OVERLAND PARK — The Kansas Association of Local Health Departments (KALHD) recognized Pawnee County Health Department as the 2016 Local Health Department of the Year during the awards luncheon of the 41st Kansas Association of Counties annual conference held in Overland Park Nov. 15-17. Robin Rziha, Pawnee County Health Department administrator, accepted the award presented by Michele Ponce, KALHD Executive Director, and Dan Woydziak, KAC President.
This is the third year for the KALHD Local Public Health Department of the Year award and is given to a member health department that has made a significant contribution to the Kansas Public Health system. Areas of evaluation included innovative programs or policies, engaging community, commitment to advancing and improving performance and accountability to organizational culture, active program participation, and significant contribution to public health.
Pawnee County Health Department has been a county health department since 1954. It currently has 3.5 full time employees. Robin Rziha, RN, IBCLC is the administrator and is also coordinator for the Family Planning, WIC, and WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor programs. Cheryl Hoberecht, RN, is the health officer, Public Health Emergency Preparedness coordinator, Maternal & Infant Program coordinator, and the chief communicable disease investigator. Sabra Dupuis is the office manager, billing clerk, WIC clerk, immunization program coordinator and child care licensing surveyor. Diane Zook is the Healthy Start home visitor and the WIC Breastfeeding peer counselor.
The Pawnee County Health Department was spotlighted for several innovative and timely developments it has made and adopted. They include splitting the duties of administrator and health officer between two employees, leading to better efficiency and effectiveness to the workflow of the health department; becoming the lead agency in the Community Health Needs Assessment for Pawnee County; receipt of an “Improving Health in Rural Counties” grant to address mental health awareness and availability of services in Barton, Pawnee, Rice and Stafford counties; receipt of a Pathways to a Healthy Kansas grant through BCBS Kansas; and receipt of a Kansas Breastfeeding Initiative grant through the Kansas Health Foundation and the United Methodist Health Ministry Foundation,
The PCHD employees have taken opportunities for learning by attending regional public health meetings, district meetings, state conferences and trainings mandated by KDHE for specific grant funded programs. Hoberecht is highly involved in the Local Emergency Preparedness Response team and has participated in several training events with the local hospital and law enforcement, as well as hosting trainings for the community. Hoberecht participates in the monthly regional PHEP meetings. Rziha attended the NACCHO conference in 2015 and completed the New Local Health Official Community of Practice training through the Leadership Development Institute. She also participated in the Kansas Community Leadership Enterprise.
An area of great interest was dissecting the PCHD budget in an attempt to completely understand finances for the health department. In doing so, Rziha compiled a report comparing all local health department budgets for 2016 in Kansas. This information was shared in a session titled “Financial Planning and Budgeting” at the Governor’s Public Health Conference this year. Rziha also recently presented a statewide webinar on lactation coding, billing, and documentation. Rziha is a member of the Kansas Health Institute Cross Jurisdictional Sharing workgroup and has actively participated in a comprehensive survey with Kansas Health Institute for Foundational Public Health Services.
“I am very proud of the Pawnee County Health Department and the quality of employees that we have,” Rziha said. “This award is also a reflection of the leadership in Pawnee County with the Board of County Commissioners and their willingness to allow the health department to be innovative and efficient. The first year of this award in 2014 went to Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and last year to Johnson County Health Department. It is an honor to accept this award and be recognized as a small rural health department in making a significant contribution to Kansas public health.”
While the PCHD has a very small workforce, the work performed within the department and the community has rippled to benefiting populations in the region and state. It is evident through the efforts of PCHD that even small rural health departments can be a source of growth in population health that reaches far beyond the jurisdictional borders of the county.