Saturday, December 10, 2011

Community Health - My Local Public Health Agency, Oneida County Health Department


My local public health agency is county based, under Oneida County Health Department (OCHD). Daniel W. Gilmore, Ph.D. is the Director of Environmental Health Supervisor-in-Charge of OCHD. The aim of Oneida County Health Department is to promote and protect the health of Oneida County; both county’s citizens and visitors. The OCHD director is responsible for initiating, planning, coordinating and directing the programmatic and budgetary management of all public health programs.  As McKenzie, 2008 page 50 indicates, OCHD falls in the approximation of 2,86 LHDs (Local Health Departments) in US; and that OCHD like many other LHDs it provide health services to the people and many of these services are mandated by state laws, which also set standards for health and safety. {McKenzie, 2008 p.50}

However, according to the OCHD spoke person, Administration office the “provides administrative, legal, fiscal, health emergency response and preparedness, and public education support for the Department.” The Administration Division provides direct support to the Director of Health as well as the community at large. Many of OCHD division programs are mandated by the federal through Department of Human Services and New York State department of Health, such as public buildings, public transportation systems, the direction and reporting of certain diseases (in this case recent pandemic), the collection of vital statistics-birth and death and many more. {McKenzie, 2008 p.50} this is to say that OCHD is in compliance with both federal and state laws; also administration of OCHD is divided in multiple divisions such as:

Administrative Division: Staff provides Services such as administrative support regarding personnel issues and contracts; also provides a liaison with the NYSDOH, health coalitions and community and government agencies. The administrative staff implements its mission, goals and objectives by assisting various programs that are divided in multiple divisions. Such as Financial Services, that is under Fiscal Services Administrator. Financial services  assistance are such as preparation of annual budget, to prepare required financial statements and government reports, to ensure spending is within the budget allotments, to ensures revenues from 3rd party re-imbursements, and to prepares claims for State and Federal and other reimbursement.

Public Education and Public Information Services Division: Also, OCHD administration is responsible for public education and public information services. This division is under Public Education Coordinator. This division caries out its mission by publicize information pertaining to the Health Department, its programs and services, to all sections of the community. The person I contacted at the OCHD indicated that normally this is done by presentations to school groups, professional organizations, health fairs and media interviews and press releases.

According to my research of the OCHD findings, the Public Education Coordinator serves is the official spokesperson for the Health Department. Also, they indicate that in case there is an event of a public health emergency the Public Information Officer informs the public the nature of the emergency and provides all directives.  Also, the Public Information Officer will coordinate with all other agencies involved in the emergency in order to preserve and protect the health of the community; this is to fully execute the OCHD mission statement.

Legal Services: In the OCHD this division is under supervision of Assistant County Attorney. Its main goals is to advise the OCHD and other county agencies on public health and environmental law, to represents the department in administrative hearings and in court, to drafts orders on behalf of the Director of Health, OCHD, to deal with public health violations, hazards and troubles, to serves as County’s HIPAA Compliance and Privacy Officer, and to draft and review contracts entered into by and for the Health Department, OCHD.

Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Division: The OCHD Health Emergency Response and Preparedness is a division that is mainly responsible for the OCHD’s public health planning. To implement the main goals of OCHD this division develops plans for the OCHD role in natural, man made disasters, outbreaks and epidemics. Natural disasters are such as floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados, avalanche, thunder storms, and other weather related disaster; whereas man made disasters are categorized as such as biological, radiological, chemical and terrorism; also OCHD plans for outbreaks and epidemics such as  flue, pandemic influenza, MRSA and so on.

Nevertheless, OCHD division of Health Emergency Response and Preparedness is also responsible for integrating OCHD plans into the overall hazards of Oneida County Emergency Management Plan and to provide OCHD staff support to the Oneida County Health Emergency Response and Preparedness (CHERP) multi agency committee in order to implement the OCHD mission statement.

According to OCHD its core functions as an effective public health system are such as Ensuring the Quality and Accessibility of Health Services, Preventing Diseases, Promoting and Encouraging Healthy Behaviors, Protecting Against Environmental Hazard, Responding to Disasters and Assisting Communities in Recovery, and Preventing Injuries. The structure of the public health system varies from state to state, but the mission is the same {McKenzie, 2008 p.39}.

