Samara Lott, M.P.H. Guest Contributor
Population Health Planning & Improvement Coordinator
Roanoke City & Alleghany Health Districts
We know that as COVID-19 continues, other aspects of our lives need to, as well. Other health conditions and needs are still present and impacting the lives of many. Our programs and services are still available and we aim to continue providing services that are critical for individuals and protect the health of the public.
Here in the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts we have altered the way we deliver our services during this pandemic in order to deliver safely. For example, clients are seen by appointment only as opposed to accepting walk-ins. We use telehealth methods for office visits. Visitors are screened prior to entering the facility, are asked to not bring in guests with them and must follow all public health guidance such as wearing a face covering, washing hands with soap and water and social distancing once in the facility.
One service that the health department provides, which significantly increases in demand this time of year, is immunizations that protect people from infectious diseases. As we send our students back to school this year, we must do all that we can to ensure that they are safe and protected. Vaccines protect students from diseases and keep them healthy. When children are not vaccinated, they are at an increased risk of diseases that can spread to others in their classrooms and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Please call your local health department to ask about immunization clinics and to make an appointment or speak with your child’s healthcare provider.
Other clinical programs include Family Planning, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) program, prenatal care and home visiting for pregnant moms and babies. We continue to provide communicable disease control for all reportable diseases, including Tuberculosis. A broad range of effective family planning birth control methods and services are available, including contraception, infertility education, counseling and family planning education for adults and teens. The STIs program aims to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections through education, outreach and clinical services. STI clinics offer counseling, testing, treatment, and partner referral services for patients at risk of or currently experiencing STIs. Prenatal care is offered to anyone who needs it and our nurses offer home visiting to any family who wants assistance in adapting to the demands of a new baby. Our nurses and epidemiologists continue to identify, monitor and prevent the spread of all infectious diseases, including Tuberculosis, Pertussis and Measles.
Our Environmental Health Specialists continue to monitor the food handling practices in all area restaurants, perform soil evaluations for new construction of wells and septic systems and respond to environmental complaints of all kinds.
Our health departments also run WIC, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC provides nutrition education, private and group sessions with a nutrition expert, support and help with breastfeeding, referrals to other services that can help you and your family, healthy recipes and access to healthy foods. WIC services have increased during this pandemic and services are delivered primarily over the phone.
Each local health department provides a variety of other services including vital records, the screening of young children with developmental delays, and providing overdose reversal training, car seat safety, and other trainings.
As you see, many public health services are being provided, in a different configuration and I am grateful that our professionals in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District can provide these resources for our community.