APHA's 2012 Get Ready Scholarship: Excerpts from winning essays

Six students — at the high school, undergraduate and graduate college levels — were chosen from hundreds of applicants as the winners of APHA's 2012 Get Ready Scholarship. Below are excerpts from the winning essays.

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• Craig Earley: Powder River County District High School, Broadus, Mont. (high school level)

Funding for public health "a matter of national security"

It is in our interest as a society, acting through our government, to prevent such a disaster if we can. Funding should be preserved for public health and disease prevention programs. Cutting them could have dire consequences for public safety. An effective health infrastructure is about more than comfort and compassion; it is a matter of national security.

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• Devika Patel: Montclair Kimberley Academy, Parsippany, N.J. (high school level)

Increase funding for public health preparedness

Although funding for fighting bioterrorism has increased, funding for other related aspects of health emergencies has not matched its pace. This has, in turn, put a strain on maintaining and continuing research and preparations for the other types of public health emergencies tremendously. It is up to society to take a hard look at the policies and tactics put in place currently. Are they up to date? Are they being revised as research and new technology open new doors and reveal the nooks and crannies that were otherwise left undetected? If the resources were needed tomorrow, or tonight, or now, would they be adequate?

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• Ryan Masterson: Hunter College, New Haven, Conn. (undergraduate level)

Politics over people: A public health emergency

If the moral imperative to improve the health of our nation’s children is insufficient reason for some of our bottom-line oriented legislators, then perhaps the economic incentive to keep the adult workforce healthy could be useful. A Gallup Poll from 2011 revealed that 153 billion dollars are lost annually due to chronic conditions and unhealthy weight experienced by the American workforce. Economic productivity is reliant on a healthy workforce and it is no coincidence that states with the lowest public health expenditures have greater economic problems.

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• Kiyra A. L. Crooks: University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas (undergraduate level)

Lack of preparedness for natural disasters a major threat to public health

In September of 2003, my family learned that hurricane Isabel was approaching where we lived along the Virginia coastline. Isabel was coming our way as a Category 3 hurricane with 100 mph gusting winds. When it hit us, Isabel caused power outages for over 1.8 million people, created flash-flooding across the state, and damages were estimated to be over a billion dollars. With so much damage, along with three dozen deaths, it brings to light what actions policymakers and communities can do to better prepare for the most important public health emergencies facing this nation each year: hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

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• Nicole Pristera: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio (graduate level)

Improve vaccination rates with better access to health care providers & good information

The development of the smallpox vaccine in 1796 could have revolutionized the world almost instantly. Instead, Edward Jenner's creation was met with skepticism and even ridicule; it took years for the vaccine to gain acceptance, not only by the public but by the medical community itself. Although medical professionals have come to embrace vaccination since Jenner's time, public opinion on the matter has not evolved in the same fashion. Many people continue to view vaccines as suspicious concoctions brewed in the lab rather than as keys to a healthier society. As a result, the rate of vaccination in the US is poised to decline in the coming decades. In order to change this dangerous trend, it is necessary to transform the tone of public discourse and overturn the negative reputation that vaccination has acquired amongst American parents.

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• Kimberley Kurek: George Mason University, School of Nursing, Washington, D.C. (graduate level)

Health professionals: Unite to educate the public about efficacy of vaccines

“She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection. And she suffered from mental retardation thereafter”- dangerous words uttered by Michele Bachman during a Today show interview on September 13, 2011. While it is easy to criticize Mrs. Bachman’s naiveté and admonish her irresponsible words, her statement calls attention to the insidious anti-vaccine sentiment that has been growing in our nation. Recent trends in vaccination refusal and subsequent outbreaks confirm the perils of low vaccination coverage and lost herd immunity. For the sake of our nation’s health, drastic measures must be taken to combat rhetoric like Mrs. Bachman’s and increase the percentage of children who get vaccinated.

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