By DR. ALEX BILLIOUX | Assistant Secretary, LDH Office of Public Health
Public health is at the forefront of global attention as the new coronavirus strains healthcare systems around the world. That makes it more appropriate than ever to think about — and thank — our public health workers during National Public Health Week, observed this year April 6-12. Held every April, National Public Health Week honors the countless public health workers who strive daily to help us live happier, healthier and longer lives.
From sanitarians ensuring our food is safe to eat, to the nurses and doctors on the front lines, and from volunteers staffing overflow makeshift hospitals to the highest rungs of government, a complex, interwoven health system is at work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week responding to the COVID-19 crisis here in Louisiana. Our healthcare system at times has been pushed to its limits, thereby asking our public health workers to also push themselves to their limits and then some. It’s not easy. It takes dedication, courage, compassion, adaptability, faith and nerves of steel.
The Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Public Health has 1,446 team members who work throughout the state to ensure the health and safety of all of our state’s residents and guests. Louisianans are lifting up our public health workers as heroes, but at the same time, we mustn’t lose sight of this one important thing: they’re people just like you and me.
They may be feeling anxious, or sad, or fearful, or angry, or other emotions that they may be locking away because they have work to do. For public health workers, it may feel like there’s no time for emotion when they’re racing the clock against a virus that has already claimed more than 755 lives in our state alone.
Our public health workers are stepping out there every day of this pandemic and putting themselves in harm’s way, potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus. They have a part to play in tracking the spread of the virus, running samples at our state lab around the clock, and working with local emergency leaders to make sure communities across Louisiana are as prepared as possible to respond to this pandemic. It’s a time of high stress, high emotion and little rest.
Yes, public health workers are heroes, but they’re people too. Thank you to all of our public health workers for all that you do — not only during this pandemic, but every day. We see you and we appreciate you.