national public health week 2023National Public Health Week (NPHW) allows us to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation’s health. For more than 25 years, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has served as the organizer of NPHW. Every year, APHA develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers and practitioners about issues related to each year’s theme.

This year we are “Centering and Celebrating Cultures in Health” to ensure everyone, in all cultural communities, has the opportunity for a long and healthy life. Over the next week, ADHS will observe NPHW 2023 by highlighting Arizona’s connection to each daily theme and spotlighting teams across ADHS. 

Community is where we are. It’s our connections with others who share similar interests, attitudes, and goals. However, the way we connect has changed in the last few years. Many of us shifted to working remotely. We had to find new ways to connect with family and friends. Physically distancing from one another and limiting communal gatherings can lead to social isolation, and this new reality has made it harder for those already struggling with loneliness

We also know that the social determinants of health play an important role in our health and well-being. People living just a few blocks apart may have vastly different opportunities to achieve a long and healthy life. The 2022 Arizona State Health Assessment reports that life expectancy for the Arizona population in 2020 was 76.3 years, a decrease of 2.5 years from 2019. However, Arizona is not unique. Significant gaps in life expectancy persist across many U.S. cities, towns, ZIP codes, and neighborhoods. Barriers to accessing transportation, health care, and nutritious foods put communities at higher risk for chronic conditions. Exposure to lead and heat-related illness are among some of the environmental impacts affecting Arizonans health. 

ADHS encourages you to become more engaged or re-engage with your community and make an impact on public health. The Arizona Health Improvement Plan (AzHIP) offers a variety of opportunities to engage with partners and stakeholders from across the state. Every five years ADHS conducts the state health assessment, a statewide “big picture” assessment, on the current health status of Arizonans. The assessment helps set the AzHIP priorities for the next five years. The 2021-2025 AzHIP is focused on five priorities – Health Equity, Health in All Policies/Social Determinants of Health, Mental Well-being, Rural & Urban Underserved Health, and Pandemic Recovery & Resiliency. Implementation teams are currently driving the work. We encourage you to consider opportunities to get engaged and help drive these important initiatives.

People with greater feelings of support, connection, and inclusion within their communities may live longer, respond better to stress and have stronger immune systems than those who feel isolated. ADHS launched the Start a Conversation campaign to take action against the silent epidemic of loneliness. Three in five Americans report suffering from loneliness, and it can affect anyone, regardless of income, education, gender, ethnicity, lifestyle, personality type, or political preference. Specific groups such as the elderly, college students, first-generation immigrants, veterans, LGBTQ, victims of abuse, and members of marginalized communities are at increased risk. Loneliness and social isolation makes life harder and shorter. If you or someone you love is lonely, take action.