March 13, 2024


 The Adair County Health Department is moving back to its roots in community health within the public health framework. The Department previously announced the closure of its home health service and has helped its patients begin care with other local providers.

“We started providing home health services in 1984 because no one else was,” said Lori Guffey, Department administrator. “Our role in public health is not to compete with private home health providers. We have so few patients that offering the service isn’t financially viable. We want to put the funding we have into improving the health of more people in Adair County.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use CEA Winslow’s definition of public health. Winslow was the founder of the Yale School of Public Health in 1915. He defined it as: “The science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals.”

The World Health Organization holds that “Public health aims to provide maximum benefit to the largest number of people.” And the National Institutes of Health charges that “Public health aims to promote health, protect population health, and prevent disease and injury.” Environmental health, pandemic response, disaster preparedness, and health policy are cornerstones of public health.

Getting back to its mission to promote, protect, and prevent is what the Adair County Health Department is what the agency will be focusing on. Within the public health framework, there will be an even tighter focus on community health, which the American Hospital Association defines as “non-clinical approaches for improving health, preventing disease, and reducing health disparities through addressing social, behavioral, environmental, economic, and medical determinants of health in a geographically defined population.”

“Providing education and resources is so crucial to community health,” Guffey said. “We have always done this, but we can and need to do more to improve the overall health of the people of Adair County.”

The health department uses community assessments and other input to gather information about the needs of the people it serves. Guffey said there is a need for increasing community engagement through education on topics including nutrition, diabetes, heart disease, smoking cessation, obesity, and sexually transmitted disease, among others. Its Women, Infants and Children program, for example, helps pregnant women, new moms, and children up to age five based on nutritional risk and income eligibility. WIC offers risk and health assessments, nutrition education and counseling, supplemental nutrition, and breastfeeding support. It also provides referrals to healthcare providers and services.

“As a public health department, our job is to connect Adair County residents with the healthcare and health-related services they need,” Guffey said. “We do offer basic public health services through our clinic, but we leave primary, specialty, emergency, and other clinical care to other providers.”

There is a long list of services the health department’s clinic provides, from low-cost lab services and testing to child safety seat inspections and the safe crib program. Of course, the department provides immunizations for children and adults. Its drive-through flu clinic is a model for health departments statewide. Moreover, that model became vital to distribution of COVID-19 vaccines during the height of the pandemic.

The Adair County Health Department is responsible for a range of environmental services. Restaurant and lodging inspections, food safety and permits, onsite sewage, indoor air quality, USDA and FDA recalls, and proper disposal of batteries are among them. So is surveillance and testing for rabies, lead poisoning, West Nile virus, and tick-borne disease.

“We are here to serve the public and community health needs of our residents,” Guffey said. “Our unofficial motto is ‘See what your local public health department can do for you.’ By returning to the heart of public health, we know we can deliver what our community needs.”