Orginally published Jan. 23, 2012
On January 6 and 7, District 4 Public Health hosted its first open house for all the board of health members in the district. Twenty-two board members representing all twelve counties participated in the open house.
“I wanted the board members to learn more about the many programs managed by the district and benefiting the people within the counties,” said Nicole Haynes, M.D., M.P.H., the district health director. “Open house was important for the board members so they could meet the staff, appreciate their role in public health and understand the structure and function of the district office.”
Program managers presented information on more than 30 of the district’s Public Health programs, highlighted accomplishments of the previous year, and outlined challenges for the upcoming year. Accomplishments include a new WIC call center that serves to schedule new WIC appointments, reschedule appointments, answer WIC questions, make referrals for other services, give directions, handle complaints and provide information regarding other Public Health programs. The call center received approximately 69,000 calls in 2011.
In addition, the program managers noted how their programs benefit each county. Many programs are administered at the district level and the program staff are at the district office. While they are having a direct impact on the community, they are not county health department employees and often go unnoticed. The open house allowed program staff to describe how their programs directly impact those in the community.
The district budget analyst closed the session by providing the benefits of additional staff paid for through indirect costs. For a small amount of money, each health department has access to more than 12 professional staff members including information technology, human resources, and billing personnel.
The district received positive feedback about the open house from the board of health members. “This [open house] was much needed and provided a broader view of the district's role in ensuring public health,” stated one board member. Many even suggested that due to the success of this open house, it should be an annual event.
Some board of health members received in-depth information about the multitude of programs Public Health offers in each community for the first time. Providing a forum of this nature has improved transparency and solidified relationships between program managers and board of health members.
“Without working in Public Health every day it is difficult to grasp the number of programs and services we provide and see how those services directly affect individuals,” said Haynes. “We cannot expect our Board of Health members to advocate on our behalf if they don’t understand what we do.”