So I decided that I wanted to write this blog post because public health has really become a passion of mine. I am so happy that at the end of my freshman year I decided to switch my major to community health sciences on a whim not knowing a single thing about public health or what it really was. I have found over the years that many people do not know what public health is. If they do, they either studied public health or have friends who are pretty passionate about it. So the purpose of this blog post is for me to educate people on what public health is, why I love it, and maybe you can guess but why it is important as well. I want to put a little disclaimer in now: I really struggled with deciding whether I would write this post. I really do feel people should understand what public health is and why certain policies are put in place to keep us healthy so that way there is less backlash against said policies. However, vaccines are a major part of public health and I happen to be very passionate about vaccines although I know there is a big population that does not agree with me. So I struggled in deciding whether I would mention that or not but honestly my blog is for me to be creative and for me to share my passions, discoveries, adventures, and the random things I do. So I will talk about vaccines especially since my internship this last semester was with a nonprofit vaccine organization. So what I ask of you, if you do not believe in vaccines and are completely against it and not open to hear about them, to please not read this post. I am not trying to start a debate. I want this post to serve just as a base of knowledge for people that want to know more and are open to learning more can read about the field. Please do not leave negative comments below as I want my blog to be a positive place not a debate, I was never a huge fan of fighting and debates. Also I have to warn you that when talking about public health I get a little preachy and excited cause it is something that is very important to me.
One great public health campaign I learned about in my intro class is the This is Public Health Sticker campaign. Here is a link to a brief YouTube video that shows what is about, really please go watch this its less than three minutes and then you have some background information before reading the rest of this post. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKcDr5qKoOg. This campaign serves as an educational purpose to really illustrate to the public what public health is. In CHS 101 we had a project where we took these stickers and took a picture holding the sticker near something that is public health as our professor didn’t want us to put these stickers everywhere as she didn’t have enough for us to do so.
Public health basically works to protect the population by means of prevention. So some examples would be the prevention of sunburns and potentially getting skin cancer by wearing sunscreen or a hat while out in the sun. Another example is not texting and driving and wearing your seatbelt in order to protect yourself and others around you while driving. It is things that you can do in order to prevent injuries or health complications and what I think I love the most about public health is that anyone can actively do this in their everyday lives. Another example of public health are the signs reminding employees that they must wash their hands before returning to work, that helps prevent them from spreading diseases that are spread fecal-orally. Or commercials about texting and driving or drinking and driving or the consequences of smoking that pull at your heartstrings. Here is a link to a public health campaign about risky driving that really is a great example of the fear tactic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvLaTupw-hk. This is another great example, I think or at least makes my heart ache, that was created by the Centers of Disease Control to attempt to get people to realize they should stop smoking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi_JwXTXLA0. These are public health campaigns that are using a scare tactic to try to get you to realize that is a lifestyle change you should make to keep yourself and others healthy. Honestly I think they are pretty effective and I learned in my health communications that they are.
What I learned from my major is that public health is about healthy lifestyle changes. So making sure to have nutritious meals should not be a diet. In fact most people in my major hate the word “diet” as most of the time diet is just a momentary thing to reach ones goals of their “ideal weight”. Public health believes having a healthy lifestyle of having nutritious meals and exercising should be a constant thing. However, we all know that it is hard to always find the time to make sure you eat enough vegetables and fruits and finding time to exercise all the time. The point is to make time for it in your life instead of only doing it for a period of time. So that could be going to the gym three times a week if you don’t have time for every day. I like the idea of healthy lifestyle changes because it means to be healthier but gradually and consistently, to me that seems more manageable. And don’t get me wrong I was not able to consistently keep with my exercise this semester. Between sixteen credits at school, a ten hour a week internship, eleven hour a week at work, and then studying/homework on top of that I really did not have much free time let alone the time to exercise. I tried my best to go as much as I could but I kind of fell off the wagon this semester and, understandably, it happens. Important thing is that I get back up, which I will once I move home I’ll be able to take my yoga classes with my favorite teacher. By keeping these healthy lifestyle choices you are preventing suffering from physical health issues like high blood pressure or cholesterol which could lead to diabetes, strokes or cardiovascular problems but as well as mental health.
As I stated earlier I had an internship this previous semester with an amazing organization called Immunize Nevada. I’ll leave their website here if you would like to check them out. https://immunizenevada.org/. They are a nonprofit that works to educate and advocate for vaccines in the state of Nevada as well as doing outreach in their community. This organization has really been successful in being prominent in Reno and just opened up an office in Vegas so the coy will really have the capability to do great work on a state-wide level. I was working on a project to help increase influenza (flu) shot rates among long-term care employees as it is not mandatory for them to get it. This is very concerning as they are working with the most susceptible population and could easily spread the flu to their patients. Personally, and many people in the field of public health agree with me, that vaccines really are the prime example of public health in the working. For example the Polio vaccine, because we have vaccinated the population of the United States there has not been a case of Polio here for a very long time. That is all due to citizens being preventative and getting their vaccine. It is so important! I am so thankful that I grew up in a family that is all very pro-vaccine. I got all of my immunizations on time and still do, which means I get my flu shot every year. I’m pretty sure I need to get my Tdap vaccine within the next year, that is my booster for tetanus combined with pertussis (aka whooping cough) and diphtheria in one vaccine. I am so thankful for my mom, she would drag my sister and I to the doctors every fall as soon as the flu shot came out in order for us to get them. Honestly she texts me every fall since I have been in college to remind me to get it, she’s cuteJ but because of this I did not realize that there is a major issue of people getting access to vaccines because I never ran into that problem and just thought because they were so important everyone got them. That is not the case, vaccines are very pricey and if you are underinsured or do not have insurance at all, people have a hard time getting them and the thing is they want the vaccines. So there is this program done by the CDC called Vaccines for Children, where they provide free vaccines for children who are underinsured or are not covered by insurance. One day, somehow, I will work for this program as this is an issue I hold dear. Vaccines are so important, people in third world countries don’t have access as well because they either don’t have the proper means of storage (refrigerator) or the government doesn’t have the funds for it, so when the opportunity arises for them to possibly get these vaccines they line up. Want to know why that is? Because without these constant vaccinations they see polio, measles, Hep A and B, and Tetanus all up close while we don’t because the herd immunity is strong in our country. Just a real quick explanation, herd immunity is when a majority of the population is vaccinated against a particular disease outbreaks don’t occur in the area even if people are not vaccinated because the virus is not present. The people vaccinated protect the people who otherwise can’t be vaccinated or choose not to be, that being said our herd immunity is slowly waning and that is why the Disneyland outbreak spread as far as it did because herd immunity needs to be strong in order to be accurate, meaning there can’t be a huge unvaccinated population otherwise it won’t work. Anyways we don’t see the deaths caused by these viruses because we are lucky enough to have these vaccines available, so honestly please stay up to date not only to protect yourself but those in your community that can’t because they have allergies or a weak immune system or they aren’t old enough to get that particular vaccine. Public health is so important and can keep our communities healthy! I can’t wait until the day I can start working in this field, hopefully in vaccines or for the CDC, because I know if public health is strong in a community the community as a whole will thrive and remain healthy. Sorry that this was long but there’s no way to explain how important or cool public health is in a short and sweet manner. As I said before public health is my passion and I’m totally a public health nerd.