Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2008

Health department leader outlines agenc to council

July 10, 2008

At Monday's Baldwin City Council meeting, Dan Partridge, director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, presented his organization's annual report, which detailed the efforts made in the last year to improve health services county-wide.

Partridge began his presentation by emphasizing that, contrary to the beliefs of some individuals, his department works to provide benefits for people throughout the county, not just Lawrence residents.

"Public health is helping people in Baldwin City as much as in the rest of Douglas County," Partridge said. "I can assure you that we have Baldwin City in our thoughts as much as Lawrence."

Partridge demonstrated this point by showing council members a city-by-city breakdown of different kinds of services his department provides, such as children's daycare center inspections and case-care management.

Partridge said that although Lawrence drew a strong majority of these services, Baldwin City still received services proportional to its size. Baldwin City received about the same number of services in most cases as Eudora, a city with a similar population.

Although the department hasn't had a physical presence in Baldwin City for some years, it has still been active in the city, making presentations at Baker University's annual Community Wellness Festival.

Partridge went on to list the goals of his department and the movement made in the last year toward those goals. One of the areas his organization had wanted to focus on was access for Douglas County residents, which Partridge said they had improved through hiring a bilingual nurse.

Another goal Partridge listed for the department was to increase its visibility with the public. Partridge said the organization had done this in the last year by having stories featured in mass media outlets and creating a Web site at the beginning of the year, www.ldchealth.org.

In addition to the media, Partridge said telling the stories of people who have benefited from the organization was another way to help raise awareness.

"Dry, hard statistics don't always persuade people about the importance of public health," Partridge said. "We need to show how it affects people and what human examples we can tell."

Partridge cited the Taylor family as an example of people who had benefited from the organization in multiple ways. Three generations of the family, which lives in Lawrence, have benefited from the organization, receiving inoculations, attending health classes, and participating in health screenings.

Evaluating and improving programs, maintaining a competent workforce, and finding new solutions for old problems were other goals Partridge listed for his organization.

Partridge also lauded accreditation as a way to increase prestige, while at the same time moving the organization forward.

"We've been pushing accreditation real hard," Partridge said. "It's a way to show our value. We have to demonstrate return on investment and how we're making efforts to help us get better every day."

When Council Member Tony Brown asked what the council could do to help, Partridge said passing an ordinance requiring a fee for pool inspections would help. Partridge's department inspects the Baldwin City's pool on a yearly basis. In prior years the department had not charged a fee and had simply absorbed the cost itself, but Partridge said implementing a fee would help loosen up a tight budget.

"We've always inspected public swimming pools but never had fees," Partridge said. "Passing an ordinance for a fee would defray the cost of the one inspection we do."

The health department had tried to get Lawrence commissioners to pass a similar ordinance but was unsuccessful in doing so.

In addition to fees, the organization also receives funding from the city and county government, as well as various state and federal grants. Last year the organization had a little more than $3 million in revenue.

This is Partridge's first year as director of the Health Department. He took over for longtime director Kay Kent, who had served with the department for 33 years.

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