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The 10 Essential Public Health Services provide a framework by which to measure the impact of public health agencies. They look at three key functions of public health: assessment, policy development and assurance. The framework is also a key component of the Public Health Accreditation Board’s standards and measures.
Even more than that, though, the 10 Essential Public Health Services provide a framework to demonstrate the wide-ranging impact of the work done by the Northern Kentucky Health Department to protect and promote health in our region.
In fiscal year 2014-2015, the Health Department looked back at 20 years of health trends in an effort to assess previous community health plans and build priorities for future work. As the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion provided more Northern Kentuckians with access to health care coverage, the Health Department launched an effort to enroll individuals through kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange.
Work to provide or assure essential public health services also lays a foundation for future health efforts. Kentucky continues to struggle with the impact of tobacco use, at a statewide cost of almost $2 billion per year. Smoke-free policies can reduce the burden on our state, and so the Health Department and the Tobacco-Free Northern Kentucky coalition initiated a coordinated campaign to advocate for a statewide, smoke-free law. While the law did not pass in the 2015 legislative session, a base of support is building.
Technology is essential for future public health work. As the fiscal year came to a close, the Health Department launched a mobile version of its nkyhealth.org website. With more than one-third of web traffic coming from hand-held devices, the mobile site provides basic information, including the latest food inspection scores, on the go.
Our region’s future is clouded by the on-going struggles with drug addiction. The Health Department is an active part of the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response Task Force’s efforts to address the epidemic through prevention, treatment, support and harm reduction strategies. The greatest impact of intravenous drug use on public health has been disease transmission: Northern Kentucky has the highest rate of hepatitis C in the nation, with 26 cases of acute illness and 919 non-acute cases reported during the fiscal year. The passage of Senate Bill 192 in March 2015, provided a tool to reduce the risk of hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV spreading through drug use—syringe access exchange programs. The Health Department continues to advocate for approval of such programs locally.
The 10 Essential Public Health Services are more than a benchmark by which to compare Northern Kentucky to the rest of the nation; they also prove that the work of public health is essential to the vibrancy of our region.
Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH
District Director of Health