National Public Health Week kicked off Monday

In 1995 President Clinton proclaimed the first full week in April as National Public Health Week. Since then, County Health Departments and the American Public Health Association have chosen a different theme to focus the week’s activities. This year the theme is “Preparedness and Public Health Threats: Addressing the Unique Needs of the Nation’s Vulnerable Populations.”

Each day APHA will address the needs of one of five core groups through education and information: mothers and children living in the household; local food banks; hourly workers and employers; elementary schools; and individuals with chronic health conditions. The APHA hopes this week will “encourage communities across the country to utilize APHA’s tools and resources to devise a plan to become better prepared for public health threats; encourage local public health officials and policy makers to learn about and implement model preparedness programs,” states a recent press release.

“Due to time constraints, the Kaua‘i District Health Office was not able to organize any formal events,” said Mojisola Owolabi, Emergency Public Health Educator who works for the DOH, “but we believe it is vital to get the message out to the public at-large and we sincerely hope every resident of Kaua‘i considers these issues and takes measures to prepare their families,” she said.

Post-9/11, post-Hurricane Katrina, post-Hurricane ‘Iniki and post Ka Loko Reservoir Dam breach, it is clear that individuals and public service organizations are not always meeting the needs of these communities. This week is about getting prepared to face the unexpected, natural or man-made disasters. Simple steps can be taken to organize the household to better handle a tragic situation.

On the NPHW Web site, there are extensive checklists and tools to help organize your family and loved ones. On Monday, when 50,000 members and organizational partners on the national level focus on “Mothers at home with children,” defined steps to organize a household for an emergency include asking basic questions: Do I have at least a three-day supply of bottled water, non-perishable foods and essential medications set aside for each member of my family? What are the evacuation procedures for my child’s daycare facility or school? Have I identified a meeting place outside my home where all family members will meet if we are unable to return home? Have I taught my children an emergency phone number that they may call if they are unable to reach me?

The site also outlines emergency kits for evacuations to assemble that include: photo identification for yourself and your children; small amounts of food such as granola bars, bottled water or baby formula; important personal documents such as health records or child custody papers; small amounts of money in the form of cash or traveler’s checks; a list of important phone numbers and a cell phone or phone card; copies of keys to your home and car; medications and personal hygiene items; small toys or books for your children. These are items that may seem obvious to have organized, but in the chaos of an emergency, to have them assembled can make a world of difference.

On Friday, the sub-theme is people with chronic health issues. The APHA stresses that while everyone should prepare, those with health issues are especially vulnerable. “Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, asthma and high blood pressure often require routine medical treatments or medication on a daily basis,” states APHA.

The American Public Health Association reported that while 90 percent of adults with chronic medical conditions take medication a few times per week, only 19 percent have a one-month supply on hand in case pharmacies close during a national crisis. Further, 38 percent state they would run out of medication in one week or less. Therefore, the very first issue to address on Friday is having enough medication on hand in case of an emergency. Due to controlled substance prescription restrictions and expiration dates, consult a physician to find out how to prepare for an emergency.

The preparedness kit suggested by the APHA consists of: at least a one-month supply of medication; medical supplies such as glucose tests or a blood pressure cuff to monitor your condition; copies of insurance cards and personal identification; copies of recent medical records; thermometer; surgical mask; self-care manual for your specific condition, such as how to handle chemotherapy side effects during a disaster; self-care products such as hand warmers for individuals with arthritis.

The KDHO has free information booklets available at their office in Lihu‘e and invite all to come and pick one up.

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