(The following appeared as an editorial in the Olean Times Herald.)
The American Public Health Association celebrates the successes of public health organizations around the country the first full week in April each year. Public health is wide-reaching, impacting nearly every aspect of our daily lives from vaccines, to primary care, to mental health, to livable neighborhoods, and safe drinking water.
As we acknowledge National Public Health Week (April 3-9), we “center and celebrate cultures in public health,” the overall theme of the week this year. Our cultures have always shaped our health. The health of our community is strengthened by each of us working together to help our neighbors and friends. We learn from the communities we’re born in and that we build together. We are all responsible for public health.
Each day of National Public Health Week has a theme and the Cattaraugus County Health Department has been hard at work addressing and continuing to address the disparities and inequities in our community but also celebrating our successes. We know that we are rural and as such have fewer resources than larger urban areas. We also know we have a strength of spirit and commitment to our neighbors that many communities don’t have. We care about one another and hope for collective success.
More information may be found at www.nphw.org. Also, be sure to follow the Health Department on Instagram @CattCoHealthDept and via the Facebook Group: Cattaraugus County Health Department.
Connection with community is vital to living your healthiest life. We must work together to ensure all communities have access and connections to affordable housing, education, food and transportation. We must also realize that our rural environment may lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Be sure to check on your neighbors.
TUESDAY: Violence Prevention
Luckily, we have a lower percentage of violent crime in Cattaraugus County than in New York State (197 vs 314 violent crimes per 100,000 people, respectively) according to 2022 New York State Community Health Indicator Reports. When we understand the causes of violence in our communities, it gives us a better chance at creating effective prevention strategies.
WEDNESDAY: Reproductive and Sexual Health
Reproductive and sexual health encompasses many aspects of health care from the ability to plan a family to preventing sexually transmitted infections. We can work together and make sure everyone has the right and ability to access safe, affordable and individual care when making reproductive and sexual health decisions.
THURSDAY: Mental Health
Governor Kathy Hochul has dedicated nearly $1 billion over the next few years statewide toward mental health initiatives. We are working collectively to ensure Cattaraugus County receives its share. Mental health is public health. Our county has taken steps to improve access to mental health services but much more still needs to be done.
FRIDAY: Rural Health
Rural communities are some of the most vulnerable populations to public health threats. We can work toward a more robust, inclusive public health system that ensures everyone is reached.
We can close the health equity gap by reducing health disparities in health insurance, increasing physical accessibility to care, improving availability of appropriate care and building more inclusive public health programs and communities.
We know our county faces access issues including transportation. The good news is that more of our residents are insured than the United States as a whole (7% vs. 11% uninsured, respectively) according to the 2020 U.S. Census. We need to ensure that our residents can access services covered by their insurance.
SUNDAY: Food and Nutrition
Access to fresh, quality and nutritious food is the foundation to living a healthy life. We can work together to make sure our communities have that access and advocate for those communities who don’t. Our Veggie Wheels® program grows each year serving more and more of our neighbors. Don’t forget to sign up for the Slow Ride, Saturday, May 6, to benefit Veggie Wheels®. Information is on the Cattaraugus County Health Department Website: cattco.org/health.
National Public Health Week highlights the many areas in which public health may have an impact. We would like to thank those in our community who work tirelessly on public health issues and those who support our work. We are here for everyone because public health is where you are.