What is Public Health?
Have you heard of the Red Sticker Campaign that provides examples of “This Is Public Health” The purpose of the campaign is to highlight that public health is all around us. While your awareness of public health may have increased because of the campaign, have you ever stop to wonder who exactly is doing the work? We’d like to take some time to introduce just some of the roles at the Winnebago County Health Department, and how you might be connected to their work.
Public Health Roles in Winnebago County
- Sanitarians, also referred to as Environmental Health Specialists, make sure places and spaces you inhabit are safe. A lot of their time is tied to food and safety inspections; but they also follow up on incidents like animal bites, and environmental complaints. This division definitely puts in the miles with over 770 inspections (page 15) per year. Inspections happen at restaurants, retail, hotels, pools, campgrounds and the many events happening in “event city.” Their services cover all of Winnebago County outside of Menasha, which is covered by the City of Menasha Public Health Department.
- Public Health Nurses are probably the most familiar face in public health. In the past, the primary focus of PH Nursing was on direct care services like new mom visits, aging adult visits and immunizations (page 17). While WCHD still provides these and other services to vulnerable populations, the healthcare system strives to provide services through primary care providers to improve efficiency. In addition, nurses continue to have a very important role in monitoring and controlling communicable disease in our communities. Many of these duties stem from state statues related to disease reporting that aim to protect the public.
- Health Educators and/or Community Health Strategists are more recent additions to the public health team, but have shown great value over the past decade. As our understanding of what impacts health has evolved over the last century, we have realized we need to examine the conditions in which people live, work, learn, and play rather than focusing solely on individuals and behaviors. The message becomes “create wellness,” rather than “treat disease.” This shift impacts all of the work of public health, but is concentrated in the role of our Community Health Strategists as we seek to achieve long-lasting, equitable change through community partnership and engagement. Community Health Strategists are guided by data and information about the needs and strengths our community and by the capacity of our community for partnering towards change.
- Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC) is a specific division within our department that has a direct stream of funding and regulations. Staff of this division are a mix of nutrition professionals, nurses, breastfeeding peer counselors, and public health aides. Participation in WIC provides food assistance, nutrition education, breastfeeding support and community referral. We are fortunate to include WIC within the health department in Winnebago County and share resources of space, staff and expertise.
- Administration, like most organizations we have a division devoted to the logistics of our work which entails budget management, recruitment, data collection, customer service, and more. We also have specialized support roles that help the entire department in areas such as planning, preparedness and communication.
- Board of Health, our Board of Health is made up of County Board Supervisors as well as community members. This is an advisory board, meaning that they listen, learn and serve as great advocates both internally and externally.
There’s a saying in the world of public health, “If you’ve seen one public health department… you’ve seen one public health department.” We have grown and adjusted the make-up of our health department over time to meet the needs of our local community – and other local health departments do likewise.
Get to Know Us Better
We want to get to know you, our partners, our stakeholders, our residents. Feel free to contact our department and request a tour or meeting with our staff. We’d love to share more about public health in Winnebago County, learn from your experiences and needs, and, if applicable, talk about how you want to partner with us to impact the health of our community.