Nancy Leifer and Nancy Maxson, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of Missoula
In this time of pandemic, we hear more and more about “public health officials” and the work they are doing to save our lives. Who are these quiet warriors who are battling the virus that threatens our families and communities?
Public Health workers are some of our many public servants. Our elected officials are public servants, and they hire the professionals and people with specific skills to do our government’s work and serve the public. Each level of government--federal, state, local, tribal and international organizations--has a public health system with workers battling Covid-19. Their work is funded by your tax dollars.
“Public Health” is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. Public health is concerned with the health of entire populations--as small as a local neighborhood or as big as the world. “Clinical health professionals”, like doctors and nurses, focus on treating individuals after they become sick or injured.
Promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus, are all part of public health’s mission.
The tools public health professionals use include providing educational programs, recommending policies, administering services, conducting research, and imposing restrictions when needed. We’ve seen our public health officials using all these tools during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s leading public health agency, has taken the lead in educating us about the dangers of the pandemic and coordinating research on the virus, treatments and a vaccine.
Montana public health officials have tracked Covid-19 cases in our state and provided our elected officials the important information they need to set the policies for quarantines and shutdowns to protect Montanans.
City and County public health offices are coordinating testing services and tracking how the virus has spread.
Recently, CSKT public health workers joined forces with Lake County public health office to test Flathead reservation residences for COVID-19. This testing was particularly important because Native Americans and people of color are contracting Covid-19 at higher rates than the general population. Preventing spread of the virus to these populations, and especially vulnerable elders, begins with wide-spread testing.
And who was doing the testing? The quiet warriors of our public health system. These professionals donned the masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), exposing themselves to the dangers of infections, in order to protect the citizens of their communities during this global battle with a deadly disease.
We salute and thank them for the public service in this critical time.
The League of Women Voter has been registering voters and providing non-partisan voting information for 100 years. Membership is open to men and women, citizens and non-citizens 16 years of age or older. For more information about the League, go to our web site: lwvmissoula.org.