Addressing cultural health gaps

National Public Health Week reminds us of the need


NATIONWIDE — People of all socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures deserve to live long and healthy lives.

That’s the point of this year’s National Public Health Week, which takes place through Sunday, April 9. 

Coordinated by the American Public Health Association (APHA), National Public Health Week highlights the many issues that are critical to improving Americans’ overall health and well-being. 

Every year, the APHA focuses on educating health care practitioners, politicians and the public at large on specific issues related to public health and prevention. 

The theme this year is “Centering and Celebrating Cultures in Health.”

To make sure that all people have the chance to be healthy requires a sustained effort to pay attention to the social determinants of health

They play a key role in health disparities. And we need to find ways to better address them. 

The social determinants of health are the social conditions impacting people where they live, learn, work and play. Those factors affect people’s quality of life and health. 

What factors matter? Exposure to polluted water and air, access to nutritious foods, a person’s educational attainment, their job opportunities, whether their homes are safe, and outlets for physical activity. 

Each day of Public Health Week features a different theme. 

All are of great importance and can be put into action with the right amount of motivation and solidarity. 

This year’s daily themes are: 

Community (Monday): We all need a solid support system in order to improve our health and overall sense of well-being. Family and friends are key to this, but so are community initiatives aimed at protecting the vulnerable, including children, low-income families and older adults. 

Luckily, northeast Pennsylvania has abundant opportunities for us to volunteer our time to a good cause, be it a health clinic, a food pantry or a senior center. 

Violence prevention (Tuesday): We can do many things to reduce violence of all types in this country. That includes lobbying policymakers to more effectively address the nation’s gun violence epidemic, and to provide more funding and resources to reduce child abuse and sexual violence.

 Reproductive and sexual health (Wednesday): Access to reproductive and sexual health is hugely important, but unfortunately marginalized communities are not getting the resources they need in this critical area. For instance, Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy complications. Meanwhile, only 8.2 percent of students report receiving LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. 

Mental health (Thursday): While mental health treatment is far less stigmatized and much more accessible today than it was years ago, we still need to do much more for the millions of Americans who have anxiety, depression or some other disorder. About one in five adults experience some form of mental illness each year, and for minority populations, the rates are even higher.

Rural health (Friday): Rural Americans experience a range of health disparities, including higher rates of smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes than those living in cities. And minorities are more at risk than whites, due to poverty, food deserts and increased exposure to environmental hazards. 

Accessibility (Saturday): Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act more than a decade ago, the number of people with health insurance has risen to more than 90 percent. Still, there’s more to do, including for adults with disabilities—a third of whom don’t have a primary care physician. 

Food and nutrition (Sunday): Access to nutritious food is hugely consequential to public health. In 2021, 33.8 million people—including 9.3 million children—lived in households experiencing food insecurity, which can lead to serious chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And as climate change continues to wreak havoc, food security issues will only continue to become more serious without significant action. 

Here at the Wright Center, we’re focused on improving the collective health of northeast Pennsylvania through our primary care, preventive and specialized services. 

I’m thrilled that National Public Health Week is making the effort to spotlight these extremely important issues. And rest assured, the Wright Center will be doing its part to address them, each and every day of the year.

William Dempsey, M.D., is the deputy chief medical officer for the Wright Center. He provides comprehensive primary care services as a family medicine physician and serves as medical director at the center’s Clarks Summit practice. Dr. Dempsey is also waivered for medication-assisted treatment, and treats substance use disorder. 

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Wright Center, National Public Health Week, social determinants of health, health, Dr. William Dempsey


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