We are dealing with a new epidemic. Obesity and type 2 diabetes require multi-sector approaches. This is a post-industrial age problem which triggers yet another paradigm shift in public health. This means looking at our environment with fresh eyes. This means examining our urban and rural planning policies. This means creating more accessible bike trails. It means making our playgrounds safe for everyone. It means making our streets walkable so that people do not have to walk on the side of the highway to get to parks and playgrounds and recreation centers. This means PTA's working with school administrators to offer healthier school meals and snacks and beverages. It means developing many more farmers markets to serve the needs of all residents. It means developing food systems councils and lobbying established food policy councils.
Let’s keep the momentum going! Let's examine and reverse the fast food marketing in urban food deserts. We need to partner with corner stores to make lasting changes. We need to reverse the predatory practices of deep-pocketed advertisers that are marketing our vulnerable young children.
Recently, the CHP staff popped in at the offices of CCE colleagues in Rockland County. They are housed in a former sanatorium built in the 1930's; likely built for tuberculosis patients. It has an old-world campus-like feel. It's expansive bathrooms are complete with porcelain tubs, tall sun-drenched casement windows and shower stalls big enough to roll in a hospital bed. In thinking about public health, we can envision buildings like this aging sanatorium of yesteryear.
Then we visited another set of colleagues at the Rockland County Health Department to exchange information about our mutual Healthy Neighborhood Store Project. They are located at a facility built after the advent of public vaccinations. It was interesting to notice the shift in public health policy as reflected in the architecture, which was perfunctory and clinical. One could imagine vaccinations administered by a battalion of nurses in starched white uniforms in the 1950s.
On the drive back to Kingston we discussed how public health policies have changed so dramatically. Who would have imagined that today's public health policy would focus on environmental changes like healthier corner stores, promotion of farmers markets, and complete streets initiatives, that promote a healthy and active lifestyle?
This new shift in public health policy makes for interesting partnerships. It brings diverse people together: school superintendents; young mothers working with urban agriculture committees; community garden members; Mayors; Complete Streets advocates; legislators. We acquire new comfort levels as diverse groups work together to make healthy changes happen.
Yes, we have evolved. In addition to large-scale public health programs based on responding to crisis situations, public health policies are changing to reflect preventive health practices. Be a part of this change! Give of your time, resources and energy. Help us to effect change. We welcome your feedback.
Be in touch with us at [email protected].