OSU Extension’s role in public health impacts all Oklahomans
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
Most Oklahomans strive to live a healthy lifestyle but may not realize the role public health plays in achieving that goal. What is public health?
Megan Monteith, family and consumer sciences area specialist in health disparities for Oklahoma State University Extension, said public health is to help prevent disease and promote good health for all populations.
“If you stop and think about it, public health plays a role in every aspect of your life,” Monteith said. “You get up in the morning and make a pot of coffee with clean water. You brush your teeth with that same clean water. A healthy breakfast is made with foods that are inspected after leaving manufacturing facilities that were also inspected. Knowing this gives the public confidence that the foods they’re about to put into their bodies are safe for consumption.”
Who doesn’t love to go out to eat on occasion? At the restaurant, patrons may notice the food service license signed by the state health inspector. This helps ensure the public knows the food is sanitary and has been cooked and handled properly.
Public health is so many things in addition to food safety. It’s the staff at your daycare center who have been trained about the importance of hand washing and other techniques to avoid spreading disease. It’s the flyer on the bulletin board at work about the new exercise program available to employees to help reduce the risk of many diseases by staying physically active.
What else is public health? It’s the air you breathe, the vehicles you drive that pass safety inspections before being sold or the car seat safely secured in the back seat. It’s the small, clean pond in the local park that houses a family of ducks. It’s the sanitation department that regularly picks up garbage and properly disposes of it in a licensed landfill, which in turn keeps the neighborhood clean. It’s the quality care you receive in the hospital. In addition, it’s the public health officials who are on top of health issues that affect the public.
“OSU Extension offers many opportunities to the public that support the mission of public health,” she said. “We offer diabetes prevention programs, along with programs that focus on healthy eating, exercise and mental health. Our goals is to provide more educational opportunities to our clientele that supports public health.”
Programming available through OSU Extension is geared toward all ages, from young children through senior citizens and is offered free or at a low cost. Programs such as Health Rocks!, Walk with Ease, Stay Strong Stay Healthy, Farm to You, Fresh Start, Teen Cuisine, KIK It Up!, Project Excite and many more promote good health for Oklahomans.
County Extension educators provide research-based information that is valuable to everyone in the state, and this information and these programs all tie into the basis of public health.
“The pandemic taught us a lot about the importance of public health and the prevention of spreading disease, and there were some good outcomes from it,” she said. “For example, due to necessity, our Oklahoma Home and Community Education members upped their technology game to continue to be able to meet because no in-person activities were taking place. They’re all appreciative of in-person meetings now, but they now have more advanced computer skills.”
So, when you think about public health, it’s much bigger than what people realize. Public health is for everybody, every day, everywhere.