Michigan Celebrates Public Health Week

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

March 31, 2004

Michigan leaders got a head start today in celebrating National Public Health Week as it honored 15 Michigan residents for their contributions in local public health.

During National Public Health Week – held from April 5 to 11 – public health professionals around the nation will celebrate the success of public health and inform the public about serious health concerns affecting Americans. The residents, selected from all over the state, exemplify public health success at its root core: local communities.

“We are thrilled to honor these individuals who work tirelessly to maintain and improve the health of their local communities,” said Janet D. Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “Their individual contributions have been invaluable to the health of individuals and families, and their stories plainly illustrate that the positive effects from quality public health programs are all around us.”

The 2004 Hometown Health Heroes include:

· Margarita Gonzales, East Lansing

· Nana Dompreh, Flint · Sharon Dumas-Pugh, Detroit

· Barbara Lewis-Clark, Detroit

· John “Kip” Walker – Unionville

· John Fitzmaurice, St. Clair

· Sandra Spoelstra, Marquette

· Lori Wesolowski, Traverse City

· Allen Garbrecht, Battle Creek

· Paul Haan, Grand Rapids

· Kay Kearly, Alpena

· George and Judy Hemmeter, Saginaw Township

· Richard Mullally, Muskegon

· Harry Bonner, Albion

· Rev. James Hightower, Benton Harbor

Complete information about the Hometown Health Heroes is available online in this archive.

This year, Michigan – along with other states – is focusing specific attention on the issue of eliminating health disparities. Despite major advances in public health, biotechnology, and economic wealth and prosperity and the overall improvement in the health status of the American population over the last century, health disparities continue to persist. Olszewski said disparities in health are ultimately a considerable cost to society.

“In the Governor’s State of the State address, she outlined a seven-point plan to improve the quality of living in Michigan. Although many of the points were centered around keeping jobs in Michigan and improving the state’s economic infrastructure, few things affect the quality of our life and the quality of our work more than our good health,” Olszewski said. “One critical way we can work together to make our economy stronger is to address health disparities and make health care more accessible and more affordable for the people of Michigan.”

Disparities in disease, disability, and death for six key health conditions (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast/cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, immunization, and infant mortality) alone are enormous: death rates for racial and ethnic minority populations due to these key conditions are up to nearly eight times the rates for non-minority populations.

Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan’s Surgeon General, said concern continues to grow nationwide about increasing racial and ethnic health disparities “National Public Health Week will call attention to the growing number of local organizations who are finding creative ways to address these problems,” Wisdom said. “Our Hometown Health Heroes in Michigan represent only a few examples of the thousands of efforts that occur daily to address these critical issues.”

In the coming weeks, Wisdom will launch several programs designed to improve the health of Michigan citizens, address racial disparities, and serve as watershed initiatives as the Michigan Department of Community Health strives to create a Healthier Michigan. The first effort, entitled Healthy Michigan 2010, will make its debut next week.

Other programs, including the Prescription for a Healthier Michigan and Michigan Steps Up! – a healthy lifestyles campaign – will debut later this spring.

“Our hope is for these initiatives to serve as a tipping point for public health, exercise, and nutrition in Michigan,” Wisdom said. “We want to focus all of Michigan on making a substantive change in the way we view the importance of our personal health.”