Good personal health is connected to good public health, and each individual has an impact on the health of the nation.

To help remind the public of this, the American Public Health Association has been bringing together communities across the United States since 1995 to observe National Public Health Week. Taking place during the first full week of April, NPHW helps communities celebrate public health and renew their commitment to promoting a healthier nation. NPHW 2014 is this week and is focusing on ways to guide the community through the evolving public health system with the theme: “Public Health: Start Here.”

Monday, April 7: Be healthy from the start. From maternal health and school nutrition to emergency preparedness, public health starts at home. The first step the community takes toward public health is in the comfort of their own home. Take action through better meal planning, conducting safety upgrades and preparing for emergencies.

Tuesday, April 8: Don’t panic. Disaster preparedness starts with community-wide commitment and action. Public Health is here to help weather the unexpected. Public health professionals help communities withstand the impact of a natural or man-made disaster by planning ahead, acting as a source of information during the crisis and helping to mitigate the long- and short-term effects.

Wednesday, April 9: Get out ahead. Prevention is now a nationwide priority. As the public health system evolves, there are more options than ever when it comes to preventive health measures.

Thursday, April 10: Eat well. The system that keeps our nation’s food safe and healthy is complex. There is a lot of information to examine in order to understand food labels and to learn the best practices during a food-borne illness outbreak. Public health professionals can help guide people through their choices.

Friday, April 11: Be the healthiest nation in one generation. Best practices for community health come from around the globe. For the first time in decades, the current generation isn’t as healthy as the one that came before. Communities need to band together to take a stance against this disturbing trend to make sure children and young adults have bright, healthy futures.

What you can do:

• Gather your household for a night of emergency preparedness: put together an emergency stockpile kit, create a crisis communication plan, designate an emergency meeting place and hold household emergency drills.

• Become educated about disaster alerts that can be received on cell phones from government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

• Get your yearly flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventio recommends this as the first and most important step toward protecting against this serious disease.

• Eat more healthfully, and become more physically active to prevent diabetes and other chronic diseases. Making simple lifestyle changes may help you avoid serious health complications down the road.

• Schedule recommended health screenings in advance.

• Check nutrition information on restaurant menus and food labels to help guide better food choices.

• Support local farmers markets. It’s not only good for your health; it’s good for the local economy.

• Chilling foods to proper temperatures is one of the best ways to slow the growth of bacteria and prevent food-borne illness.

The Independence Health Department has some activities planned to go along with NPHW as well.

Join us for a mile walk on a path/trail near the Health Department on Wednesday, April 9. The group will depart at 9 a.m. from the Health Department.

Visit one of our healthy corner stores from 2-4 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at the 7-Eleven at U.S. 24 Highway and Noland Road for a fun community event.

If you are able to attend one of the events listed above, you will be entered into a raffle for a Fit Bit activity tracker and one-year membership to the Sermon Center.

Public health awareness and healthy activities don’t have to stop just because National Public Health Week is over. These are tips to keep in mind all year long. Continue to make healthy decisions in everything you do.

For more information on NPHW, go to: .

Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.