Public health promotes healthy behavior, communities

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

County commissioners, on Aug. 8, heard the county public health annual report from Otter Tail County Public Health Director Jody Lien, Assistant Public Health Director Kristi Goos and County Family Health Supervisor Kristin Bye. 

The primary responsibilities and services of the close to 40 employees in county public health are to promote healthy communities and healthy behaviors, prevent the spread of infectious disease, protect against environmental hazards and ensure the quality and accessibility of public health services.

County public health services are funded by the taxpayers of Otter Tail County along with financial assistance from the state and federal governments.

“Our registered nurses offer families in Otter Tail County the support they need,” Lien said, “including education and tools that help promote enjoyable parent-child relationships. We also encourage healthy social-emotional and physical development of children.”

PartnerSHIP4Health (P4H) is a collaboration of the local public health agencies in Otter Tail, Becker, Clay and Wilkin counties to prevent chronic disease through physical activity, healthy eating and reducing tobacco use.

“Through P4H we work with schools, worksites, communities, health care, childcare and human service organizations,” Lien added.

Partnership4Health has an oral health consultant program with a focus to  increase access to preventative and restorative dental care.  Emphasis is on working with under insured and uninsured residents.

Additional collaborative work includes educating children about the importance of good oral health. Currently there are 4,760 students receiving oral health education in 27 schools and 20 districts across the P4H.

An aging coordinator program in Otter Tail County provides assistance to individuals aged 60 and above who are in need of services. The position is funded, in part, through a grant from the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging.

Home visits are provided. Over the past 12 months the county aging coordinator program had 351 contacts in Otter Tail County.

Mental health well-being is emphasized by Otter Tail County Public Health. Highlights include partnering with local school districts, providing outreach at community events and creating numerous materials for outreach.

Immunizations, sometimes referred to vaccinations or shots, are one of the best weapons the county has against a number of serious diseases. The goal is to protect children and adults.