We often talk about and advertise special months throughout the year that have significance in public health. September has been recognized as Preparedness Month and October has been recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness month. Both of these recognitions have special meaning for the Washington County Health Department.
Preparedness is part of our everyday life. We prepare for school, work, vacations, family visits. But do we think about emergencies and what we can do to be prepared as families and businesses? The Washington County Health Department has staff devoted to preparing for the public health needs of the community in public health emergencies. This staff was particularly busy last year as we faced the challenges associated with H1N1 influenza. They helped to organize reception of vaccine throughout the county, set up clinics in the schools and at the health department, and made sure that staff and volunteers were available to meet the demands of the immunization clinics. They also coordinated the delivery of emergency supplies necessary should Washington County have been overwhelmed with large numbers of ill individuals and no ready access to treatment. Our plans included providing necessary medication and equipment for patient management.
The preparedness plans for the Washington County Health Department are tested annually so that we are prepared to serve the community. Our current flu shot clinics serve are one way in which we can test our plans for delivery of services to residents of Washington County. We have been holding clinics at various locations throughout the county to determine where we can best serve the largest number of individuals and families and the number of staff needed to deliver these services. The drive-through clinics are especially important in testing how quickly we can set up and serve the public. They also allow for the separation of exposed or ill persons from the general public by confining families and individuals to vehicles and not crowded min a large room.
We work closely with the hospitals, Washington County EMA, Red Cross, civic groups and other partners in making sure that we are ready to respond to any event in which the public's health is threatened. We also recruit area medical volunteers to help should we need to provide additional medical response in an outbreak emergency situation. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Health Department for information about the Medical Reserve Corps.
Families, too, need to think about preparedness. Do you have a plan for evacuation if your home is threatened by manmade or natural disasters? Do you know what medications you need and have available? Do you have a meeting place for family members should an event occur? Do you have plans that include family pets? The Washington County Health Department has information available to the public on planning for such emergencies. Please contact us at 374-2782 or visit our web site at washco-ohhealth.org.
October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is a good time to remind you of the very real threat to women (and a small number of men) of potential occurrence of breast cancer. Regular checkups and routine mammograms are recommended for early detection of breast cancer. Check with you physician if you are due for a routine screening. Think Pink.
As we move on throughout the rest of the year, you will hear more of other designated days and months. The Washington County Health Department will use these messages to provide the information to you of various topics of public health importance. Please let us know if you would like more information on any of these topics and we will try to provide answers. WE are a department prepared to provide for the public health needs of Washington County.
Kathleen Meckstroth is executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.