This is Public Health …

How a single department touches many lives

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Ellen Michels is a health-education specialist with the Butte County Public Health Department.

Why now?
April 6-12 is National Public Health Week. For info on Butte County’s department, check their Web site.

The alarm clock rings and a new day begins in the town of Paradise. Susan fixes herself a cup of coffee, and pours a bowl of Peanut Butter Puffs cereal for her daughter, Emily. Although the salmonella outbreak is still ongoing, Susan knows that this cereal is safe to eat because she checked the Health Department Web site. “I’m glad they got information out to the public quickly,” she thinks.

Susan buckles Emily into her booster seat and takes her to school. Thanks to the “Boost and Belt ’em” program, Susan was able to purchase a low-cost booster seat to protect Emily in the event of a crash.

While driving to work in Chico, Susan notices a skunk staggering along the road. “It might have rabies,” she thinks. She makes a mental note to call Animal Control when she gets to work. Fortunately, human rabies cases are rare due to a strong rabies control program.

When she arrives at work she notices someone in the parking lot having a cigarette. Although she used to smoke herself, she was able to quit with the help of a class sponsored by the Health Department. And now, thanks to smoke-free workplace laws, she is not exposed to secondhand smoke either. She takes a deep breath of clean, fresh air.

Susan sits down at her computer. Her cubicle-mate is coughing. “She sounds like she’s got the flu,” thinks Susan. She doesn’t worry about getting sick herself, though. The Health Department makes sure that low-cost flu shots are available throughout Butte County, and Susan got vaccinated early in the season.

Susan works through the morning; then thinks about lunch. She and a co-worker walk to the corner café. Displayed prominently near the cash register is a certificate of inspection by the Public Health Department. This restaurant passed inspection with flying colors. Susan feels good about eating here.

After work, Susan picks up her daughter at day care. She notices a sign tacked on the sign-out board: “Your child has been exposed to chickenpox.” She doesn’t worry—she was able to get Emily vaccinated at the Health Department clinic.

They arrive at home, and Susan fixes dinner. Chicken tonight. Because she saw information on food safety that Public Health submitted to the local newspaper, she knows to keep the raw chicken away from the salad she is fixing. She also makes sure to cook the chicken thoroughly to avoid getting sick with salmonella.

While watching the nightly news, Susan reflects on her day. Even though the economy is bad, she feels lucky. After all, she and her daughter are safe and happy and, best of all, they have their health. What could be more important?