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Building bridges to better health

April 5-11 is National Public Health Week. It is a great time to celebrate our staff working every day to keep our communities healthy.

Usually, this work happens quietly in the background without much attention. But the pandemic affected everyone in Pierce County and shone a spotlight on our work to control communicable diseases and respond to emergencies.

I hope you will join us in celebrating the work we do to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County.

Narrows Bridge (Landscape) 

Public health is essential.

Our mission is to not just protect but also improve the health of every person and place in Pierce County. We do this by partnering and building bridges. Together, we make sure:

  • The food you eat is healthy.
  • The air you breathe indoors and outdoors is clean.
  • You have safe, healthy ways to get around.
  • Mothers are healthy and babies have their best start on life.
  • Children are healthy, ready to learn at school, and prepared to be productive, well-adjusted adults.
  • You are protected from infectious diseases and are diagnosed and get treated if sick and any outbreaks are controlled.

During the pandemic, we have worked hard to inform the public about how to protect themselves against and slow the spread COVID-19; but it is you who have worn the masks, limited your travel and socialization, kept the distance, washed hands, and otherwise help control the infections. We have ensured that doctors’ offices and hospitals can care for those who are sick, that everyone can get tested, and—soon—that everyone can get vaccinated.

This year, behavioral health; healthy, resilient children and youth; health equity; and racial justice are equally important priorities for us to keep our community safe and healthy.

Community behavioral health and well-being.

Behavioral health is key to our overall health. Pierce County statistics on mental health and substance use were worrisome and have undoubtedly worsened during the pandemic. During this time of stress and many unknowns, many feel hopeless. Social isolation is challenging. Constant changes can cause additional stress. When we focus on prevention and wellness, we strengthen our own well-being and help our communities to be healthier.  

All of us need to take care of ourselves and support others during this time. Ask, listen, and talk openly about stress, anxiety, depression, and use of alcohol and other substances. Offer support and encourage people to get help early.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call (800) 273-8255 or text 741741.

If you’re overwhelmed with stress, contact Washington Listens. Call or text (833) 681-0211.

For our students and their families, COVID-19 represents a challenge unlike anything they have ever experienced. Changes to school rules—openings, closings and online learning—can cause kids extra stress and mixed emotions. The Health Department is working with schools and partners to help children and families navigate life’s challenges and become stronger by:

  • Identifying, understanding, and responding to mental health and substance-use issues using Mental Health First Aid.
  • Accessing counseling in-person or remotely.
  • Preventing and treating behavioral and emotional problems in children and teenagers using online or group Triple P (Positive Parenting Program).

We look forward to working with Pierce County as it develops a comprehensive, coordinated behavioral health system that will be funded by the one-tenth of 1% Sales and Use Tax for Behavioral Health.

Healthy resilient children and youth.

Intervening early to meet the physical, emotional, and behavioral health needs of children and youth is a pathway to improve community health. Healthy, resilient children and youth grow up to be healthy, resilient adults who contribute to our community.

We are working with partners to promote healthy people, behaviors, and environments:

Health equity and racial justice.

All people deserve fair opportunities for jobs, housing, education and health. Health equity means everyone can reach their full health—physical, mental, and social—potential. Not everyone in Pierce County has that opportunity and differences in social, economic, and environmental conditions are to blame.

Manuel Ellis’ death was a tragic reminder that racism—one of the social conditions—is a public health crisis . We will never achieve health equity if we do not address racial justice and racial equity.

Last year, our racism response began with the Black community because of recent events and long term trends that affect our community. Recently, anti-Asian hate crimes reminded us that racism affects many other communities. We seek to dismantle racism and create policies, practices, and environments that foster racial justice and equity for all.

Please join us on the journey to resilience and healing.

Learn more

Learn more about  our services and resources on our website, through our blogs and on social media. Stay up to date as we build bridges to better health.