The Term “Service”

Let’s talk about the definition of “service”.  Often, people automatically think of “helping others.  At first glance, both words have good meaning.  The difference between these words, “helping” and “serving”, are quite significant.  Something to be cautious of is by “helping” people we are inadvertently looking at people as if they are on a different level than us.  By “serving” people we are looking at them as if we are equals and they are whole.  With that, we can benefit those by building them up instead of diminishing what it is to be, their human-self.

“Service” in the health world is a bit more specific.  People generally know that smoking cigarettes is bad for you, eating fried food is bad for you, sitting down all day is bad for you, yet we make these unhealthy choices more frequently than we should.  “Service” in the Public Health world is specifically meeting people where they are at for their health needs.  This can lead to the aid of meeting the critical needs in one’s community by starting with small, gradual changes that eventually lead to more positive health behaviors.  Allegheny County Health Department has helped provide the tools for me to outreach and educate about health risk behaviors that can lead to chronic diseases. 

I have had the opportunity to prioritize the communities that have had and still have much neglect.  Conversations I have had with community members have been enlightening to many barriers that exist in regards to accessing services.  Taking the time to listen thoroughly can foster the motivation to potentially change behaviors.  For example, a person may be mostly concerned about the air quality in their neighborhood which creates a barrier to physical activity.  Creating small solutions can add up to bigger solutions.  A woman that was sedentary told me about her struggles through finding ways of physical activity day in and day out.  After listening to her reasons why, I helped create an eight step plan for her to work her way up increasing physical activity.  She ended up having success because I validated her reasonings simply by listening. With this she felt trust with me that led to her accountability with her eight step plan.  For example, it could start out at picking the farthest parking spot at the grocery store to increase steps or it could be standing up at a desk every hour.  This can lead to great impact over the long run.   Each conversation can assist in breaking down the barriers to create an impact on the quality of life in communities around us.  The sooner we realize and accept those that have had different experiences and realities than you, the sooner we will move forward to a place of health equality.  I like to think of Public Health as behind the scenes fighters of sicknesses through prevention work and promotion of wellness.

I have gained knowledge in the Public Health world that has led to a reshaping in my passion for this career path.  I am eagerly looking forward to “serving” the public as a career by breaking down the barriers for healthy lifestyles.  When I applied to become a National Health Corps member, I thought I knew what “serving” was.  Little did I know that my definition of “serving” would change dramatically within a 10 month timeframe. Service has changed me and service has invigorated me.


This post was written by NPHC member Lauren Kargul.

Lauren serves at Allegheny County Health Department Chronic Disease Prevention as an Outreach Coordinator.