Celebrating National Public Health Week, and Ourselves

Only history will decide when the pandemic ended in the United States. Are we in the final stages? Or are we entering a quiet summer before cases roar back in the fall? Or will a variant come out of nowhere and ruin what looks to be a perfectly delightful summer?

As we emerge from the pandemic awareness of the often-overlooked field of public health is at an all-time high. The glare from the spotlight has been a harsh for many professionals.

The world wanted concrete answers but learned that the field of public health is a world not of certainty, but of statistics. Nothing works 100% of the time when it comes to the human body. Vaccines and mask wearing did not always prevent Covid-19 infection, much the way that wearing sunscreen does not prevent all skin cancers and that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables will not prevent all heart attacks. But these actions will considerably improve your odds.

Conveying that message honestly did not reassure many members of the public. The results in thousands of angry calls to health departments to dispute the emerging science, argue against public health regulations, and promote conspiracy theories. A significant number of these public servants left the field under the strain of long hours protecting their communities while dealing with open scorn from the very people they wanted to protect.

Under this dark cloud we now ask you celebrate National Public Health Week. This year’s theme is Public Health is Where You Are, something that most of you are now more aware of than ever before. But your health department is so much more than Covid-19.

They track infectious disease like tuberculosis and HIV in your community to keep it contained. They inspect restaurants to keep you safe from foodborne illness. They work with city planners to make communities more walkable. They provide home health and immunizations in counties that do not have providers. They fight to keep fluoride in your drinking water…the list goes on and on.

Our lives are lived under an umbrella of public health, though you often do not see it. The pandemic may be going away sometime soon, but public health will be here long after it is gone. When you get a chance, thank any of the thousands of dedicated professionals at the state health department, local health department, non-profit group, laboratory…the list goes on. Odds are, they could really use it.


Jeremy Whitaker,

IPHA Board President

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