National Public Health Week

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Polk Fit, Fresh and Friendly (PF3) is a group of 80+ community members, community leaders and health professionals, all working together to plan and implement effective strategies to promote wellness in our community and the critical role access to health care plays in supporting wellness for everyone in Polk County.

Today our communities face difficult challenges to improve the health and wellbeing of our families and neighbors. Our current generations are living longer than generations prior, yet individuals in other high income countries live even longer and suffer less health issues than Americans. This month right here in Polk County, let’s celebrate National Public Health Week 2016 (April 4-10, 2016) and unite around a goal of making the U.S. the healthiest nation in one generation — by 2030. “Generation Public Health” is a movement and an opportunity to take action.

Public health is imperative for the success of a healthy nation. The American Public Health Association (APHA) states, “Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. While a doctor treats people who are sick, those of us working in public health try to prevent people from getting sick or injured in the first place.”

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In April, President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing the importance of public health and its significance in ensuring happy and healthy lives for generations to come stating, “During National Public Health Week, we join together to enhance public health — the foundation of our security and well-being — here at home and around the world. By supporting health professionals and embracing our obligations to promote public health and protect our planet, we can uphold our shared responsibility to preserve the promise of a happy and healthy life for our children and grandchildren.”

Led by the local Public Health agency, RPMHD, the 2015 Community Health Assessment (CHA), which is both a process and a product, was performed in Polk County. It investigated and described the current health indicators and status of the community, what has changed, and what still needs to change to reach the community’s desired health-related results. Based on this data, three top health priorities were selected as focus areas that need dire improvement in Polk County. These priorities are tobacco, healthy eating and active living, and mental health.

The Health District’s partners, including the Polk PF3 Health Coalition, will lead future plans for collaborative implementation/action planning and related development of strategies to improve the three chosen priority health issues in Polk County. James Hines Jr., District Health director, believes the commitment demonstrated by the PF3 board and other coalition advocates, like St. Luke’s Hospital, is the foundation for improving community health, stating “Under the leadership of Linda Greensfelder, longtime chair of the PF3, the coalition has become a ‘voice’ for those who are uninsured or underinsured.”

As a public health agency, RPMHD seeks to ensure the well being of the residents of Polk County. “We support local initiatives by sharing resources and providing financial support when possible. We all benefit from the collective impact and our collaboration can truly lead us all to significant and lasting change. Polk PF3 Health Coalition is a great example. They’re a valuable resource for the community and the Health District. They serve as a sounding board and offer ideas and feedback when discussing initiatives and activities that are essential in our community’s quest to meet the needs of all people,” said Joshua Kennedy, assistant health director for RPMHD.

Public health saves money, improves our quality of life, helps children thrive and reduces human suffering. Hines asserts, “the goal of public health and ours, at the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District, is to build a nation of healthy communities by preventing disease, promoting healthy behaviors and protecting our residents from unsafe conditions. We drive change to create the healthiest nation through strengthening public health education, infrastructure and capacity.”

Sign the pledge and join “Generation Public Health” by visiting and click on “Take Action.” To learn more about public health and services for Polk County, visit the Health District web page at or call 828-894-8271.

PF3 also invites you to get involved. The sole membership requirement is an interest in promoting wellness in Polk County. To participate, our next general meeting is scheduled for noon, Thursday, May 26 in the Community Room of the Polk County Library. For more PF3 information, visit

Yanet Cisneros is the Health Educator/Integrator for the Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District (RPMHD).  RPMHD has been active with our local health coalition – Polk Fit, Fresh and Friendly since its inception over a decade ago, and continues through the leadership of District Health Director, James H. Hines Jr. to provide valuable input and support.