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More than an apple a day

Donna Norwood, RN, reviews labs and clinical findings with patient Jessie George Tuesday morning at the Lincoln County Health Department. Diane Turbyfill / LTN Photo
War, disease and a growing population have increased the need for public health and upped the responsibilities of the Lincoln County Health Department.
“Our role in protecting the community keeps changing,” said Maggie Dollar, director of the Lincoln County Health Department.
Most people look to the Health Department for shots and immunizations, Dollar said. But the list of offered services keeps growing.
One of the newest elements of the Health Department is its role in bioterrorism.
Health Department employees are now required to take additional training to learn about chemical agents, protective gear and supplies and plans for evacuation and shelters.
Maps on the walls of Dollar’s office are obvious signs of the times. A 10-mile radius drawn around McGuire Nuclear Station shows the perimeters of those eligible for the KI pill.
Health Department staff learn emergency procedures and how to educate people about the importance of maintaining good health, from infancy to old age.
The health of children is addressed through the WIC program (Women, Infant and Children) by providing healthy food and education.
A child care health consultant visits the 31 day cares in Lincoln County educating care givers on SIDS, providing seizure training and teaching children the importance of hand washing.
Doctors and nurses at the Health Department’s clinics treat patients for chronic health problems and short term illnesses.
Vicki Martin, RN, said the increased services and treatment are a big step up from what used to be offered.
“We’re able to do more for the community rather than just do a yearly screening,” she said.
Doctors and nurses treat patients for various diseases and monitor newer illnesses that are threatening the area like the West Nile Virus.
The Health Department facilitates all testing for diseases such as WNV and rabies.
Caring for the elderly is also becoming a bigger job. Home Health is now the largest division of the local health department.
“We foresee that continuing to grow due to the aging baby boomer generation,” said Dollar.
The Lincoln County Health Department treated 3,885 patients between November 2003 to March 2004. That number is up 35 percent from the previous year.
Nursing Supervisor Connie Hall feels the increase is due more to the decline in the economy rather than an increase in health problems.
“We’re seeing a lot of folks that maybe five years ago would have seen a private doctor,” she said.
Financial need is only one element of what’s considered when treating patients at the Health Department.
Dollar recommends those in need check into the services offered.
“There are so many under-served people in our community,” said Martin. “So many people have slipped through the cracks.”by Diane Turbyfill

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