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Get Serious About Public Health

The first week of April is actually National Public Health Week (NPHW) and includes World Health Day. Oh, if only every day were actually devoted to health. All year long we have days, weeks, and months devoted to disease awareness, all well and good. But for most folks, what could most benefit YOUR life would be to make a “public health assessment” of your lifestyle, and address the changes you are willing and able to make. The NPHW website is a good place to start, but beyond that, we can think creatively about public health so that we are enhancing our health and not just preventing illness or injury.

Start with a visit to the NPHW website for a start on surveying the safety of your life habits. The site has great reminders about home safety, such as smoke alarms, safe storage of prescription medications and hazardous chemicals, and a reminder to use safe food handling techniques. Important reminders, but let's apply more creative thinking to home safety.

When it comes to dangerous household products, NPHW suggests that cleaning products and cosmetics should be safely stored away. We can do better than that: all of your cleaning products and cosmetics can be safe if not downright edible! Not only will safe cosmetics prevent accidental poisonings, but they could reduce your risk of breast cancer, say - if you switch from a red-light product to a green-light product, as certified by the Environmental Working Group in their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Many of the hazardous ingredients in women's skin and hair care products behave as excess estrogens once absorbed through the skin, raising your hormone exposure and risk of breast and other cancers.

Moving on, the NPHW website has great information about children's health, encouraging healthy activities at school and discouraging bullying, soda and candy - well put. A particular item overlooked regarding children's health concerns the quality of school lunches.

Whether children purchase or receive free the meals provided by their school, we will all benefit - individually, nationally, and as a planet - if those meals were freshly made from local ingredients, emphasizing a healthy balance of diverse proteins, clean (organic) fats, and varied vegetables and fruits. Dairy should be hormone-free and pasture-raised (the benefits are numerous particularly if the milk is raw, but even if it is pasteurized but from cows raised on pasture.) Vibrant relationships between schools and farms help kids learn the value of small farms, and the farms are able to provide a valuable asset to their local communities. Check to see if there's a Farm to School organization where you live. Local organizations thrive across all 50 states, serving almost 6 million children in over 12,000 schools.

The field of Public Health is one for which I hold tremendous respect. We now take for granted major accomplishments that could never be patented yet have saved more lives than any drug or vaccine. Thanks to observers of outbreaks of illness, doctors wash their hands between patients and most Americans have access to safe water supplies. Dentists wear masks and second hand smoke exposure is outlawed in many if not most places in the U.S.

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