When I graduated from nursing school a few decades ago, I was anxious to start working in the hospital putting sick people “back together again.” This led to a high-intensity nursing job in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Working with micro preemies and other infants needing intensive care was rewarding and what most individuals envision nursing to be. All I could think of after a few years of practice in this area was, “I want to prevent illness and disease, not just treat it.” It was not until later when I got a job outside of the hospital to take care of the infants after they went home, and worked with high-risk pregnant women and their families to prevent sick babies, that I truly understood the positive impact public health has on each and every member of the community. Not to mention the economic benefits of achieving and maintaining optimal health.
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April 1-7, 2013 is National Public Health Week. Every April since 1995, communities nationwide have joined together to celebrate public health’s role in prevention and wellness of communities. This year, the national theme is, “ROI: Save Lives, Save Money.” Much like in the business world, ROI stands for the return on investment. Supporting evidence-based public health programs results in healthier communities and reduces the cost of treating diseases. This is important to consider in tough economic times when there are limited resources for communities to utilize.
Another characteristic of public health is that it is diverse. In El Dorado County Public Health, there are service areas that are traditionally considered when one thinks of public health. One such area is Public Health Nursing, which focuses primarily on pregnant women and their families but also addresses health issues throughout the entire lifespan. Examples of this are the annual flu clinics which have served seniors and other high-risk individuals in El Dorado County for decades. Other well-known public health areas are Communicable Disease, Epidemiology, and the Public Health Laboratory. These programs help to prevent and contain disease outbreaks by investigating, identifying and treating agents that are a threat to our community such as Hepatitis B, Norovirus and Rabies.
Additionally, there are other important services in El Dorado County Public Health. One of these is Emergency Preparedness. This section works to make sure our county is prepared in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. EMS, or Emergency Medical Services, ensures that the EMS system delivers the highest possible quality of pre-hospital emergency medical care to victims of illness and injury.
Another program, Animal Services, enforces laws and ordinances that relate to animal care and welfare. It also maintains shelters that house and care for stray, unwanted and displaced animals, as well as work to find them a good forever home. Yes, Animal Services is a public health program, too.
These are only a few of the many programs and services offered through Public Health. Each one helps to make our community a safer and healthier place to live. Without them, parasites and other organisms would run amok, resulting in disease and generally unhealthy living conditions.
This is how Public Health saves lives and saves money. Investment on the front end of any problem in order to promote prevention requires a lot less monetary investment than trying to fix a problem after it occurs.
I am proud to work with such talented and dedicated individuals who take pride in serving their community. I look forward to doing my part in continuing our efforts to keep El Dorado County a healthy and happy place to live — preventing disease, not just treating it.
For more information on El Dorado County Public Health’s programs and services, visit our Website at edcgov.us/PublicHealth or call 530-621-6100.
Lynnan Svensson, RN, BSN, PHN, is the Maternal Child Adolescent Health Program Director for the El Dorado County Health and Human Services, Public Health.