by Katie Nelson
I’ve worked at Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) for three and a half years. During my time with this agency, I’ve learned more about public health than I ever knew existed.
For instance there are more than 80 reportable conditions in public health – illnesses that are reported to public health officials by health care providers to limit the spread of disease. I was also pleased to find that we have several programs that focus on helping families to grow happy, healthy babies and children including the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program, the SafeCare program and the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program.
I sort of came in blind to public health – I’m a communicator by profession, so it wasn’t part of my plan, meaning I had a lot to learn when I arrived at MCPH. I’m actually still learning, every day and I don’t anticipate that will ever change. Public health is fascinating and I often find myself in awe of my coworkers, who are out on the front lines making a difference in the lives of (likely unaware) residents each day.
One of my biggest takeaways from the vast and endless universe that is public health, is that the majority of it, if not all of it, is based off of connections and relationships.
Our epidemiologists who investigate diseases have to connect and develop relationships with residents with reportable conditions in order to effectively stop diseases in their paths. Our WIC educators who work with families, providing nutrition education are some of the most approachable people I’ve ever met, which makes it easy for parents to be honest about nutrition and funding struggles at home. Our SafeCare team spends most of their days out in the community, going into the homes of residents talking about behavioral issues and how to solve them with parents of kids ages zero to five. Our NFP nurses create connections with their clients unlike any others I’ve seen in a workplace. They truly care about helping moms have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
Long story short, our teams are consistently pushing themselves and those around them to vulnerable emotional spaces, creating trusting relationships.
None of our programs would be successful without those relationships and connections, including our Blue Ribbon Award program. The Blue Ribbon Award is given to retail food establishments, including restaurants, food trucks, long-term care facilities, schools, catering companies and grocery and convenience stores, that go above and beyond their mandated regulations to ensure healthy, quality and safety for customers.
Several standards must be achieved in order to be included in the recognition program, all of which lower the risk of a facility’s chances of a foodborne illness outbreak. I’ve listened to experiences of our health inspectors who work with our Blue Ribbon Award recipients. Each story is unique and speaks to the importance of a positive relationship between business owners and inspectors.
I love hearing how the process breaks down barriers and creates a space in which retail food establishment operators can be vulnerable and honest with their inspector without fear of being shut down. The trusting relationship opens the door to opportunity to fix mistakes as they happen, as well as education to keep them to a minimum.
These relationships should hold high value to Mesa County residents, too. About 48 million people get sick with foodborne illness in the United States every year. This recognition program, which is driven by connection, directly prevents foodborne illness from happening – making a healthier, safer and higher quality experience for you.
The programs I’ve talked about are just the tip of the iceberg. Our team is working with agencies across sectors to improve the overall health of Mesa County residents, every day and it’s really something to be a part of – even if it wasn’t always part of my plan.
If you’d like to learn more about the Blue Ribbon Award, click here.