Community Update – April 4th

Community Update - Week of April 4th, 2022
By: Dr. Cynthia Morrow, Health Director, Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts

Community Update
April 4th, 2022

By: Dr. Cynthia Morrow, Health Director,
Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts

During the week of April 4-8, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts will observe National Public Health Week. The national theme, “Public Health Is Where You Are,” celebrates what we know is true: the places where we live, work, learn, and play have a huge impact on our physical, mental and social well-being.

The role of public health is to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. Every day, public health workers in our districts, the region, the state, and the country work to make sure that our water, air, and food are safe. Often we don’t see what our public health workforce does to protect and improve our community’s health. This all changed over two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic brought light to the work that we do every day. The pandemic has highlighted how interconnected public health issues are, and reinforced two fundamental and ongoing concerns: 1) social inequities, already prevalent in our communities, were exacerbated over the past two years, and 2) we must work together and rely on each other to meaningfully and sustainably protect and improve the health of all Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts residents. We are so thankful that we have been able to build so many partnerships since COVID arrived here.

As our current COVID-19 situation has stabilized over the last month, we are poised to return more of our attention to the core services of public health. We will leverage these reinvigorated relationships with our public health partners to optimize the benefits for the community.

For example, recently, we have been working with partners to address a significant increase in the number of people who are becoming very sick from hepatitis A. Specifically, we are working with partners serving our residents who use injection drugs and our unhoused population to provide education about hepatitis A mitigation. Our epidemiologists, nurses, outreach workers, and other team members are working with trusted community partners, especially the Drop-In Centers and the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition, to educate and vaccinate vulnerable people who are at risk of contracting this vaccine-preventable disease. In addition, we partnered with the Rescue Mission and Roanoke City jail to provide hepatitis A vaccines and provided our first responders with education about the virus.

This is just one example of the type of work we are called to do to assure the conditions in which our residents can be healthy. As we work together to address substance use disorder, infant mortality, cancer screening and so much more, we encourage everyone — public health professionals, healthcare professionals, community organizations, elected leaders, educators, students, business professionals, media, and the public — to step in and do what you can to make our world a safer, healthier, and more just place. Together, we are public health.