With the release of its new budget, the White House has set public health squarely in its crosshairs. The proposed plan would slash funding for agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the CDC by billions of dollars and eliminate lifesaving programs of the Office of Community Services, a major funder for Meals on Wheels and the agency responsible for providing heating subsidies for seniors and people with low incomes.
It is critical that we fight to defend public health by organizing our communities. As our health resources are increasingly threatened, we are tasked with responding to the challenges our communities face — like lead-contaminated water, asthma-inducing air pollution, the selling-off of public spaces, and denial of people’s right to food — and taking action to find solutions.
Hesperian’s book Recruiting the Heart, Training the Brain shows just how much impact community involvement can have on health. The book explores the history and strategies of Latino Health Access, an organization that trains promotores — men and women, youth and elders — who know their neighborhoods inside-out and are best placed to educate and organize their neighbors. LHA promotores have been successful in organizing an array of local public health projects, from teaching healthy cooking for diabetes prevention to building a park where children have a safe place to exercise.
National Public Health Week, starting on April 3rd, is the perfect time to get involved, and to remember that organizing and advocacy are the irreplaceable tools for making a difference in our communities’ health.