February From the Director: Making our community strong – Avoid the Flu and Celebrate Black History Month

Happy February! It seems that the groundhog saw his shadow on Friday and so we are in for 6 more weeks of winter. Sounds like we may be seeing some of that winter today itself! Stay safe on the roads!

Another thing on my mind this February is the ongoing flu epidemic that we are seeing this season. In addition to the heightened warnings from CDC and our own state epidemiologist, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, I feel like I’m hearing more about the flu from unexpected sources.

Last week I got an email from U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, who represents Iowa’s second congressional district. Now granted, it was a form email (not an email to me personally) but I was struck that a U.S. congressman was taking the time to alert constituents to the seriousness of the flu situation this season. He also indicated his continued support for the work done by the CDC and more importantly his support for the funding needed by CDC and NIH (which, of course, I find comforting).

As public health professionals, we need to stay vigilant in 2018 both at the national and state level that health and public health are on the radar of our elected officials. Whether we are interested in disease outbreaks, opioid epidemics, water quality, or violence, we must learn what we can about the evidence and be advocates for evidence-based decision making at all levels. We need to be the voice for health in our communities.

Even though we know that the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective, it can provide some protection and can lessen the impact of the virus if you do get infected. If you have not yet gotten a flu shot, there’s no better time than now!

And my final consideration as we start February is that it is Black History Month. As the month progresses, we will see a variety of activities unfold at the College of Public Health to celebrate Black Americans that have made a difference in the arts, in health, in politics, in science, etc. There will be recommended books, and some movie nights, and information about remarkable people who made a difference in their communities. There will even be a Spotlight Series session or two.

Please participate. You may know a lot about black history and can share what you have learned or experienced. You may know very little and can learn from faculty and students throughout the College and University.  My goal this month is to read the book “Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom” by Condoleezza Rice, our first female African American Secretary of State. I look forward to seeing all of you engage with the college this month.