Commissioner: Please Pause to Celebrate Public Health

September 4, 2013
Originally published April 2, 2012
Life expectancy for Americans has increased 30 years since 1900. The CDC estimates that 83 percent of those increased years have been due to public health efforts. Smallpox has been eradicated, poliomyelitis (polio) has been eliminated in this country, and there have been significant decreases in measles, rubella, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenza type B and other infectious diseases. We have clean water, safer foods, and safer workplaces.   

April 2-8 is National Public Health Week and I want to invite you to celebrate with me.  During this week, when you go to a restaurant or drive by one, think of the Public Health worker who has done the inspection there to make sure the food is safe. If you see a baby, think of the 28 newborn tests the Public Health lab has done to protect his life. If you take a breath in Atlanta consider that Public Health has been testing that air for bioterrorism agents. If you turn on the water in your home, consider all the Public Health efforts to make sure that water is clean and safe.   

In the last decade new vaccines have been introduced and CDC estimates that each new group of completed childhood immunizations prevents 42,000 deaths and 20 million cases of disease in this country. There has been a 30 percent reduction in U.S. TB cases thanks to Public Health screening and epidemiology work.  The CDC estimates that expanded newborn screening in the last decade have led to earlier treatment for at least 3,400 babies each year. There has been a steep decline in children with abnormal blood lead levels because of screening and comprehensive lead poisoning prevention laws. After the terrorist activities of 2001, there was much work and tremendous improvements made in the nation's ability to respond to Public Health threats.
We have much to do in Georgia. We are currently concentrating on childhood obesity, infant mortality, increasing immunizations rates and decreasing smoking rates.  The Georgia Department of Public Health is determined to protect the lives of Georgians and improve the health of those across our great state. But, this week, National Public Health Week, please pause to celebrate Public Health achievements.
For those reading this letter that work for Public Health, a sincere thank you for your dedication, hard work and commitment to make every Georgian safe and healthy. For those of you that benefit from the work of those in Public Health, please make a special effort this week to thank a Public Health nurse, environmental health expert, epidemiologist, nutritionist, doctor, laboratorian, or support person.  If you want, you can leave a note at 

Happy Public Health Week! 

With best wishes for your health, 

Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. 
Commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health 

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