Well, that was a longer hiatus than I expected it to be…Things have picked up a bit (emphasis on the word “bit”), though it still hasn’t really hit me that I’m in school. It actually just kind of feels like I’m at a learning camp of some kind. If that makes any sense.
I’ve settled into a routine, going to class, studying…watching tv. I still have a lot of time on my hands, compared to the last couple of years. It’s unsettling, and I don’t know what to do with all of it. So, I’ve joined a non-audition orchestra (which is meh), signed up to be a mentee in the SPH Mentoring program, sent in a volunteer application to the UMN hospital, and have continued my quest to find a JOB (which has been a pitiful, pitiful, endeavor). I’ve started exploring the Cities: hit up a couple of farmers markets, visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Como Zoo (with Rajitha! when she visited me!), and have started to kind of know where I am going some of the time. Although, I DID get lost on my way to orchestra rehearsal tonight (<2miles)…and on the way back. It’s a work in progress.
I’ve also met some really great people in my program, all of whom seem really excited and happy to be here, which definitely rubs off on me. And it’s really awesome to see so many people who want to go into public health, with such varying interests.
Which brings me to my main point. Public health is…important. I’m not going to lie and say I knew exactly what I was getting into when I decided I wanted to pursue an MPH. I knew I was interested in learning how to help people not get sick, I knew I was interested in learning more about and improving healthcare policy…I was interested in a lot of things. But the more I’m here, and the more I’m learning in my classes and from my peers, the easier it is for me to understand what “public health” really is, and why it’s important to be interested in all this…stuff.
“Public Health” quite literally means, the health of the public. The health of the people, of the country, of the world…it’s the health of our civilization. It started way back when with trying to stay alive by nourishing ourselves, preventing injury with built homes and defense tools like shields. Then once we somewhat understood infectious disease, public health initiatives brought sanitation and regulation to our water supplies, and our food. Now we’ve moved on to more chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etc) and cancer — trying to learn what causes these diseases, what we can do to prevent them, what are the risk factors, etc. Public health is learning about what kinds of toxins are in our environments, what those toxins do, and how we can minimize toxins to minimize exposure. The point is, public health is all about healthy people living in a healthier world.
Public health is spreading the word that an HPV vaccine is not going to give you some rare disease, that it’s not going to make your 10 year old decide it’s okay to be sexually active, that it’s NOT some crazy, unnecessary evil being pushed on us by the media. Public health is telling people what HPV is, how it can be contracted without being sexually active, why the vaccine is important, and how not getting the vaccine could not only negatively impact your life, but the lives of others.
When crazy-pants Michelle Bachmann got on her crazy-ass soapbox last week (or two weeks ago? time is confusing) to preach to the world about the evils about HPV vaccine, I couldn’t even believe it. And when people listened to her, took her word as the gospel truth, I almost died. A politician, who clearly knows nothing about the actual science behind immunization, viruses, or cancer, can have such a huge impact on people, just because the people don’t know any better.
Which is why I think that every college should require a public health class. Every college graduate should know why preventative health care is important. Every college graduate should understand the burden of healthcare and health costs that is placed upon society by every person who decides not to vaccinate. Every college student should be forced to think about their own health decisions, and how they impact other people. And every college student should understand the healthcare disparities that exist within the U.S. and all over the world. Because the Bachmanns are always going to be around, and it’d be nice to have some knowledge about the importance of public health floating around in our general population to take those crazies down.
And let’s face it, it’s probably going to be a far more useful class than African Storytelling, right?