THE BLOG

In Celebration of National Public Health Week

04/08/2015 11:16 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015

She was a first-time teen mom who didn't know how to care for her newborn daughter. A nurse came to visit her to teach her the ABCs of Safe Sleep. She was so grateful that she committed to finishing her education and became a home-visiting professional herself.

He works in some of the roughest areas of Baltimore out of a plain white van. People come in to exchange dirty needles and receive training to prevent overdoses. I go to a community meeting and a young man comes in to thank him. This young man credits the Staying Alive team for helping him into recovery. "You believed me and you saved me," he says.

Their job is to issue safety permits and conduct restaurant inspections. The work could seem rote and tedious, but they don't see it that way. "We have the happiest job in the world," they tell me. "We are here to help realize people's hopes; we're dream-makers."

It's been nearly three months since I started leading the Baltimore City Health Department. Every day, I am blown away by the passion and dedication of our staff. Public health is hard. Nobody goes into it for the money or the acclaim. People work many long hours. Often, our work is preventive in nature: preparing for emergencies for example, or averting food-borne outbreaks or safeguarding the health of our animal residents.

In my first week, we were tested by a suspected case of measles in Baltimore City. I saw how our team came together to perform contact tracing, outreach, communication, and other collaborative efforts. I saw the extraordinary talent and commitment to hard work among all our staff. The emergencies didn't stop: we faced unprecedented stretches of cold weather and Code Blue declarations.

The last three months have also coincided with the Maryland legislative session. Our staff came together to advocate for evidence-based, high-impact policies such as implanting expedited partner therapy, increasing healthy food options for children, reducing barriers to naloxone distribution, and implementing a tobacco tax. Most recently, we convened local doctors to discuss the dangers of powdered alcohol--which has now been banned in Maryland.

All the while, our other committed leaders worked on ongoing, critical issues that cause death and disability in our city. We organized events around heart disease prevention and HIV screening. We recognized National Youth Violence Prevention Week and reframed violence as a public health concern. We worked on the Mayor's Taskforce on Heroin Prevention and Treatment and are developing a citywide strategy to prevent deaths from drug overdoses.

Every day, I come to work excited and energized. I feel so fortunate to serve under a Mayor--Stephanie Rawlings-Blake--who really understands the critical importance of health to everything else in our community. It is a privilege and a profound honor to work with so many people who are dedicated to reducing disparities and improving health.

During this National Public Health Week, I celebrate all of public health partners across the city and the country. Thank you for all that you do. I am proud to work in public health and to serve with you.