Thursday, October 18, 2018
Opinion

Public Health Week a time to recognize department's many services, goals

Each April, the Florida Department of Health celebrates National Public Health Week and the dedicated professionals that make up our public health workforce. The Department of Health's vision is to be the Healthiest State in the Nation.

Florida's 67 county health departments work to accomplish this through strong partnerships with area hospitals, private medical providers, local governments, law enforcement and emergency response teams, local education boards, media partners, the business community, nonprofit and faith-based partners and citizens.

Last March, the Florida Department of Health received first-in-the-nation national accreditation as an integrated department of health through the Public Health Accreditation Board. This accreditation is a testament to the department's ability to keep communities ahead of emerging health threats while promoting best practices to meet ongoing health challenges.

County health departments provide a variety of services that local residents are aware of — services such as family planning, childhood immunizations, rabies investigation and prevention, and Women, Infants and Children. But few are aware of the wide range of services and the broad knowledge base our local health professionals provide. For example, public health employs physicians, environmental specialists and myriad ancillary professionals who provide preventive services to local residents; manage all county birth and death records; inspect and permit tattoo and piercing establishments and tanning salons; inspect public schools to ensure they are safe for children; identify, monitor and help prevent/control contagious disease outbreaks at the local level; assist local residents and businesses with emergency planning and preparedness efforts; support workplace wellness initiatives; support local education and vocational programs by providing training and internship opportunities; inspect and permit private and commercial septic systems; monitor water quality at public swimming areas; provide childbirth education and breast-feeding classes; provide education and support for high-risk pregnant women and new moms; provide information, testing, support and treatment for many types of sexually transmitted disease; provide chronic disease prevention outreach; and oversee school medical clinics and annual student screenings.

Throughout the last fiscal year, staff of the Florida Department of Health in Hernando County was privileged to provide 52,301 adult health services to 3,075 individuals over 18 years of age and 23,686 family planning services to 1,929 individuals. In addition, staffers provided 10,371 services to 1,144 persons for the treatment of a sexually transmitted disease. Just over 2,159 children received immunizations, and 4,203 infants and children through the age of 5, as well as pregnant, breast-feeding or post-partum women, received supplemental nutrition and education services through the Women, Infant, and Children program. Our dental program provided 6,819 services to 3,231 clients in need of oral health care. School health staffers were responsible for medical consultation, education and training at 26 schools across Hernando County. The vital statistics office issued more than 22,100 birth and death certificates throughout the year. The environmental health team ensured the health and safety of our community by performing 1,832 permitted facility inspections, 1,830 commercial and residential septic systems inspections and 519 public swimming area inspections. In cooperation with county Animal Services, the team conducted 556 rabies investigations. Finally, the Department of Health-Hernando remains recognized by Project Public Health Ready for preparedness initiatives, which include specific response plans to a variety of natural and man-made emergencies.

Effective public health programs, policies and partnerships build a healthy community. To that end, the Florida Department of Health in Hernando County continuously evaluates programs, reviews processes and focuses on the return on investment of services so that area residents and visitors can enjoy this community in which we live, learn, work and play.

Robin Napier is the administrator at the Florida Department of Health in Hernando County.

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