Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Support fine work of PHD

by Larry M. Belmont
| August 8, 2020 1:00 AM

In the early 1980s, the National Institute of Medicine did a study of Public Health in America. That study defined public health as “What we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.”

The report points out that the major improvements in our health and life expectancy are due to public health measures, such as immunizations, clean air and drinking water, maternal and child health, and safe food to name a few of the services the Panhandle Health District provides daily.

Unfortunately, the IOM report goes on to point out that we as a society have taken public health for granted: “We have let down our public health guard as a nation and the health of the public is unnecessarily threatened as a result.”

Now we face the COVID-19 virus. The USA has the highest number of reported cases, among reporting countries, and a high death rate for this new disease. We have not dealt with this one before. We have no immunization or medical protection against this virus except wearing a mask in public, social distancing, washing our hands frequently, etc. Surely these are simple things that “we as a society” can “do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.”

Fortunately for Idaho, we have one of the best, if not the very best, rural public health systems in the nation. All counties are part of one of the seven health districts that cover the entire state. Each county has representation on the board of its local health district.

We in the five northern counties of Idaho are fortunate to have on our board of health knowledgeable and experienced members. Dr. Richard McLandress and Jai Nelson deserve respect and admiration for their awareness of what we face with COVID-19. Their willingness to make the complex and controversial motion to wear masks addresses the public health threat facing our nation, the world and our local communities.

Jai Nelson is a civic-minded nurse. She also served as a Kootenai County commissioner and is known as a responsible and dependable community member. Dr. McLandress is an outstanding physician, organizer and implementer. He leads the Kootenai Clinic Family Medicine Residency Program, which brings new, talented and well-trained medical school graduates here to complete their family practice residency. Some of these bright new MDs will stay in the area. This, of course, is a great asset and important service to our growing communities of North Idaho.

Some people say wearing a mask is an infringement on their personal rights. Such rights in a society have responsibilities associated with those loudly proclaimed rights. As members of our society, we all have rights, but more importantly, we have responsibilities to create and maintain “conditions in which people can be healthy.” These responsibilities are to each and every one of us in this society.

The PHD staff, its board of health members, the hospital and its staff, and all medical practitioners are all working overtime to create the complex “conditions in which people can be healthy.” They are the ones who must deal with the danger, the emotional and heart-breaking consequences of society’s lack of support, and sometimes misguided approaches to this new and dangerous virus.

We who are members of society should not attack our health care providers. We should support and work with them, for they are on the front lines of this uncontrolled epidemic. I, for one, salute them, support them and wish them God’s Speed in their important work. Our future depends on their success.

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Larry M. Belmont of Coeur d’Alene was the first Panhandle Health District director.