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Still other epidemics to face

I am a healthcare worker. Not one of the brave, frontline workers, but a support service staff member. I don’t get to serve the sick directly through my work, but I do share a characteristic that is vital to public health — I care.

For the past three years, I have been immersed in public health and have learned some lessons that we should share more often. Every day public health workers are fighting epidemics. Today you are fully aware of one of them, COVID-19, but more often these are forgotten epidemics. Each day they see the faces of people living with poor health as a result of undiagnosed disease, individuals who struggle to manage their health conditions, and others who struggle to pay for proper healthcare. These providers, nurses and staff care for these individuals and desire to help.

Helping can be HARD!

Sometimes people don’t want help.

Sometimes people don’t have the support needed to be successful in their healing.

Sometimes health workers can be frustrated because, despite their efforts, they are still losing people to treatable diseases.

As we move through COVID-19, I hope it opens our eyes to what our public health workers face on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the presentation of a new epidemic will not eliminate all or any of the old epidemics. We will still have people who need treatment for their diabetes, HIV, hepatitis and syphilis will still be on the rise, claiming new victims daily. Opioid abuse doesn’t go away because people are getting sick with COVID-19. Homelessness and poverty will continue to impact many people. Serving these individuals will need support every day in the future.

In development and fundraising, I am aware that it requires new and shiny names and focuses to keep appealing to the masses. Dealing with the hidden epidemics is not sexy or alluring. BUT all of those still need attention too. And public health workers — they don’t ever forget. They don’t have that luxury. They keep fighting back, one case at a time. Truly servants without many accolades. I hope that when COVID-19 isn’t in the news anymore, we will not forget. Epidemics continue, even after the public isn’t talking about them.

Sarah Barton

Parkersburg

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