April 5th-11th is National Public Health Week. Every single person in Iredell County has been touched by public health in some manner.
If you’ve ever eaten food prepared at a restaurant or football concession stand, both facilities were inspected and permitted by public health. Do you have a membership at a local swimming pool? If so, public health authorized the opening of the pool only after specific safety requirements were met.
Public health has also inspected the daycare or school your child attends. If you built a home in the county, public health most likely designed and permitted your well and septic system. Have you had a salmonella outbreak at a family reunion or a co-worker diagnosed with tuberculosis? If you have, public health was there to provide education and communicable disease control measures.
If you needed vaccinations for college, public health took care of it. Public health could have been there when you were pregnant and when you were ready for family planning services after delivering a healthy baby. Public health may have completed a kindergarten physical for your youngest child or a Department of Transportation physical for you.
When you received matching tattoos with your best friend, the tattoo artist was permitted by public health. Public health responded when you complained about mosquito control concerns because of your neighbor’s abandoned swimming pool. If you had a high-risk pregnancy or infant with a high-risk medical condition, you could have received services from one of our care managers.
As a new parent, the Women, Infants and Children program may have assisted you with breastfeeding while offering you supplemental nutrition. You may have lost your dental or medical insurance when you changed jobs so you took advantage of our dental clinic sliding fee scale or our walk-in laboratory program. Your child excitedly shared information with you about an activity he participated in a summer camp that was led by one of our Health Planners related to alcohol and tobacco risk reduction or you took advantage of a car seat safety check clinic led by the Safe Kids Coalition. These are just some of the examples of how public health could have touched you or your family.
You still might ask, what exactly is public health? It’s the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities.
Currently, we are in the midst of the most challenging public health crisis of our lifetimes. I am referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. With 108 funded positions, the Iredell County Health Department sprang into action on March 16, 2020, when we were notified about the first positive case in Iredell County.
Our organization had been planning for COVID-19 for several months. We had even participated in a preparedness exercise on March 13 but no amount of planning could have prepared us for the year that lies ahead.
From close contact tracing, case investigation, public education, press releases, responding to community calls and e-mails to planning testing and vaccination clinics, our health department team has been focused on protecting your family over the last twelve months. We have not done this alone.
This has been accomplished with many community businesses and non-profit partners, schools, health care institutions and county departments by our side. We have also been fortunate to use COVID-19 grant funding to help us employ additional temporary staff to assist with our COVID-19 response.
It is my absolute privilege to recognize the staff of the Iredell County Health Department during National Public Health Week. They are unsung heroes who show up every day to slow the spread of COVID-19 while also continuing to provide other important public health services. I am honored to work with these competent and caring professionals. I applaud their dedication to serving others!
Jane Hinson is the Iredell County Health director.