On Tuesday the UC Davis School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences hosted a Public Health Week symposium from 5 to 7:45 p.m. in the Genome Building Auditorium.
The event’s theme, “A Healthier America – One Community at a Time,” sought to examine different approaches to solving current public health issues facing diverse groups of Americans.
One of these issues is a lack of accessibility to health services for underserved and overlooked communities, such as rural dwellers, older adults and college-age adults.
These groups are notorious for experiencing health problems left untreated, said Heather Young, dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
“We need to ensure that groups who are at a disadvantage in the current health care system [are able to remain] as healthy as other Americans,” Young said. “But many of the issues that contribute to [this problem] are occurring outside of hospitals and clinics. We need a strategy that will increase opportunities for education and participation, that connect all the available resources and that optimize the overall health of the community.”
Young also highlighted the fact that over the course of the next 30 years, somebody in the country will turn 65 every eight seconds. The aging of the baby boomer generation will cause demand for health services to skyrocket as chronic illnesses and a need for medication management become prevalent.
However, the health of senior citizens isn’t the only issue.
“Twenty-five percent of our population lives in a rural community,” Young said. “[They have a] higher poverty rate, higher fatality rates and less access to health care resources. Put those together and you end up with a much less healthy group than the average American.”
While that may be the case, one speaker made the point that all communities face some sort of health issue specific to them.
Cheryl Scott, program director for the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Calvin Schwabe One Health Project, suggested collaboration is needed in all fields of health in order to address the concerns of the nation as a whole.
According to Scott, “One Health” is the idea that one must consider factors that affect the health of all organisms.
“One Health is the intersection of human, animal and ecosystem health,” Scott said. “It makes sense that since we all live in the same environment, then that environment must be healthy in order for us to be.”
Scott wants attention drawn to crises that affect everyone, not just one life or entity, such as infectious diseases, food contamination, drug-resistant bacteria, habitat destruction and air/water quality.
One way to do that, she argues, is to engage students today who will be the workforce we depend on tomorrow.
“We need more smart and passionate people engaged in health issues,” Scott said. “They need to be aware that none of us are isolated anymore. What affects one of us will eventually affect all of us. And students entering the health field need to realize that.”
One audience member drew a parallel between Scott’s call-to-action and her own approach to health care issues.
Ashley Leigh, a student in UC Davis’ Master of Public Health Program, noted that most people think of medicine when they think of health issues, but that it’s actually a field composed of a variety of vital systems.
Leigh insisted that in order to truly address the current health care system’s flaws, there must be a distribution of skills and responsibility between experts in fields as varied as law, business and engineering, in addition to health.
“Regardless of what you major in and what career you choose, it’s important to retain a perspective of public health,” Leigh said. “[People forget] that it’s something influential in your life and that it affects everyone around you.”
KYLE SPORLEDER can be reached at email@example.com.