1. Opinion

Guest column: Public Health Week calls attention to agency's professionals, services

Published Apr. 8, 2015

Each April, the Florida Department of Health celebrates National Public Health Week (April 6 to 12) and the dedicated professionals that make up our public health work force.

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.

County health departments provide a variety of services that local residents are aware of — services like 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, dentists and a myriad of ancillary professionals who: provide preventive and restorative 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 breastfeeding 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.

In the last fiscal year, local Department of Health staffers provided 117,482 services to 9,779 clients in our community. More than 18,800 birth and death certificates were issued; 3,426 childhood immunizations were administered, and 7,710 WIC clients were served. More than 38,622 doses of medication were dispensed to children in 23 Hernando County schools, and 4,762 dental services were provided to 1,985 patients. We provided 9,963 family planning services to 1,503 clients; 33,409 Healthy Start services for high-risk pregnant women, and 3,282 services to 800 clients diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.

Additionally, we ensured the health and safety of our community by performing 1,558 permitted facility inspections, 1,204 commercial and residential septic systems inspections and 195 public swimming area inspections. In cooperation with county Animal Services, we conducted 487 rabies investigations.

Finally, the Department of Health in Hernando County remains recognized by Project Public Health Ready for preparedness initiatives that 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 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 administrator of the Department of Health in Hernando County.