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Commission honors public health
Health Department recognized for efforts
public health month
Lindsey Ensley, Barton County Health Department public health nurse supervisor, left, discusses the proclamation marking National Public Health Month with County Clerk Bev Schmeidler prior to the County Commission meeting Wednesday morning. Commissioners went on to approve the proclamation. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

The fact that the Barton County Commission approved the proclamation marking National Public Health Week a week after the fact was telling, District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said Wednesday morning.

“This kind of points out just how selfless nurses are,” she said. Commissioners didn’t learn of the National Public Health Week until Health Director Karen Winkelman mentioned it at the last meeting when it was too late to commemorate the occasion.

“The fact that we’re doing this a week late isn’t because we don’t care, because we do,” Schartz said.

“Public health professionals help communities prevent, prepare for, withstand and recover from the impact of a full range of health threats,” said Lindsey Ensley, Health Department public health nurse supervisor, who presented the proclamation. In recognition of Public Health Week, the commission adopted the proclamation commending staff and partners who work to help citizens better understand preventive habits to live longer, healthier lives.

The 2022 theme was Public Health is Where You Are.

“A person’s health status can differ drastically by where they live due to social determinants that negatively impact health such as poverty, transportation barriers, lack of economic opportunity, environmental threats, lack of access to healthy food and health care,” the proclamation reads. U.S. life expectancy dropped from 2014 to 2017 in the longest sustained decline since the Great Recession, and only in 2018 began to increase again.

U.S. life expectancy then dropped again in 2020 by a full year, which is the largest drop in life expectancy since 1943.

“Health officials tackle threats, including disease outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, reproductive health, substance misuse, natural disasters and disasters caused by human activity,” it continues. “Public health action, together with scientific and technological advances, has played a major role in reducing and, in some cases, eliminating the spread of infectious disease and in establishing today’s disease surveillance and control systems.”

Preventable risk factors such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol use are leading causes of chronic disease, she said. Six in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic disease and four in 10 have two or more, leading to seven of every 10 deaths annually being caused by chronic disease. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated and exacerbated racial inequities, and Barton County and other local, state governments and public health leaders have declared racism a public health crisis,” the proclamation reads.

“Barton County public health personnel practice trauma-informed care,” it reads. “This is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma, to include Adverse Childhood Experiences has played in their lives.”

According to the proclamation, commissioners “commend the Barton County Public Health staff, members of the Health Department Advisory Committee  as well as other partners who collaborate with Public Health for their work to help our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers better understand preventive habits to live longer, healthier lives.

“Further, that the commission urges all citizens to be mindful of their own health and to practice a healthy lifestyle.”  

barb esfeld and shawn hutchinson
Barton County Commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3, left, commends District 2 Commissioner Barb Esfeld for her dedication to being a commissioner during the their meeting Wednesday morning. - photo by Dale Hogg

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Wednesday morning:

• Approved the annual cereal malt beverage licences. Per state statute, no retailer shall sell any cereal malt beverage without a license.

• Approved a proclamation marking last week as National Public Health Week.

• Accepted funds from AETNA for the Being a Mom Program.

• Approved a memorandum of understanding between the Health Department and Lawrence-based Developing Caring Communities Committed to Action for the Stepping Stones to Recovery, Fatherhood Initiative, Strong Dads Make Strong Kids program.

•  Approved a $6,850 bid from Central Plains Computer Service of Great Bend for a backup server upgrade.

• Approved repairs to a Caterpillar D7 dozer used by the Barton County Landfill used to build roads, push waste and for other essential tasks. 

• Approved the cost-share agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation for the resurfacing of SW 40 Road (Airport Road). 

• Voted not to meet on Wednesday, April 27.

The commission is invited to attend the Kansas County Commissioners Association meeting in Salina on April 26-28 and several commissioners plan to attend, resulting in a conflict and possibly a lack of quorum.

• Suspended for now monthly Board of Health meetings. For some time, commissioners have met as the board on the first Monday of the month due to COVID-19. 

• Commissioner Barb Esfeld attended the South Central Kansas Association of Commissioners and Engineers meeting last week, and she led a discussion on the information presented at the meeting.