What is Public Health?

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When the local health departments are running well they often go unnoticed. Sure, local health departments are in the lime-light during a foodborne outbreak or when there are emerging diseases such as Swine Flu and associated vaccine shortages. But what about all the foodborne outbreaks that are prevented, the sexually transmitted diseases that are controlled, or the vaccine preventable diseases that are kept in check? The public doesn’t often see the work that local health departments do to achieve these and other successes.

Nor does the public realize the work we do to identify and prevent cancers through our Cancer Screening Programs, to insure babies are born healthy through our Family Planning Program, to improve nutritional food availability to pregnant mothers and infants via our WIC program, or to assure children develop normally via our HANDS Program. Not to mention the efforts to promote healthy community polices, engaging in community health assessments and improvement plans, working with individuals with diabetes, completing restaurant food service inspections, or responding to outbreaks in nursing and personal care homes, just to mention a few. Also, our Preparedness Program works very hard to build and strengthen relationships within the local communities, including those with emergency management, first responders, hospitals, long term care agencies, community organizations and other partners.

Here’s a snapshot of public health department services provided last year in the Lake Cumberland District:

  • 3,532 infants and children received disease preventing immunizations
  • 1,342 women received a breast and cervical cancer screening
  • 10,904 clients received nutritional food through WIC
  • 66 cribs were provided to promote safe sleep environments
  • 2,088 facilities were inspected to assure safe delivery of food
  • 1,581 new septic installations were inspected
  • 459 STD screenings were performed
  • 23,789 HANDS Home-visiting services were conducted
  • 1,723 7thgrade students received Making a Difference! An Evidence-Based, Abstinence Approach to Teen Pregnancy and HIV/STD Prevention.
  • 1,533 9thgrade students received Reducing the Risk (RTR) a curriculum designed to help high school students delay the initiation of sex or increase the use of protection against pregnancy and STD/HIV if they choose to have sex
  • 32 Childcare/Daycare Facility implemented Tobacco Free Policies including all grounds
  • 10 Freedom from Smoking Cessation classes were offered along with the promotion of Quit Now Kentucky.
  • 222 Coalition/Community Health Improvement Plan meetings were held. These coalition meetings serve as catalyst for health promotion, education and policy changes.  These coalitions have been successful in the designation of Trail Town Certifications, Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans, Tobacco Free School Policies, Syringe Exchange Programs, as well as continually providing up to date health information to the community partners
  • 10 community health needs assessments were conducted
  • The Medical Reserve Corps deployed three volunteers to Hopkinsville during the Solar Eclipse event.  These medical personnel staffed first aid stations for the extremely large crowds and monitored eclipse viewers for signs of heat related illness.

The Governor’s proposed budget for 2018-2019 proposes a 2.2 million dollar increase in retirement expenses to the Lake Cumberland District Health Department which may result in the loss of up to one half of our staff. The resulting threat to our communities’ public health is real.