National Public Health Week, April 7-13, is a time to recognize the contributions of public health.
Since 1995, communities across the nation have participated in this observance that is sponsored by the American Public Health Association. In recognition of this week, the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is highlighting its recent accomplishments as a way to inform residents about the role of public health in the community.
"A lot of people don't know what public health is," said Tony Beltran, the health department's executive director. "We are constantly working behind the scenes. Our daily mission focuses on health promotion, illness prevention and protection of the environment."
Following are some of its 2013 public health accomplishments:
• The Communicable Disease program investigated 37 different outbreaks of illness affecting Lake County residents. Norovirus, influenza, pertussis (whooping cough), salmonella, cyclospora, scabies and chickenpox were among the outbreaks investigated that primarily occurred in schools, day-care centers and long-term care facilities.
• The Emergency Management program developed public and private partnerships to expand the number of private sites that could be used for dispensing medications in the event of an emergency. Two local colleges and two large businesses agreed to participate. In its continuing efforts to plan and prepare for public health disasters, the program held exercises to test its mass vaccination plan, mass medical distribution plan and demobilization plan.
• The Lake County Board and Board of Health approved revisions to Article X, the Animal Care and Control ordinance. The most significant change was to grant the authority to investigate and impound dogs that exhibit animal-aggressive behavior. An animal-aggressive dog is a dog that, without justification, causes serious physical injury or death to another owned animal. The Health Department's Animal Care and Control program conducted four investigations in 2013. Three of the four dogs investigated were determined to be animal-aggressive.
• Advocacy efforts by the REALITY Illinois youth group resulted in the Lake County Forest Preserve District enacting a smoke-free playground ordinance at nine forest preserve locations. This youth group works with the Health Department's Tobacco Free Lake County program to educate and advocate for tobacco-free choices.
• For the first time in more than 16 years, the Lake County Board of Health and County Board approved a revision to the ordinance that regulates the design, installation and maintenance of septic systems in Lake County. The revision clarifies a number of on-site wastewater treatment system requirements, provides a clear hierarchy of the strategies to repair failing systems when compliance is impossible, and expands and advances the types of systems and technologies that can be used.
• Townships and municipalities with large populations that rely on private wells for drinking water are partnering with the Health Department as a way to offer a convenience to their residents. The Health Department provided water sample kits to these communities so that well water owners no longer need to drive the distance to the Environmental Laboratory in Libertyville to pick them up. When flooding occurred last spring, the accessibility of the water sampling kits came in handy for people with submerged wells. Staff analyzed more than 279 water samples, in which 48 tested positive for contamination. Participating communities include Antioch, Fremont, Grant, and Lake Villa townships as well as the villages of Deer Park, Fox Lake, Lindenhurst, Long Grove and Wadsworth.
• The Health Department's Immunizations Coordinator received the Immunizations Advocate Award from the Chicago Area Immunization Campaign, a coalition of more than 100 Chicago area public and private sector organizations. Nominated by her peers, she was selected based on her commitment to increasing vaccination rates in Lake County and the Chicago area. The Immunizations Program provides routine and seasonal immunizations to adults and children. In 2013 the program administered more than 25,000 vaccinations of which 24,000 were given to children 18 years of age or younger.
• The Sexually Transmitted Infections program staff strengthened their outreach to HIV-positive individuals. They identified individuals living with HIV who had never been in HIV medical care or who had been out of care for more than 12 months and linked them with needed services.
• The combined efforts of Park City and Waukegan, and the enforcement actions of the health department's solid waste program temporarily eliminated significant odors from a compost facility in Waukegan near Park City's border. The group is now developing a long-term solution to the problem. The Solid Waste program regulates 10 compost facilities along with two active landfills, 10 landscape waste transfer stations and 22 closed landfills. The program has been working with managers of active landfills to prevent odors as well as to address odor problems as soon as they are reported.
The health department's overall goal is to achieve the highest level of health for all in Lake County. Working with multiple community partners, it is following a comprehensive, community-driven approach to accomplish this goal.
For more information, visit health.lakecountyil.gov/Pages/Default.aspx.