Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Public Health Thank You Day


Most mornings I wake up thinking about the myriad of challenges that await me in the upcoming day. These challenges vary from day to day, week to week, and month to month, but recently my attention has gravitated toward:
  • How to respond to the federal budget cuts that have already occurred and wonder when more cuts will be announced.
  • How to best frame and advocate for our 2014-2015 budget.
  • How to incorporate a long-term viewpoint into a biennial budget framework.
  • How to integrate a public health perspective into Minnesota’s health reform efforts.
  • How to best support staff as they face the innumerable issues that come to each MDH division every day.
  • How to keep everyone at MDH informed about and engaged in addressing these challenges.
My normal routine includes skimming the newspaper headlines to see what new public health challenge might be facing me and the MDH team when we get to work. There is no shortage of issues like:
  • New cases of fungal meningitis, drug diversions in a hospital, vaccine preventable diseases, influenza, food-borne illnesses, etc.
  • Reports of new research highlighting emerging or expanding public health problems like obesity, diabetes, sexual and domestic violence, autism, etc.
  • Political skirmishes that complicate our assessment, policy development and assurance roles.
Because this is Thanksgiving week and Monday, Nov. 19 is “public health thank you day,” I decided to break my normal routine and think first of the numerous things that public health has done that we should be thankful for but that we too often take for granted; things like:
  • Clean water and air.
  • Safe food and access to it.
  • A well-vaccinated population.
  • Smoke-free air in most public places.
  • Safe and high quality health care, child care, and long-term care systems.
  • Well-functioning emergency medical and disaster preparedness systems.
  • Enumeration, surveillance, and monitoring systems.
  • Screening and early intervention programs.
  • Many, many, more too numerous to list.
But as I think of all those things, I realize the only reason we can be thankful for these blessings is because of people dedicated to protecting and improving the health of everyone in our society and committed to making our world a healthier place. 

As I travel around the state and see the positive impact that MDH staff in the metro area and in district offices are having on the health of all Minnesotans and on local public health agencies, I am honored to have been given the opportunity to be health commissioner and be part of those efforts.  The greatest joy in my job is being able to work with people with incredible expertise and dedication to the mission of public health. I am better for these interactions. 

From now on when I turn on the water in the morning to brush my teeth and before I begin to worry about what the day might bring, I will first give thanks for all the gifts of public health and for all the people in public health that make those gifts possible. In particular, I will give thanks for you. You and your efforts are a gift to all Minnesotans – a gift that will persist far into the future.

Happy “Public Health Thank You Day.”