April Is Public Health Month In Nebraska
Men and women live longer and lead healthier lives, thanks in large part to public health measures. Governor Dave Heineman has declared April as Public Health Month in Nebraska.
"Public Health Month gives us an opportunity to recognize the results of public health efforts that are often taken for granted," Dr. Schaefer said.
Women now have a life expectancy of 80 and men 75 years, or an average of 77.6 years, an all-time high, according to information from the National Center for Health Statistics. In 1900, the average age at date of death was 47, or 30 years younger than today.
The greater part of this increase in longevity can be attributed to public health measures such as health education, sanitation, and vaccination, Dr. Schaefer said.
"Of those 30 extra years of life, 25 of them are thanks to public health successes," Dr. Schaefer said.
Challenges to public health a century ago included childhood diseases, crowded living conditions and smoking. In 1900, 30 percent of deaths were among children five years of age and under. Many of these deaths were the result of contaminated food and water, lack of handwashing, and infections that now have been eliminated or greatly reduced by immunizations and antibiotics. Childhood immunizations have led to a reduction or virtual elimination of diseases like polio, whooping cough, measles, tetanus and rubella.
Smoking has dropped from a high of 40 percent in Nebraska in the 1960s to 20 percent.
"Public health assures conditions in which people can be healthy," Dr. Schaefer said.
All in all, public health agencies make sure that sexually transmitted diseases are followed up on to see that treatment is received and contacts are notified, that children's safety seats are properly anchored, that emergency medical services are available everywhere, that drinking water is safe to drink, and that the state will be ready in the event of a flu pandemic. These are just some examples of the things public health does to save lives.
Local health departments play an important role, Dr. Schaefer said. They bring public health to their constituents, providing services, support and education.*
"I am honored to work with dedicated public health professionals across the state," she said.