What has the DeKalb County Health Department done for you lately, citizens of the County? In 2016, Health Department staff conducted 1,200 restaurant health inspections, 850 infectious disease investigations, on-site vision and hearing screenings for 7,000 pre-school and school age children and 450 school programs to promote health. These were in addition to working with county families to provide 17,000 visits for childhood immunizations, adult and international travel immunizations, tuberculosis screening, and a variety of nutrition, care coordination and assessment services for women, infants and children to promote healthy pregnancy and childhood. These are the day to day activities the Health Department conducts to prevent disease outbreaks, protect the public, and promote good health for all our County residents. Every $1 spent on public health saves $5.60 in health care costs. That is a great return on investment for the future.
In addition to such day-to- day activities, emergencies arise that could affect any of us. These include deadly flu outbreaks like the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 where our Health Department staff administered over 6,000 vaccinations with vaccine received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Strategic National Stockpile. Last year, Health Department staff worked to contain a Norovirus outbreak at a nursing home; they also received vaccine to prevent the spread of mumps among students on campus and in the community. Again in 2016, staff worked with health care providers to test women at risk of Zika virus infection. These are a few examples of diseases that the Health Department must respond to on a daily basis to contain and prevent outbreaks.
When a devastating tornado hit the tiny Fairdale community in 2015, Health Department staff were there, along with other county and nearby village personnel and volunteers, to assist the residents with tetanus shots, septic system evaluations, and assistance with displaced pets and livestock. Again in 2016, the Health Department was on hand to investigate a restaurant and was able to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A among patrons and require that sick employees refrain from working.
Why should you care? There is a referendum on the April 4th ballot that, if approved, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $9.57 in property taxes annually, or less than $1.00 per month. The purpose of the referendum is to help sustain the current services of the Health Department, so it can continue to provide the protections that mean so much to a healthy community. The department has cut its staff by 24% to operate with diminishing state and federal grant funding which provides the largest portion of the total department budget at 40%. The other funding sources are fees and county property taxes, which make up only about one-quarter of the department’s budget.
Citizens for Public Health, a volunteer committee of concerned citizens, is asking you to vote “YES” for the Public Health Referendum. You get to decide how this most important county service works in the future to protect all of us.