Local Health Departments (LHDs) play a broad and critical role in protecting the public’s health. As attendees to the MACo Winter Conference session, “Protecting the Public’s Health: Weeds to Wells to Wellness,” learned the full scope of what they do and the health and economic impacts they have on local communities is not always evident.
Kevin Sumner, President of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) set the stage with a look at the history of LHDs and the role they plan in protecting community health and promoting resiliency. Sumner highlighted the economic impacts of LHDs noting that up to $34.00 is saved for every $1.00 spent on substance abuse prevention and up to $44.00 is saved for every $1.00 spent on vaccinations.
Senator Clarence Lam presented a statewide perspective from his hat as a legislator and from his hat as a physician. He explained the differences between public health and medical care and the types of interventions they use to help. Lam also discussed the social determinants of health and factors that impact health. Lam concluded with a look at major issues in public health that are on the horizon for the 2019 General Assembly Session including access to care, tobacco use, gun violence prevention, and addressing unmet needs for the opioid epidemic, substance use disorders and mental health.
Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer and 2019 MACHO President Maura Rossman drilled into the work of LHDs on a local level by discussing how LHDs in Maryland are funded and what services they provide with those funds (hint it’s everything from outbreak control, immunizations, and disease surveillance to senior care and person with disability services, opioid crisis response, health enforcement and more!). Rossman left audience members with additional facts on the economic impacts of LHDs: every $1 spent on childhood
vaccines saves $16.50 in future healthcare costs.
Environmental Health Director Julie Mackert from Harford County presented on how the safety of the air you breath, the water you drink, and the food you eat is overseen by environmental health directors. Environmental health falls under the purview of both the Maryland Department of Environment and the Maryland Department of Health. The directors work diligently work to protect your health from the environmental angle including well water quality assurance, nuisance complaints, sewage overflow investigations, bathing beach sampling and licensing, recycling facilities inspection and permits, food service facility inspection and licensing, and rodent complaints.
The session was moderated by Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk and held on Thursday, January 3, 2019.
The MACo Winter Conference was held January 2-4, 2019 at the Hyatt in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s theme was, “Charting the Course.”