Ed. note: This blog was originally published on https://www.hhs.gov/blog/2018/04/02/national-public-health-week-listening-and-working-together.html
Every American deserves to live a long, healthy life, but we are falling short of that goal. Life expectancy in the U.S. has declined for the second year in a row. This decline marks the first time in half a century that American longevity has declined. This is a disturbing problem that faces us as we observe National Public Health Week, April 2-April 8.
Each year, the National Public Health Week, organized by the American Public Health Association, is a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation's health. This week is an opportunity to raise awareness about public health and prevention.
My motto of “Better Health through Better Partnerships” is particularly well aligned with the theme for this year’s National Public Health Week—“Changing Our Future Together.” When we are addressing issues that are important to improving our nation’s health, we cannot operate in silos. Whether we are looking to improve our nation’s health outcomes, improve our national security, or enhance a community’s resilience, we need partnerships and collaboration. We can only change our future together.
As public health professionals, we have a unique opportunity to leverage our influence and leadership to forge stronger partnerships that can more effectively promote public health and prevention. I am committed to strengthening the connections among public health communities and forging new partnerships with non-traditional partners, including but not limited to the traditional business, law-enforcement, education and faith-based communities. We cannot achieve our goals unless we are at the table together, sharing lessons learned and challenging each other to do more, to do better, and to do it together.
The power of working together was evident to me back in 2015, when I was the Indiana state health commissioner, and there was an HIV and Hepatitis C outbreak in Scott County. When we found that more than 90 percent of the people diagnosed with HIV also tested positive for Hepatitis C, we initiated a multifaceted response: expanding free HIV and HCV testing, improving Medicaid registration, monitoring HIV care through the local health department, and starting Indiana’s first syringe exchange program. We were only able to respond in this way and bring this outbreak under control by going out in the communities, really listening to invididuals and local leaders, and building parternships. Because of them, we were able to put in place the right prevention, healthcare, and social services.
HIV, Hepatitis C, the opioids epidemic, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are all national problems that pose threats to the health of our nation. Thankfully, there are things that everyone can do. If we continue to work together, listen to each other, and ensure that decisions are made with people’s health in mind, we can create a healthier nation. In observance of National Public Health Week, let us recommit to partnering to create a healthier nation.