January 6th, 2016
Grant County Health District (GCHD) staff is here to protect and improve health and wellbeing of all people who live and work in our county. As your public health officer I work with our staff on making our restaurants safe places to eat and our drinking water and lakes free of toxic substances or dangerous bacteria. We respond to outbreaks of infectious and non-infectious diseases, aiming to reduce their impact on our children and adults. And there is more.
It is particularly important to me that we build alliances with our cities, schools, clinics, hospitals, community organizations and also community members. I believe that speaking the same language and understanding each others’ goals leads to actions beneficial to our health.
Grant County should be an enjoyable, healthy and a safe place to live and work. However, we face some unique challenges and opportunities demanding our attention:
- ongoing changes to our healthcare system (healthcare facilities reshuffle and mergers; improved healthcare insurance coverage, possibly with less choices; a greater focus on improving health of all populations, not just individuals; threats to rural public hospitals survival),
- increase in harmful health effects related to changing climate (extreme heat events, wind storms, dust and wildfires-related hazardous air events),
- rise or unpredictable occurrence of animal- and insect-related illnesses and toxins (West Nile Virus, Valley Fever, Lyme’s disease, Hantavirus, harmful freshwater bacteria)
- opportunity to improve childhood immunizations (reducing school based waivers, working with individual communities and school districts),
- more chances to partner on health-related issues in your community (Accountable Communities of Health, walking trails and other recreation, crime reduction, school-based programs),
- higher substance use (undesired effects of cannabis (marijuana) and alcohol presence in our communities, high electronic cigarettes use in children, a threat of heroin epidemic),
- high levels of chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity, hypertension, lung disease, inactivity and poor eating habits),
- sporadic but unrelenting outbreaks of contagious diseases (influenza, norovirus, sexually transmitted infections, food-related illnesses, whooping cough, measles, mumps, chickenpox).
The list may seem overwhelming. Individually, each challenge represents an ongoing area of interest to our staff. As your public health officer I encourage you to partner with us and your Board of Health, with your co-workers, friends and neighbors. Two minds know more than one. With your help and support even a long list of challenges can be transformed into actions leading to a safer and healthier Grant County. Thank you for considering.
Alexander L. Brzezny, MD, MPH, FAAFP
Health Officer, GCHD, Grant County, WA