Public health is the most inclusive system, the Institute Of Medicine (IOM) defined it in 1998 as what “we as society do collectively to insure the conditions in which people can be healthy”; normally public health system is defined as “activities undertaken within the formal structure of government and the associated efforts of private and voluntary organizations and individuals” {McKenzie, 2008 p.7}.

So far in my county, OCHD has some health alerts that are publicly discussed, residents get information about these alerts by public and private broadcasting, web-site, phone inquiries, news papers, scheduled appointments, brochures and other means of communications. 

The information about active alerts that I found in the OCHD are Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and FDA on salmonella typhimurium outbreak notices, immunization clinic, TB Clinics, MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), guide for coaches:  an athlete's guide to prevent the  spread of bacteria, raccoon rabies, lyme disease information, West Nile virus information, hand washing,  personal health fact sheets, cold weather tips, flood preparedness, lead exposure, fluoride information, hot weather health risks, and so on.

However, the above health alerts some are local based involving few people and can be controlled by locally with minimal amount of organizing and resources, such as an athlete’s guide to prevent the spread of bacteria, raccoon rabies, lyme disease, the West Nile virus, flue and personal hygiene. Some are large and complex and they need significant skills and resources for their solutions, such as salmonella typhimurium outbreak, MRSA, and so on. {McKenzie, 2008 p.121}
OCHD programs and services are as follows: community wellness services, early intervention programs, health clinics, environmental health, health education, Women, Infants and Children nutritional supplement program  (WIC); and special children services.  According to the OCHD public information office these programs are to accomplish the health department’s mission, to “promote and protect the health” of the residents of Oneida County.  For example, OCHD like many other governmental health agencies are part of the governmental structure from Federal, State and Local levels. These agencies and their programs are funded primarily by tax money and managed by government officials, and they have authority over their geographical territories {McKenzie, 2008 p.39}.

While researching, I did not find any information that OCHD is directly implementing Healthy People 2010 suggestions. However, I find so many programs and service that they correspond with the Healthy People 2010. The question that if OCHD will meet the goals of Healthy People 2010 or not is impossible for me to answer from the data I collected in this research. But since we are in 2009, I’m optimistic that some of the healthy people 2010 objectives will be met fully, though not so sure if all will be met due to different political appointees with different policies and priorities.


1.      McKenzie, J. F., R. R. Pinger, et al. (2008). An introduction to community health. Sudbury, Mass., Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

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nyscof said...

Sometimes our Health Departments fail to protect our health because they are paid to protect water fluoridation when modern science indicates that ingesting fluoride is ineffective at reducing tooth decay, harmful to health and a waste of money.

Further, even federal government agencies, other health departments and dental groups are warning parents to avoid mixing fluoridated water with infant formula because it puts babies at increased and unnecessary risk of developing dental fluorosis (discolored teeth) (References

Fluoridation Opposition is Scientific, Respectable & Growing
More than 3,825 professionals (including 328 dentists) urge that fluoridation be stopped citing scientific evidence that ingesting fluoride is ineffective at reducing tooth decay and has serious health risks. See statement:

Many New York State cities and counties have rejected fluoridation and such legislation is pending in New York City

Fatherhood Blogger said...

Nyscof you have a point here. I like your extensive explanation of the fluoride problems and measures already taken and to be taken to prevent the problem. My daughter was prescribed fluoride drop to the water because we dont drunk tap-water rather distilled water, but we did not use it cause I did want anymore ingredient in the water that found good, pure and fit. Remember I grew up in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania where I drunk natural spring water from the mountain. When I moved here i couldn't bare to test the tap water here to cross my throat, solution was to buy distilled water, so as my family. I knew something was wrong with water or food because many ordinary people had brown/yellow teeth, that may have come from water as you pointed out and food or medication or combination of many things. Thank you for an interesting finding that need public awareness and appropriate solution to our health. In the mean time if you see that water is not health for you, buy gallons of water from the family stores or buy water purifier, then you have control of the what is going in your body system.