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A Day in the Life of Public Health
The first rays of sunlight peek through your bedroom curtains, accompanied by the fresh air of a new day. You breathe deeply and enjoy the clean Mississippi air that public health protects by monitoring radiation levels and developing strategies to keep them low.
Rousing the children, you usher them into the bathroom for their showers. You brush your teeth, knowing the water won't make you sick because safe drinking water is the responsibility of public health. You check your smile in the mirror. You can't remember your last cavity, thanks in part to the fluoride public health helps add to the water. Through similar programs, public health has always sought to promote good health by preventing disease altogether.
The family clambers to the table just as you finish pouring the milk, which is safe to drink because the State Department of Health checks and monitors it from the dairy to the grocery store.
After breakfast, you call your sister - who is pregnant with her first child - and find out her routine doctor's visit went perfectly. Even in the small town where she lives, your sister can visit a local doctor. Public health recognized the need for doctors in rural areas and helped place one there.
Your sister tells you her doctor suggested she visit the county health department and enroll in the Women, Infants, and Children program, another public health service that ensures children get the proper nutrition that will prevent sickness later in life. In Mississippi, more than 73 percent of all babies get a healthy start with WIC.
You walk outside and guide the children into the car. You buckle their seatbelts without realizing it. Seatbelts have become a habit now, because public health has explained how proper seatbelt use has greatly reduced automobile-related deaths nationwide.
Playmates greet your children at the child care center with yelps of youthful joy. As you watch the children run inside to play, you know they'll stay safe while you're away at work. Public health has licensed the center and made certain the staff knows the proper ways to avoid infectious disease outbreaks that can occur among young children.
And thanks to the immunizations your children have gotten, you know they'll be safe from many life-threatening diseases like polio and whooping cough. In fact, public health has eliminated the deadly smallpox virus worldwide, so your children will never catch it. Maybe your children's children won't have to worry about polio or whooping cough.
You arrive at work and find a flyer for a new exercise program tacked to the bulletin board. You decide to sign up, remembering the public health studies that show you can reduce the risks of chronic disease by staying physically active.
The morning goes well, and you feel good because your company became a smoke-free work place this month. Science shows that tobacco can cause cancer and other ailments in those who use tobacco and among those who breathe second-hand smoke. Public health encourages people and organizations to quit smoking so that all people can live healthier lives.
Walking to a nearby fast food restaurant for lunch, you pass a bike rider with a sleek, colorful helmet, another example of a public health message that can influence healthy behaviors. Inside, you order a hamburger and fries. You notice the food service license signed by the State Health Officer on the wall, and you know the food is sanitary and free of disease-causing organisms. Still, a State Department of Health public service announcement from TV rings in your head, and you make a mental note to order something with a little less cholesterol next time.
You finish your day at work, pick up the kids, and head to the community park to let the children play. You watch the neighborhood children launch a toy sailboat into the park pond, knowing public health protects Mississippi's lakes and streams from dangerous sewage runoff.
At home, your spouse greets you at the door. You sort the mail and discover a letter from your uncle. He's doing fine after his surgery in the hospital and will head back to the nursing home in two days. You know he's getting quality care at both facilities, because public health monitors and licenses them to ensure a commitment to quality standards. Even the ambulance that transported him to the hospital met public health standards for emergency medical services.
After dinner, you put the children to bed and sit down to watch the evening news. The anchor details a new coalition dedicated to preventing breast and cervical cancer. A representative of the State Department of Health issues an open invitation for members from all walks of life. You jot down the telephone number and promise yourself you'll call first thing tomorrow.
As you settle into bed, you decide that public health is more than a week-long celebration. Without even realizing it, you'll celebrate public health every day for an entire lifetime.
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|27 December 1999
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