We’re fighting the hard-to-win public-health battles

This is National Public Health Week. In celebration, ponder this riddle: What does the current popular movie “The Hunger Games” share with this year’s Public Health Week theme?

Spoiler alert: “Winnable Battles.” No, they are not easy battles to win. Nor are they without many obstacles, including unfair distribution of resources, a share of wrong-minded politicians, some misguided or uncaring segments of the public, not to mention that infamous cornucopia of needed supplies/resources that is dangerously dangled or just out of reach. But “winnable” nevertheless.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has identified 10 Winnable Battles that would improve the health of individuals and our environment in Colorado.

These are:

clean air

clean water

infectious disease prevention

injury prevention


oral health

safe food


unintended pregnancy

Each of these battles has “indicators” – measurements of concrete progress toward the goal that can be made in the next three to five years. San Juan Basin Health Department already is addressing most of these areas with its core services and will continue to work with our state and national partners in coordinating efforts toward winning these battles. We are currently assessing local health needs and priorities as a step in creating a five-year Public Health Improvement Plan. In fact, there will be a community meeting from 9:30 to 11 a.m. today at the Durango Community Recreation Center. While public comment has aligned with many of these battles, the process continues in prioritizing and assessing resources and capacities within our community.

Some people might say good luck with winning that particular battle or achieving these ambitious goals. The heroic arc of any worthy quest – including those in the “Hunger Games” trilogy – would caution to never underestimate the power of you, the individual, in this battle or of people teaming/partnering in taking on seemingly crazy odds, and actually turning the tide. Nor to underestimate the power of the people, once motivated or inspired, in uniting to overcome heavy burdens – such as winning the battle with tobacco or substance abuse or society winning the battle in recognizing the importance in putting resources into safe food, clean air and water. Even if one doesn’t quite believe these battles are winnable, I hope they would agree they’re worth fighting for. Go Katniss! And go all you health heroes out there!

We invite you to find out more about Colorado’s 10 Winnable Battles and what San Juan Basin Health Department is doing to improve the health of this community by visiting our display at the Durango Public Library this month or visit our website: sjbhd.org.

Jane Looney is the communications director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.