It’s National Public Health Week! We’re spotlighting the daily themes of the week with a series of guest blogs from APHA members. Today’s NPHW theme is ensuring the right to health and our guest blog comes from Andrea P. Lowe, PhD, MPH, a business owner and social entrepreneur specializing in public health. She is chair of APHA’s Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section and an adjunct faculty member in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Capella University.

 

Andrea Lowe

Andrea P. Lowe, PhD, MPH

The world is experiencing a health care crisis. It is critical that we ensure the right to health for all.

When leaders place their desire to be right above the desire to ensure the right to health, many of the health inequities that we see today will only get worse.

Why does all this matter? Because health is a basic human need that should matter to everyone.

The starkest example of the problem is when people in need of health care are turned away from a clinic or hospital, denied care and left to die because they cannot afford to pay. Or what about vulnerable patients who make difficult decisions that knowingly put their health at risk so their children do not go hungry? No one wins when basic human needs are traded. One thing we can do is work to ensure the right to health for all.

Poor health and poverty are inextricably linked. These factors can destroy families, devastate economies, damage businesses and ultimately lead to serious public health issues for the entire community.

Despite our valiant efforts in public health to prevent disease and injury, it is not until we dive deeper into eliminating inequities that we can make strides to ensure the right to health. Inequities in education, employment and income, to name a few, based on ethnicity, gender or where we live create “silos of separation” that are unfair and unjust. This undeniable influence of inequities on ensuring the right to health for all demonstrates the need for increased scientific collaboration.

So, why is it important that we act on this basic human need to ensure the right to health? What use is there in having health services on your doorstep if you cannot afford to use them?

A critical, but often overlooked, component of ensuring the right to health is comprehensive and continuous advocacy, education and training of people and populations. We must be proactive. From a public health perspective, we have people, policies and programs, but if we do not continue to carry the torch through the generations, the flame to ensure the right to health may be extinguished.

To ensure the right to health, we must use an “Olympic” approach to empower individuals, and the communities in which they live, work and play, to take a health-in-all-policies-and-programs approach across key areas, including – but not limited to – the economy, health, public safety, housing, transportation, education and the environment. By passing the torch we can become one step closer to ensuring the right to health by eliminating disparities, addressing inequities and creating the healthiest nation in one generation.

Keep the torch burning. Pass it on.

 

To learn more about National Public Health Week and how to get involved, visit www.nphw.org.