Monthly Archives: May 2010

Public Health: A Nurse’s Perspective

It’s Public Health Nurse week, a week focused on shedding light on the important work of public health nurses throughout America. A public health nurse is charged with examining the choices people make about their health and addressing risk factors. In honor of this week, Huffington Post features an anecdote from a public health nurse, Paula Wilson:

As a Public Health Nurse myself, I’m in the trenches everyday dealing with illnesses that reflects society’s struggle to make healthy choices and create policies that support and sustain them.

In my role as Hypertension Clinical Coordinator for the Home-Based Intervention for African Americans Project at VNSNY, I’m charged with helping patients make healthier choices about the food they eat, the exercise they get (or don’t get), and the way they communicate with their doctors.

You can read Paula’s story here. Her work touches upon some of the important services that will be provided by a regional health department (education about nutrition and physical activity, immunizations, etc.).

To learn more about the effort to establish a Lehigh Valley Health Department, visit RenewLV’s Regional Health Initiative page.

Support for Public Transportation Strong

Transportation for America conducted a Future of Transportation Poll, in which it gauged the public’s interest in investing fund in public transportation. The results of this poll were interesting.

Over 80% of all voters believe that the US “woould benefit from an expanded public transportation system.” And transit choice is an important reason cited for this. Often, those who live in the suburbs are left with no choice but to use a car. While it may be enjoyable for some to drive even short distances, many individuals would prefer some options in both commuting to work and recreation areas.

What do you think about these poll results?

RenewLV Brown-Bag: Bicycling in the Lehigh Valley, May 21

RenewLV’s next brown-bag session will be held on Friday, May 21st, 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. in the Community Room of Allentown Center Square, 15 North 7th Street, Allentown (near the corner of 7th and Hamilton). The brown-bag series aims to provide an informal setting in which community members can learn about issues related to urban development and revitalization; smart growth; and regional collaboration. A key goal of this series is to highlight the Lehigh Valley’s progress on these efforts.

The topic for this brown-bag session is Bicycling in the Lehigh Valley. Leaders from regional bicycling groups will discuss the opportunities and challenges that face the bicycling community in the Lehigh Valley. The session will include brief presentations from panelists, followed by plenty of time for discussion.

Our confirmed panel for this session is:

  • Steve Schmitt, Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT)
  • John Schubert, Pennsylvania Pedalcycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee
  • John Sharpe, Bike Allentown

I hope you’ll bring a lunch (perhaps from one of the downtown dining establishments) and join us on the 21st. RenewLV will be recording this session and making it available to listen on our website. Check out past brown-bag session recordings on RenewLV’s Multimedia page.

If you would like additional information, or have any questions about the event, feel free to contact Beata Bujalska at bbujalska@renewlv.org or 484.893.1062

Regional Health on Business Matters

In case you missed it — Tony Iannelli’s Business Matters featured a lively discussion on the regional health department last month. Lehigh County Commissioners Percy Dougherty and Andy Roman and Northampton County Council members Bruce Gilbert and Ron Angle (via phone) contributed their thoughts on the effort to establish a Lehigh Valley Health Department.

Some highlights from the program:

  • While Council member Bruce Gilbert expressed his worries about the costs of a regional department, he stressed that, currently, the areas outside of Allentown and Bethlehem in the Lehigh Valley were significantly underrepresented and that this was a worry.
  • Commissioner Andy Roman — a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative and small government proponent — stated that “government should be limited to doing certain things, with public health and safety being number one.”
  • Commissioner Percy Dougherty stated that public health problems “don’t stop at the borders of Allentown and Bethlehem; if the Lehigh Valley has a pandemic, it will be Valley-wide.”

Percy’s comments underscore the point that public health concerns do not stop at municipal borders. The spread of communicable disease does not stop at a city line. Moreover, the residents and workers of the Lehigh Valley regularly travel across municipal lines within the Lehigh Valley and shouldn’t have to worry about severe disparities in services within the region.

Check out the video at WFMZ and post any thoughts you may have below. If you’re interested in learning more about the effort to establish a regional health department, visit RenewLV’s Regional Health Initiative page and consider signing up as a supporter on our Join Us page (making sure to check the box next to ‘Health’).

American Public Health Association Survey: Americans willing to work to improve community health

This past weekend I received a copy of The Nation’s Health, the official newspaper of the American Public Health Association. While reading the newspaper, I found an article I thought would be good to share. In January, 2010, in conjunction with the American Public Health Association and National Public Health Week, A Healthy America, a national telephone survey was conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults. The objectives of  the survey were to measure what Americans know about public health initiatives; to establish what Americans believe constitutes “A Healthier America;” and  quantify how Americans characterize their personal health as well as their ability to make personal or community differences.

The survey results indicated that Americans are taking steps to healthier life styles. The key findings of the study were:

  • 64% of Americans have made healthy changes in their lifestyle, while 21% were thinking about making additional improvements.
  • 51% of Americans have helped their friends or families make changes to their personal health and well-being in the past six months.
  • 70% of Americans would be willing to vote for representatives that support environmentally and health-friendly policies.
  • 65% of Americans would be willing to advocate for initiatives that would improve their community’s health.
  • 56% of American would be willing to walk or bike instead of drive to school, work, or other destinations.
  • When it comes to being healthy, 47% of Americans want to be an inspiration for their children.
  • 58% of Americans characterized their lifestyles as somewhat healthy and 27% say they are healthy.
  • Lack of time and commitment were cited as the barriers to improving health.

