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Public Health at a Crossroads

“Life is a journey full of crossroads and constant choices as to which road to follow.” Njavwa Sinkala

As the worldwide crisis that centered around COVID-19 began to lose its status as a novel and acutely devastating virus and instead began to take shape as an endemic virus that can still be devastating over periods of time but does not pose as much of a worldwide risk of mortality, public health practitioners have felt like we are at an important crossroads. Will we be able to implement what we learned during the years-long global pandemic and be better prepared in the future to interact with our neighbors, in our communities, and with our local, state and federally elected leaders? Or will the crisis of trust that seemed to invade many of the community dialogues throughout the country become irreconcilable divisions?

Public health exists because each intervention that occurs, whether it be in the form of a vaccine, smoking and opioid education, preparedness planning and exercises, drinking water and food testing, or educating the public on good parenting and nutrition practices, is a practice that, in the future, saves money and, more importantly, lives. $1 spent in the WIC program now will result in a savings of at least $2.48 in the future and will help a family’s quality of life improve significantly (https://www.nwica.org/blog/senate-passes-covid-relief-with-critical-wic-investments-). A well run vaccine program can save $54 for every dollar invested (https://www.jhsph.edu/ivac/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FINAL-DRAFT-Vaccine-ROI-Policy-Brief_feb-2021.pdf) and saves countless lives.

My simple plea to the public is to maintain hope in the value of public health. We have decades of data that inform us how much good it does in both small and large communities, as well as being able to impact individual lives. In the coming months, SEUHD will roll out a new website that will give our communities access to more data that is meaningful to them and can help them make good decisions. I hope you take advantage of that. And come to one of our offices or events and get to know our employees. They care about you and your family. They are amazing. As we work together and make sound public health decisions, we will all be able to thrive.


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