April 5, 2021, Posted by AHW Endowment
Today marks the start of the annual National Public Health Week. It’s a week to celebrate the work and impact of public health – and the people who make it all possible. I think we can all agree that, after the past year, those who work in public health deserve so much more than a week to honor their work.
Over the past year, public health workers across the nation have stepped forward in unimaginable circumstances – facing the global threat of COVID-19 by bringing the best science and public health recommendations to their communities on a daily basis.
In Wisconsin, I have seen this first-hand: The late nights, early mornings, and weekends that our public health leaders and workers have dedicated to protecting our health and safety – while simultaneously balancing the same challenges of working from home, navigating child care and virtual schooling, and hunting down toilet paper and hand sanitizer that we all faced.
Before COVID-19 emerged – the work of public health has been so often invisible. That’s just the nature of the work; preventing illness and disease before it occurs means that the work isn’t always seen.
But the impact of that work is woven into our lives. Clean water and air, safe streets, sanitation – they are things that we have come to expect as a part of life in our country. And they are a reality thanks to public health. When something goes wrong – when drinking water becomes unsafe, when violence rises, and when new illnesses emerge or old diseases re-appear, it is public health that is called upon to step forward and coordinate a response time and time again.
So, as I was saying: Those who work to protect the health of the public deserve so much more than a week to honor their work. I say we do something about it.
Let’s make the future one where public health is valued every day through action. Let’s advocate that public health becomes a priority as we set policies, practices, and make decisions across all the sectors that shapes our lives. Let’s redouble our efforts to make foundational investments today in tomorrow’s public health infrastructure.
Let’s commit, over and over again, to stepping forward to advocate that public health today is not only critical to preventing illness and disease, it is essential to advancing equity, equality, social justice, economic justice, and racial justice. Because good health is about more than access to quality health care. Good health is only possible when we can all live, learn, work, and play in safe, healthy communities.
And let’s push each other forward in that work, helping each other learn how we can do more, and do better.
At AHW, we have a vision of a Wisconsin where everyone in every corner of the state has the opportunity to be healthy. Since 2004, we have invested more than $83.5 million into community-led solutions to public health challenges in our state. We will continue to invest into scientific and population health research that can bring necessary data to advancing public health policies and practices. And we will continue to invest into community-led solutions that can create real change across our state.
This week, we celebrate public health. We celebrate the science that guides it. And we thank all of you who have been working tirelessly over the past year to help our state respond to COVID-19. Thank you.
Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH
Senior Associate Dean and Director
Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment
Medical College of Wisconsin