good health. Simply put, public health helps make good health happen in Iowa's homes, neighborhoods, schools and workplace.

Public health is more than just state and local government agencies. While a personal physician may concentrate on keeping an individual healthy, public health works to keep the entire community in good health...

The public health community works together to fight disease and promote healthy lifestyles through community health needs assessment, communicable disease follow-up, health hazard investigations, enforcing laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety, immunization clinics, health education programs, providing personal health services when these aren't available from other providers and mobilizing community partnerships to identify and solve health problems within the community. Public health touches the lives of the very young and the very old, the rural and urban and those with wealth as well as those who have very few resources.

Besides the Iowa Department of Public Health, there are local public health personnel in every one of Iowa's counties. Those local public health workers may be members of the Board of Health who are charged with leading the effort to prevent disease and improve health in the community.

The local public health workers may be Home Care aides, who visit the homes of elderly clients and allow them to live in the comfort and familiar surroundings of home. The local public health worker may be a Public Health nurse who organizes a community coalition to address tobacco prevention activities or establish a home safety program in response to an assessment of injuries occurring in the county. The local health worker may be the county sanitarian who works with other agencies to ensure clean water supplies and sewage treatment. Hospitals, schools, community action agencies, substance abuse prevention programs, community health centers and many other organizations within the community provide public health services and are critical members of the "public health team."

Iowa's public health community carries a significant workload. However, the battle for Iowa's good health is a never-ending one. As long as old diseases reappear and new ones arrive, the public health community will stand ready to safeguard and advance the health of all Iowa communities.

This week is National Public Health Week, an opportunity to recognize the contributions of public health to the nation's well being.

Karole Graen, R.N.

Buena Vista County

Public Health Nurse