I've been involved in creating, hosting and reviewing events for National Public Health Week (NPHW) since 2005. Admittedly, I didn't know a thing about NPHW until becoming coordinator for clinic marketing and community relations at Palmer College of Chiropractic, which is also my alma mater. However, in these times, it becomes more urgent and more logical than ever to become a part of an effort bigger than oneself and provides the opportunity to make positive change.
In case this is the first time you've heard about National Public Health Week, it began under President Clinton's administration. NPHW focuses on major health issues and tries to determine what can be done nationally and locally to make conditions better. It's coordinated by the American Public Health Association (APHA), a collection of all health care disciplines working toward advancements in public health. By presidential proclamation, NPHW is always held during the first full week of April.
This year, the NPHW theme is "Building the Foundation for a Healthy America." While there aren't any easy or fast solutions, there is a general spirit of change upon us and a renewed sense of hope on many levels that we can put our heads together and make lasting changes to benefit our communities.
Health data tells us that we spend more than any other nation on health care, and yet when it comes to "being healthy," we lag behind nations that spend far less than we do. Any number of factoids can be listed in support of why this year's theme is focused so globally, but I go back to the issue of hope. I believe many of us have hope for a stronger future and perhaps hope that with all of the turmoil and struggle that has taken place this past year, we will once again return to the most basic of ideas: investing in ourselves and realizing a new level of health.
This affects you in many ways. Not only are you a citizen of this great land, but as doctors, you have a responsibility (one we all accept) that implies a commitment not only to the patients we serve now, but also to the ones who are yet to visit us. They are definitely out there in our communities at large, and they definitely have health issues that can respond to our care. National public health issues affect all of us because, as chiropractors, we are involved in continuing efforts to bring understanding to the masses about what we do and why it's important. It's our own health and that of those we love, that we risk by not paying attention to the health of those in our communities. We affect each other by the things we do and the choices we make. One child who does not receive adequate health care, one mother who has no place to go, one grandmother who suffers because she has no doctor; in all of these scenarios, one is simply too many. It's dramatic for the sake of being dramatic; it's fact. How can we call ourselves doctors and not act?
In a DC article I co-authored with Dr. Lisa Zaynab-Killinger in 2007, I outlined a step-by-step process that could be followed at an institutional level or by private practitioners to participate in National Public Health Week events. It will help, should you decide to get involved at any level with this effort from start to finish. My purpose now is to remind you that NPHW is coming in just a few weeks, and to ask you to do something, anything, to take action now. That may manifest as support for the APHA by becoming a new member, or it may be more extensive, such as hosting your own NPHW event.
It doesn't matter what you do, or how "big" or "small," you consider it, because it's something that adds to the overall effort to acknowledge that there are people who care and are willing to take responsibility. When I started getting involved in NPHW, I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I wanted to do something to help this important cause. If you are finding yourself in that same situation, here are a few suggestions as to how you can make your efforts known:
Visit www.nphw.org to utilize all of the free resources available to you.
- Enter in your information as a partner of NPHW 2009.
- Click on your state to find out about any existing events you could join as a participant.
- Consider hosting a press conference with a panel of speakers from varying health care disciplines in your community.
- Determine what you could do to assist with health care discrepancies among minority populations.
- Identify organizations in your community that are already serving to improve public health; ask them what they need.
- Send press releases and information to local media to help educate them on what the APHA is doing.
- If nothing else, post information in your office in support of this effort.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) has already stepped forward as a partner in this process, showing the nation that as chiropractors, we have just as great a stake in the health of our nation as do any other providers. What are you going to do to represent our profession, support our country and make the health of our nation rise to top of any list where it rightfully belongs? I hope your answer is, "I'm not sure, but I'll figure out something. I'll be a part of NPHW."
To learn more about the APHA and get details regarding membership in the Chiropractic Health Care section, contact Dr. Jonathon Egan, APHA-CHC membership chair, at ( ) and/or visit the APHA Web site: www.apha.org.
Click here for previous articles by Rand Baird, DC, MPH, FICA, FICC.