Five faculty experts share public health insights for NPHW

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We’re celebrating National Public Health Week – seven days dedicated to making the U.S. the healthiest nation by 2030. For each day of National Public Health Week there is a daily theme.

We’ve asked faculty experts from the online MPH program to share their insights on these critical topic areas. Take a look at what the University of Nevada, Reno faculty had to say about the public health risks to our nation and how we can start making strides toward healthier communities and a healthier nation.

Monday, April 2: Behavioral Health

Julie Lucero, PH.D., MPH Assistant Professor, School of Community Health Sciences

Julie Lucero, PH.D., MPH, Assistant Professor

“People are afraid of the unfamiliar. With the longest lasting U.S. war as a backdrop, we must create a shift in the public discourse about mental health. Physically healthy veterans, both young and old, are struggling with daily routines and relationships as a result of their mental health issues.

Public Health professionals need to create open, honest and on-going public discourse centered on mental health, in an effort to normalize the conversation. In addition to perceived stigma, those who suffer from mental health conditions, deal with internalized stigma. This makes it harder to disclose what they are experiencing. Mental health concerns, not only affect the individual, but also their social environment. Training and education for romantic partners, children, friends, and beyond is needed to accomplish the normalization process.

As a nation, we need to recognize that health is inclusive of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Our social environment has an enormous influence on our beliefs and values, which impact our behaviors. It is not enough to focus effort on our physical selves. In addition, if we really want to improve health education and health promotion, then efforts need to start early and continue throughout the lifespan. Different life stages require different knowledge and behavioral shifts.”

Tuesday, April 3: Communicable Diseases

Leslie Elliott, Ph.D., Director, Online MPH Program

Leslie Elliott, Director, Online MPH Program

“Epidemiology is the study of the causes and distribution of diseases and other health events, with the goal of applying knowledge to the control of health problems. The primary way we study the distribution of disease is by examining patterns of disease, for example, what populations are most susceptible? Where does the disease occur? How does it change over time?  

Once we know the usual pattern or trend of a disease, we are able to recognize deviations from the trend, which could be an alert about an epidemic or public health emergency. A relatively recent example is the epidemic of birth defects associated with the Zika virus in Brazilian women. The sudden surge in birth defects in Brazilian babies was different from the usual trend, which served as an alert to public health practitioners that pregnant women might be faced with a new threat in the environment. Epidemiological investigations revealed that pregnant women carrying the Zika virus had a greater risk of delivering a baby with birth defects.

Although studies are still being conducted to identify the mechanism of this interaction, public health measures have already been implemented to educate and warn women about this risk and to mitigate exposure to mosquitoes. This situation is an illustration of how epidemiologists work with policy makers and health promotion experts to ensure that communities are informed about ways to prevent disease and maintain health.”

Wednesday, April 4: Environmental Health   

Dingsheng Li, Ph.D., Assitant Professor MPH, Environmental Health

Dingsheng Li, PH.D., Assistant Professor, Environmental Health

“Chemicals can pose health risks to us in many environments such as our homes and near a busy road. We may be exposed to them in various ways including breathing contaminated air, drinking polluted water, or even touching a dusty antique. Anthropocentric or not, the sources of these chemicals are also many, making exposure to them ubiquitous.

Hence it is important for both professionals and policy makers to focus on environmental health to protect our nation’s public health. By educating the communities about the most important sources, exposure pathways, and health effects of chemicals in our environment, families can put in place effective interventions that limit their environmental health risks.”

Thursday, April 5: Injury and Violence Prevention

Adel Mburia-Mwalili, Ph.D., MPH Lecturer

Adel Mburia-Mwalili, PH.D., MPH Lecturer

“Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an important public health issue that affects millions of both women and men in the United States (US) and worldwide, although more women than men are affected. IPV is the physical, sexual or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse.  About half of all women in the US experience IPV in their lifetime (Black et. al., 2011). In addition, every year, almost 5.3 million intimate partner victimizations occur among U.S. women aged 18 years and older which translates to approximately 2 million injuries, of which over half a million require medical attention (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2003).

Furthermore, the negative effects of IPV include physical injury and mental health issues such as depression. It is unacceptable for nearly half of the population to experience IPV in their lifetime, yet it is preventable. There is ongoing work in finding prevention and intervention strategies that work for various populations affected by IPV, but a lot more can be done. Hence, the urgent need for continued funding for IPV prevention and intervention programs to address this important public health issue.”

Friday, April 6: Ensuring the Right to Health

Mel Minarik, PH.D., MPH Lecturer

Mel Minarik, PH.D., MPH Lecturer

“We have a rich nation.  It is a nation rich in culture, history, geography, intelligence, creativity and heart.  When I think about a healthy nation, this is what I think of….do I live in this set of circumstances every day?  Most days, I can say yes, so I live a pretty healthy life. But not everyone gets to live in this richness due to circumstances that they were born with-their personal situations with their families, their zip codes, and their resilience to overcome anything that comes their way.  

We see this over and over again. The wealthy child that has “affluenza”, and the poor child who goes on to Harvard.  How did their environment and external circumstances build (or not build) their health? The capability to learn is hard-wired in us, and when we chose that path, nothing can stop us, regardless of what were born into….we can thrive in this richness of being curious.

So, what creates good health?  The richness of always being curious, in the case of health – how am I empowered to take care of my body to live my best life.  Our nation needs to continue to support education, social and emotional learning, and be robust about sharing our research and knowledge.”

Sources

Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003