If you are interested to find out more information about National Public Health Week, a full coverage article will be published in the Nations Health in July. For more information about National Public Health Week, please visit www.nphw.org, e-mail nphwa@apha.org or call (202) – 777 – 2425. Also, to learn more about regional public health, please visit RenewLV’s Regional Health Initiative page

LVHN CEO and Lehigh University President weigh in on Regional Public Health Department

The Express-Times published an excellent editorial in today’s edition written by two local leaders, Elliot Sussman- CEO of Lehigh Valley Health Network, and Alice Gast- President of Lehigh University. In their article, Gast and Sussman stress the importance of public health infrastructure as a necessary component of creating healthy communities.

Gast and Sussman draw an important distinction between individual health–provided by hospitals and health care professionals– and public or community health–provided by public health infrastructure. They explain why each of these health services is so important to a community and why the Lehigh Valley needs to move forward with creating a bi-county public health department.

The focus of a public health department is to prevent illness and provide for community health. This includes population health (prevention of infectious diseases and homeland security) and environmental health (water supply, food safety). Hospitals and health care professionals who work inside hospitals are skilled at protecting individual health, providing care for individuals who are ill (heart attacks, cancer, newborns, etc.). Hospitals and doctors, working together with health systems, play a role in public and community health, but they cannot do it alone.

Here is the link to the full-text of the editorial: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/05/opinion_the_case_for_a_regiona.html

One Idea: Gateway Tolling

During the kickoff of yesterday’s  Special Session on the Pennsylvania  Transportation Funding Crisis, Gov. Rendell asked for suggestions on how to fill the gap within Act 44, PA’s Transportation law.  State Representative Scott Conklin (77th District) has come forward with one recommendation — implementing a toll on the state’s interstate highways, at the 11 entrance points along the state’s border. Drivers would pay to leave and to enter the state.

A Johnstown news source reports:

PennDOT officials said an estimated 168 million vehicles cross Pennsylvania’s borders on non-tolled interstate roads and bridges each year, and when factoring in round-trips, gateway tolling could raise at least $300 million a year.

Conklin said the last thing lawmakers want is a bridge collapse like one that happened a few years ago on Interstate 70.

“Many of our bridges today are the exact same concrete construction and again, in central Pennsylvania alone, if we don’t do something immediately we’re looking at 160,000 residents who are going to have to divert their driving habits,” Conklin said.

Do you think this proposal has a greater chance of gaining support than an increase in the gas tax?

PA Legislature Special Session Update

Governor Rendell convened a special session of the General Assembly today to discuss possible ways to move forward after the rejection of the plan to toll I-80. According to this PR Newswire report, in Rendell’s address, he stressed the importance of working together “to fully repair and improve our transportation system at the level that is truly needed.” This came after he acknowledged that even the full funding of Act 44 would not solve the bigger problem that the state is facing.

While it is easy to focus on the devastating potential effects of this funding crisis, Rendell also explained some of the immediate economic benefits that increased transportation funding can create. You can read the full report on the PR Newswire website.

PennDOT has created a website dedicated to providing up-to-date information on this ongoing crisis. On the website, there are links to the full text of Governor Rendell’s remarks, as well as information regarding the current situation of bridges, roads, and transit . There are also full-text and summary reports from the Transportation Advisory Committee.

Or, for regular updates on the happenings in Harrisburg, here are some people to follow on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/Politicspa

http://twitter.com/BobCaton

http://twitter.com/Capitol_Ideas

http://twitter.com/scottdetrow

If you hear any updates or have other information sources, please feel free to post them as comments below.


Regional Public Health in the Local News

Over the last two weeks, the Express Times has provided some great coverage regarding the Lehigh Valley Health Department. In case you missed these two articles, I wanted to highlight brief excerpts from each, as they provide good background on the current debate regarding the health department.

In an April 20th article, Tony Rhodin outlined some of the arguments that proponents of a regional health department have made:

Just 28 percent of residents in Lehigh and Northampton counties have access to comprehensive public services, [Chair of the Lehigh Valley Board of Health] Lyon said, leading to a “tremendous disparity” of access. The goal of the proposed department would be “to eliminate that disparity,” Lyon said, while services currently offered to Bethlehem and Allentown residents through city departments would not drop off.

By having a bi-county department, the proponents said, the ability to get state grants would be far greater — they estimated having access to as much as $3.7 million more than the $1 million Bethlehem and Allentown each get.

Over the weekend, the editorial staff published their opinion, urging elected officials to give this matter a fair shot. They write:

Taxpayers and county officials must give this issue a fair hearing…[P]ublic health is one service — given the growth of the Lehigh Valley, its central location in the Northeast, its less-than-stellar numbers in some categories (morbidity, low birthweight) — in which a two-county approach can improve the lives of 600,000-plus residents. It’s time to put the numbers to the ideas, to have a good public discussion, and to keep open minds about how to shape the future of public health in the Valley. This day has been decades in the making.

What are your thoughts on the regional health department? Do you agree that it deserves a fair hearing?

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