Health: The core of public heath is the 10 essential services

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:

It seems as if it were yesterday when Rosie Miklavcic, who was the Director of the Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) at that time, asked if I would tackle writing a 500-plus word article centered around health to be submitted to The State Journal on a weekly basis.

As it turns out, the project has been ongoing for more than seven years. It has been a privilege to write these articles. I will continue to submit articles, but not as an employee of FCHD.

It is particularly gratifying to have someone comment on enjoying a particular article, although there does seem to be a consensus that perhaps I was obsessed with the H1N1 flu virus. At the time, it seemed as if the 10 essential services of public health were all merging together to solve a public health crisis.

The 10 essential services of public health have been at the core of the articles I contribute. They were first outlined in 1994 and continue to evolve as an ongoing process. The concept is both simple and complex at the same time.

There is no one person, group or philosophy that is the overall driving force behind public health. It is what we do as a community to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be healthy.

The essential services are all equal in scope and importance. From monitoring health status to protect the public, to informing, educating and empowering people about health issues to mobilizing community partnerships to solve health problems, the essential services define public health. An example would be tobacco use.

We know that the leading cause of preventable death and illness is the use of tobacco, especially smoking cigarettes. FCHD and other groups offer the Cooper/Clayton Smoking Cessation program to help current smokers quit. Cooper/Clayton and other cessation programs are valuable and necessary tools. Preventing children from making the choice to smoke is just as valuable.

Informing and educating the public about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke is a part of that process. In addition, enacting policies such as the Franklin County School Board’s 100 percent tobacco-free school policy will keep kids from starting tobacco use while helping other smokers to quit. It protects everyone from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

The policy is simple: “Everybody, All the time, Everywhere.”

Prevention should be the center of health services. It should be first line prevention instead of the treatment of disease to prevent further escalation of the illness. Most, if not all, chronic diseases are preventable or at least modifiable.

One of the best ways to promote good health and prevent chronic diseases is to adopt healthy lifestyles. Health care professionals can talk about healthy choices, but unless the healthy choice is the easy choice, behaviors will not change.

As it turns out, your mother was right. If you want to be healthy, go outside and play, wash your hands, brush your teeth, eat your vegetables and cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.

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