National Public Health Week, an annual observance sponsored by the American Public Health Association, is April 1 through 7. This year's theme is "Public Health is Return on Investment (ROI): Save Lives, Save Money." In observance of this week, the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is promoting public health programs that result in healthier communities and reduced cost in treating diseases.
"Public health works quietly behind the scenes to help keep people and communities healthy," said Jerry Nordstrom, the Health Department's Interim Executive Director. "You might not notice what we are doing, but just imagine how many lives have been saved through vaccinations. Investing $10 per person each year in community-based public health activities can save the nation as much as $16 billion within five years."
Following are a few of the 2012 accomplishments of the Lake County Health Department's programs:
• The Communicable Disease Control program investigated or assisted in the investigation of 35 outbreaks of illness that affected Lake County. Fifteen of these were associated with confirmed or suspected norovirus, seven were influenza or upper respiratory in nature, two involved chickenpox and two involved scabies.
• The Health Department's six community health centers continued to provide primary care services to uninsured and limited-income families and individuals. In 2012, the centers served 47,152 patients throughout the county.
• The Tuberculosis program screened and tested approximately 6,000 individuals for TB. Seven active cases were reported and 189 individuals were diagnosed with the latent TB infection (LTBI). LTBI has the potential to develop into active TB. Staff focused on outreach to high risk populations such as individuals at the PADS homeless shelter. The identification and treatment of individuals with active TB and LTBI helps protect the county from TB outbreaks and helps save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
• With a state grant, the health department launched a new program to give individuals, currently living in state-funded mental health institutions, the opportunity to live independently with professional support. The program is serving adults, 18 and older with serious and disabling mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse issues.
• As troops returned home from Afghanistan and Iraq, the Health Department's Lake-McHenry Veterans and Family Services program offered free mental health and support services to them, as well as other veterans, active duty military personnel and their families.
• The number of patients using the Sexually Transmitted Illness Express Clinic increased by 90 percent due to increased accessibility, marketing and community need. The program also expanded to the Lake County Jail Medical Unit, providing free opt-out HIV testing to more than 98 percent of the inmates.
• The Animal Care and Control program conducted 10 off-site low-cost pet vaccination clinics to help increase vaccination rates in either low-income or low compliance areas.
• The (ATOD) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention program strengthened community coalitions by reaching 132,894 people in 15 communities.
For more than 50 years, the Lake County Health Department has been preventing diseases, promoting health and assuring a healthful environment in Lake County. For more information, visit the Department's web site at: health.lakecountyil.gov.