While the focus has been on COVID-19 work carried out by the Tri-County Health Department, the agency also provides dozens of independent, often unnoticed, services that impact the daily lives of residents they serve.
These services – and how to make them work – will come into play as Douglas County prepares to form its own public health service, and as the other counties served by Tri-County, Arapahoe and Adams, reflect on their future. relationship with the agency.
Whether it’s splashing around in the pools and lounging on local beaches this summer, dining out or taking a sip of water, the health department helps keep many day-to-day activities safe.
âMost people don’t realize that public health touches their lives every day, even when they don’t walk into our building,â said Jennifer Ludwig, deputy director of Tri-County. âIt’s hard to measure prevention because it’s about measuring things that hopefully never will happen. “
Some of the lesser-known services provided by Tri-County include NARCAN Overdose Treatment Training for Law Enforcement, Foodborne Illness Investigation, Home Help for First-Time Mothers, drug prevention and sexual health services such as birth control counseling, among others. .
Although Douglas County is in the process of establishing its own health service, its leaders have expressed an interest in continuing to receive some level of service from the regional health service in the future.
Douglas County staff are reviewing which Tri-County services are used by residents and which – beyond those required by state law – will continue. Adams and Arapahoe counties also said they are reconsidering their future with the regional health department.
The five main categories of services provided by Tri-County are:
â¢ Community Health Promotion: In this category of services, Tri-County strives to improve the health of the entire population at a macro level by providing education and outreach services in areas such as maternal and child health, mental health, addiction and nutrition. This team also promotes policy changes related to these topics.
â¢ Nursing: This division primarily provides client-focused services such as vaccinations, sexually transmitted disease testing, pregnancy testing, and support for mothers and their children. The team is also investigating preventable child deaths and, in Arapahoe County, providing dental care to low-income seniors.
â¢ Environmental health: The department’s environmental health team focuses on maintaining people’s health through inspections and regulations in places such as daycares, restaurants, water treatment systems, swimming pools. , beaches, septic tanks and landfills. It organizes events such as household chemical roundups, which aim to keep chemicals out of the water supply. Douglas County uses the work of this division more than any other department, Ludwig said.
â¢ Nutrition: The Women, Infants and Children Program, or WIC, exists under this division. This team provides education and counseling to individuals and families regarding nutrition and, if necessary, breastfeeding. In Adams County, the team is also providing food stamps to residents in need and partnering with community gardens to provide access to fresh organic produce and teach families about family gardening.
â¢ Emergency Preparedness, Communicable Disease Response and Surveillance: This division – one of the best known over the past year and a half – typically deals with public health threats of human or natural origin. While this is the team that focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also responsible for investigating and tracing other diseases such as E. coli, rabies and salmonella. It also includes a workplace safety and security program, such as active gunnery training, fire drills and tornado drills.
Tri-County also has three branches outside of public services: administration and finance, human resources, and planning and information management. The Planning and Information Management team is what creates and maintains data such as COVID-19 dashboards on the Tri-County website.
Many of these divisions work together and overlap in their work, Ludwig said.
According to the State’s Public Health Act 2008, each county is required by law to provide basic public health services and to do things like ensure “conditions for a community of health.” However, the means and extent to which this work can be completed depends on the availability of funding and resources, Ludwig said.
âWe are much more than COVID,â she said. âWe’re in every facet you can think of. “
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