Working with the Community
As a Public Health Director, I know that working with a community requires there
to be some structure - you can't do it all by yourself. You have to get buy in from
others in your institution and your community. The first place I found buy-in was
within my own Board of Health. After all, they are my bosses.
We developed several committees within our Board of Health that proved to be very
positive for all the years that I have spent in New Hanover County. One of those
committees was the Health Promotion Committee. So I took all these ideas to the Health
Promotion Committee and I said, "Committee, this is right down your alley. This
is what we are supposed to be doing as far as from what I see -- the perspective
I see as the Public Health Director." And, they bought in to it. They said,
"That's a great idea!"
We then took all of those initiatives to the New Hanover County Board of Health,
and they embraced the initiatives. They thought it was "great" too. With
absolutely no resources, we committed as a Board of Health and as a Health Department
to do something in injury prevention. I guess I was the leader in that effort. As
we went through many of these things, we had help from some of the nurses in the
health department and from the health educator. Denise Teachey (the health educator)
has been there for years and she was always a tremendous resource to me.
We didn't hire any additional staff. We didn't ask anybody for any additional money,
except for a little bit of money for our poison prevention control. I think we added
about $1,000 one year to our budget to buy syrup of ipecac for our poison control
packets for infants. But very few resources were needed to do an injury prevention
Support from the community
If I had to do it over again, there is probably nothing I would do different. It
was fun to get out there and implement those initiatives and I knew -- and I know
today -- that those things made a difference in the health of the citizens of New
Hanover County. I think one of the thoughts I was asked to consider was how to make
these initiatives a reality in the community. What does it take to make injury prevention
initiatives and injury prevention program? What does it take to make that happen
in a community?
When you think about it, injury prevention is kind of like motherhood, apple pie,
the United States of America, and Superman? When you talk about injury prevention,
everybody stands up and says. "Yeah! Hooray! Let's do it. It's great."
I think all you need is enthusiasm, energy and action. That's what it was for our
initiatives. We had buy-in from many people in the community. Not only from the Board
of Health, but also the Health Promotion Committee and my staff.
When you present these ideas out in the community -- be it the Wilmington police,
or the Wilmington fire department, or the Board of Education, or the physical therapists
in the community, emergency medical technicians -- all of these groups are excited
if they just have someone to present them ideas and say how to do it. And that's
where the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center guys came in. They told us how to
Somebody has to take possession of the whole idea and the whole initiative. You cannot
leave it to the committee. You can always have a committee and you can always have
a group, and you can always have a coalition. But, in my experience, unless there
is some excited, energized, motivated individual who takes possession for the project
or the initiative, you are not going to see any kind of results come from that initiative.
The lead person is very important. In the case of the public health department, it
is so important that your Public Health Director provide that leadership. It doesn't
have to be the Public Health Director, but when you have leadership at the highest
level in the public health department -- saying we want to do this and I'm willing
to commit some of my time, some of my efforts, and some of my energy to this -- it
makes a difference.
Now the true leader could be the health educator, it could be a nurse, or it could
be someone else. For example, we have a nurse in New Hanover County Health department
who is a real leader when it comes to child safety seats and automobiles. It is very
important to have that Health Director's support as well as the support of the Board
of Health, But the real point is, having a lead person is very important!
Next: Appendix D. Case Study by Jackie Moore
or click here to return to Chapter 7