Giving Thanks: November 21 Honors Public Health Heroes

Friday, November 18, 2005

WASHINGTON—Nov. 18, 2005—November 21 marks the nation's first Public Health Thank You Day. As Thanksgiving approaches, Research!America and the leading U.S. public health organizations ask Americans to give special thanks to their state and local "public health heroes" who protect the nation's health throughout the year.

Joining Research!America are the American Public Health Association, Association of Schools of Public Health, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO).

"We have designated the Monday before Thanksgiving as Public Health Thank You Day to honor the state and local public health professionals who safeguard our lives and our health every day by helping us prevent injuries, infectious disease and chronic illness," said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America.

In a national Research!America poll, 74% of Americans say they and their community benefit from public health services. When asked about specific public health programs and services, a large majority say they and their community benefit from:

  • Childhood vaccine programs;
  • Restaurant sanitation and safety inspections;
  • Inspection of drinking water quality;
  • Daycare safety and health inspections;
  • Disease outbreak investigations; and
  • Emergency response and bioterrorism prevention.

"Public health takes many forms that are invisible in daily life, but this year's hurricane relief and avian flu preparedness efforts have highlighted just how important public health professionals are to all of us," said Patrick Libbey, executive director of NACCHO. "Every day, in every corner of America, our city and county public health professionals protect people from health threats, the everyday and the exceptional."

"We all owe a debt of gratitude to our governmental public health professionals at the local, state and federal level. These unsung heroes devote their lives to making it possible for us to live in a safer, healthier world," said George E. Hardy, Jr., MD, MPH, executive director of ASTHO. "In this era of heightened concern about terrorism, pandemics and natural disasters, most Americans understand the important 'protection' work of public health. But it is truly the combined effort of public health's prevention, health promotion and protection efforts that help our children grow into healthy adults contributing to a healthy economy."

Research!America polls have found that 80% of Americans say the U.S. should invest more in state and local health departments, and 71% say too little is currently spent on public health research. Nearly seven in 10 (68%) say at least twice as much should be spent on public health research.

"Continued advances in public health depend on research to find new ways to protect the nation's health and to prove the effectiveness of public health strategies," said Woolley. "Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that are leading the charge could be even more effective if public health research received more than one cent of every dollar spent on health in the U.S.

"We cannot underestimate the contribution of research, which provides the foundation for effective public health services, connecting the national to the state and local level," Woolley added.

Other organizations wishing to take part in Public Health Thank You Day can download Web banners and ads, communication tools and poll findings.

As part of the initiative, Research!America is placing advertisements November 21 in selected newspapers to thank state and local "public health heroes." The ads will appear in newspapers in California, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Texas. In selected markets, the ads will appear in Spanish, developed in collaboration with the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

Research!America is the nation's largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make medical and health research-including research to prevent disease, disability and injury and to promote health-a much higher national priority. Its Prevention Research Initiative, funded by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, works at the state and national levels to build greater support for prevention and public health.


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Media Contacts

Robert Shalett
Director of Communications 

If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana