By Pramod Dwivedi
‘So what’s public health?” The man next to me in a grocery store checkout line asked. “Isn’t it for poor people?”
“I work in public health,” I had told him seconds before when he asked what I did for living.
Public health evokes different images in different people, but by no means are its services intended to cover just one segment of population. They are for everybody, for all residents.
Public health is defined as “fulfilling society’s interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy” (“The Future of Public Health in the 21st Century”).
Linn County Public Health exists to do just that, to fulfill this goal. We do this by offering a number of public health services to county residents.
Public health services in Iowa are generally offered by the local governments. In Iowa, the local public health departments are governed by 101 local boards of health; the state health department is overseen by a state board of health. Of the 101 local boards of health, 98 are county boards of health, two are city boards of health and one is a district board of health. Linn County has its own board of health (BOH) that governs and advises the county public health department known as Linn County Public Health (LCPH). The BOH and employees of LCPH work with numerous community partners to assure that public health services are delivered in a timely manner. For example, LCPH’s Clinical Services provides a number of immunization services to the residents through its partnerships with the schools and several health care providers.
First of all, the food that we eat, the water that we drink and the air that we breathe are safe because of the dedication of our work force. They assure this by inspecting, monitoring, regulating and permitting regulated county business and industry. If a disease outbreak occurs in our community, LCPH staff is here to respond to that threat.
Staff also provides outreach and education programs to help the public mitigate environmental hazards in their homes, reduce risky behaviors, promote healthy choices and assure that laws and regulations are followed.
Public health services also mean that we control and prevent communicable diseases and provide disease screenings and education to prevent/minimize the effects of chronic diseases. Our clinical activities include immunizations, treatment for some infections, education and referrals and follow-up. LCPH uses its on-site laboratory to conduct two types of analysis of clinical and environmental samples, which help to identify and address health concerns.
To continue to provide effective and timely public health services, the department relies on data, which helps guide a regular process of assessing and prioritizing community health needs.
LCPH also has infrastructure to protect the public in the event of disaster by quickly responding to a threat.
Linn County Public Health cannot improve public’s health alone; therefore, we constantly work with our partners (individuals and organizations). For example, our partnerships with the area schools allow us to enhance and improve immunization among students.
Blue Zone efforts to help make Cedar Rapids a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice is another example of partnerships between LCPH and other entities, 24/7.
l Pramod Dwivedi is Health Director, Linn County Public Health. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org