By Mary Perry, MD, MPH
In April, we celebrate Public Health! Specifically, April 6-12 is National Public Health Week this year.
The news is currently full of examples of public health at work on the COVID-19 global pandemic: epidemiologists crunching numbers; public health laboratories running tests as quickly as possible; and emergency response teams working hand in hand with government officials to provide real-time information and mitigation strategies.
Public health is not just about combating infectious diseases, though. It also includes food safety (look for the letter “A” in the windows of the restaurants you pass), community planning (think safe sidewalks, parks, and access to healthy foods), and animal control (since 1980, there have only been 15 cases of rabies in California).
The mission of public health is to improve the health and wellness of a population through widespread measures. One of my favorite examples of public health is iodized salt – a simple intervention that solves a big problem. When a basic food staple such as salt is fortified with iodine, it helps to prevent population-wide iodine deficiencies that can cause developmental delay in children and goiters at any age.
Mental health is also a huge tenant of public health. The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year, and more than 50% of Americans will have a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life. With fears of coronavirus spreading and uncertainty about the future, a focus on mental health is now more important than ever. We here at CVMG would like to invite you to consider a few suggestions to maintain your mental health in conjunction with Governor Newsom’s “Stay at Home” mandate.
Stay connected – virtually.
Social distancing does not need to equate to loneliness. Continue to reach out to friends and loved ones through any available safe means: call, text, write a letter, video chat, or drop off something nice on their doorstep. Remember your neighbors and check in on them to make sure they are doing OK, too.
Being active can improve both your physical and mental health. If you are able to maintain social distancing while doing so, go for a walk or a bike ride outside. A little bit of sunshine and some fresh air can work miracles. You could also try a new workout video in your living room, have a dance party with your family, or start that 21-day sit-up challenge you’ve been meaning to do. Shoot for at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
Some of you may be feeling at a loss due to disruptions in employment, education, or typical routines. This may be a good time to learn a new skill, improve a living space, or maybe even plant a garden. I recently planted some seeds in my windowsill flowerpot and I’m excited to watch them sprout and start to grow. Nature hasn’t forgotten that it’s still Springtime!
Anxiety will undoubtedly begin to creep in during these unusual times, if it hasn’t already. Recognize the anxiety, put a name to it, and then find ways to put it aside. Some people find it helpful to disconnect from the news cycle for a time, take deep breaths, maintain regular sleep routines, and set aside time to unwind through means such as meditation or mindfulness.
Remember, your family here at CVMG is always ready and willing to help, too. Make sure to reach out to your health care team for questions and support. We are here for you!