The Jefferson County Health Unit will celebrate Public Health Week in Arkansas from April 1-7.

The Jefferson County Health Unit will celebrate Public Health Week in Arkansas from April 1-7.

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Arkansas Department of Health. Over the last 100 years, public health advancements — including controlling infectious diseases, immunizing children and adults, preventing infant deaths, providing good prenatal care to expectant moms, assuring safer food and drinking water — have added 25 years to the life expectancy in the United States.

“When you look back at the health status in our state prior to the Arkansas Department of Health, you see many diseases that held average life expectancies to under 50 — women, on average, reaching 46 years of age and men 48,” said Dr. Paul Halverson, director of the state health department. “During my tenure, I’ve witnessed the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act, the creation of a statewide trauma system and I’ve seen much progress toward halting the obesity epidemic.

“Public Health Week is the perfect time to celebrate the progress of the last 100 years, and address the public health challenges of the next 100 years, including chronic disease, obesity, stroke, tobacco use and injury prevention,” Halverson said.

Quranner ‘Q’ Cotledge, local health unit administrator, Jefferson County, said, “The Jefferson County Health Unit is excited to be a part of the many great achievements and look forward to improving the health of our county in years to come.”

National Public Health Week (NPHW), the American Public Health Association’s annual celebration of the role of public health in communities, began in 1995 to draw attention to the need to help protect and improve the nation’s health.

This year’s NPHW theme is “Public Health is Return on Investment — Save Lives, Save Money” and encourages Arkansans to take preventive measures to help improve their health. In addition to increasing life expectancy, public health saves lives and money. For example:

• Routine childhood immunizations save $9.9 million in direct health care costs, save 33,000 and prevent 14 million cases of disease in the U.S.

• A $52 investment in a child safety seat prevents $2,200 in medical costs, resulting in a return of $42 for every $1 invested.

• Each 10 percent increase in local public health spending contributes to a 6.9 percent decrease in infant deaths.

• From 1991 to 2006, investments in HIV prevention averted more than 350,000 infections and saved more than $125 billion in medical costs.

• A minimum of $3.6 billion could be saved if more women began and continued to breastfeed their newborns through 6 months of age.

To learn more about the history of ADH and to find a schedule of statewide Public Health Week events, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov/aboutADH/100YEARS