At this moment, the COVID-19 pandemic is the public health issue at the top of everyone’s mind, and for good reason. With the virus still spreading rapidly, people are experiencing disruptions in their daily lives and are concerned about the health of themselves, their friends, and families.
With that said, the pandemic is far from the only health concern affecting people around the world. There are many other public health issues that need our attention. As we battle COVID-19, let’s not forget these top public health crises and take steps to reduce their impact.
Although the opioid epidemic and other drug use often get the spotlight in public health discussions, it’s important to remember that alcohol abuse continues to devastate families and destroy lives. Alcohol abuse frequently leads to alcoholism, health problems, fatal car accidents, and the breakdown of a person’s personal and/or professional life. Some people become violent when they drink, which can lead to physical harm to themselves or others.
Alcohol is very easy to get and the road to recovery is challenging. Many people rely on support groups to stay sober and may slip up when their access to these resources is cut off. Right now, there is concern that the pandemic could be preventing that access and causing more people to cope with their worries by abusing alcohol.
People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable in our society. In addition to being exposed to the elements, they often do not have access to healthy food, sanitation, and medical care. Many people who are homeless also suffer from severe mental illness and are not receiving treatment.
One of the reasons homelessness is considered a public health issue is that people within this population die 12 years sooner, on average than the general population. People on the street often contract illnesses like tuberculosis, hepatitis, the flu, and yes, COVID-19. Homelessness puts people in danger 24/7 and is a very serious issue, especially in areas with a high cost of living.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
We don’t often think of car accidents when we think of public health, but they are a major source of injuries and deaths all over the world. Motor vehicle accidents don’t cause illness, but they can injure people to the point where they experience chronic pain or are unable to work.
In 2017 alone, there were around 40,100 deaths from motor vehicles. That’s a very high number, especially when you add the millions of injuries that result from accidents. Drunk drivers, distracted driving, and failing to wear a seatbelt are all major factors in motor vehicle accidents.
You might be surprised to learn that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Every year, in America it kills about 647,000 people, which is about 1 in 4 deaths. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, which can kill adults younger than 65.
There are several risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking. Diabetes, weight, lack of exercise, poor diet, and over-consumption of alcohol can also play a role. Many people in the United States suffer from general poor health for a number of reasons, which can eventually contribute to heart disease.
We’ve all heard the jokes about American obesity, but it’s really no laughing matter. Obesity has been increasing in this country for decades and has become a severe public health crisis, affecting nearly half of the adult population from 2017-2018. The issue disproportionately affects vulnerable groups like minorities and those living in poverty, which further disadvantages these groups.
Obesity can have severe health consequences. Over time, it can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, strokes, and more. It is a public health issue that is affecting the wellbeing, lifespan, and productivity of Americans all over the country.
How to Volunteer to Steer Change
If you’re concerned about the impact of these issues on individuals and our communities, then consider volunteering to steer change. You don’t have to commit hours and hours a week if you want to help make life better and healthier for the people around you – you just need to pitch in where it’s most needed and work on the issues that are the most important to you.
Typically, no experience is required to volunteer. Whether you decide to help out at a local, national, or international level, there are always opportunities to make a difference! Take the leap and use your time to make our world a better place.