Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2013 Public Health Champions of the Year

Jefferson County Public Health recognizes community members

Public Health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our communities. Each year, during National Public Health Week,  April 7-13, 2014, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) honors some of the many people it works with throughout the year that help to make our county healthy.  While they may not have made public health their profession, the work they do, the partnerships they provide and their enthusiasm for protecting the health of Jefferson County residents makes them the 2013 Public Health Champions of the Year. An award ceremony hosted by JCPH, the Jefferson County Board of Health and the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled for Thursday, April 3, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Jefferson County Administration and Courts Building, 100 Jefferson County Parkway, in the Lookout Mountain Room.  JCPH is pleased to announce the following 2013 Public Health Champions of the Year:

·         Supporting Healthy Eating and Active Living in our Communities  
Cynthia Vitale, Nancy Murray, Michael McLoughlin, Wilma Jones and Dr. Lorrie Odom

Jefferson County Public Health has been deeply involved in its first ever Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) process for the past two years. Planning for healthier communities is a huge undertaking, involving the sharing of data, plans and resources with multiple community partners and other agencies; identifying evidenced-based strategies that all partners agree to work on; and, implementing strategies and measuring progress over several years.  It also involves reaching out to our residents and workforce and engaging them on health topics that impact their neighborhoods, schools and families.  This grassroots community involvement  makes Cynthia Vitale, Nancy Murray, Michael McLoughlin, Wilma Jones and Dr. Lorrie Odom public health champions of the year for their support of healthy eating and active living. These five resident members first got involved in the CHIP process by attending one of the community engagement meetings held to prioritize health issues.  However, their involvement didn’t stop there. Once improving access to healthy food and physical activity while also reducing psychosocial stressors were selected as health priorities to work on, these public health champions  took it upon themselves to volunteer their time and energy by joining the Access to Healthy Food and Physical Activity work groups.   Their neighborhood-level perspectives and lived experiences brought an important addition to the technical expertise of other work group members.  Moreover, their passion for health – and for helping to improve the health of their neighbors – added a focused energy to the groups. All five have also committed to continuing to serve on these work groups to help select the strategies to implement.   In addition to their significant health improvement plan work these champions are also true to the public health messageFor example, Wilma Jones and Michael McLoughlin are both active members of BikeDenver, and commuted to almost all of our meetings by bicycle.  Dr. Lorrie Odom is a retired physician and is also active in Jeffco’s smoke-free initiatives and the Colorado PTA.  Nancy Murray is a certified nutrition educator and is active with the Rose Roots Community Garden, and Cynthia Vitale is an active member of the Two Creeks Neighborhood Association and participant in the 20-Minute Neighborhood planning process for the Sheridan Rail Station.  We are grateful to honor these five Jefferson County residents  for their passion for improving access to healthy eating and active living in Jefferson County.

·         Promoting Health and Wellness in Jeffco’s Head Start Families
Victoria Bailey, RN and Lauren Bell, RN

Registered Nurses, Victoria Bailey and Lauren Bell have put  “public health” into Head Start nursing. In addition to their robust program coordination and case management responsibilities, each of these exceptional women has acted as a gatekeeper for collaborations to promote health and wellness for the Head Start families they serve.  Victoria, the City of Lakewood’s Health and Disabilities Coordinator, and Lauren, the Nurse Consultant for Jefferson County Head Start (JCHS), are public health champions for their work assuring JCHS families receive the preventive services they need.  Working with JCPH’s Injury Prevention Program  these two nurses have seen to it that the families they serve receive preventive oral health screenings, child passenger safety checks, healthy weight education as well as, improved access to health care services.  In 2013 alone, over 1,300 no cost oral health screenings were performed at Head Start preschools in Jefferson County. Initial data from the screenings show a much lower rate of untreated decay than national averages; these findings will be verified through participation in an ongoing national study.  Also in 2013, public health led parking lot interventions promoting child passenger and driver safety helped to educate parents and children on the importance of proper safety restraints. The interventions increased compliance with restraint use from  54 percent  to 78 percent.  That is a lot more children being buckled up safely in Jefferson County.  Victoria and Lauren have made a significant contribution to the health of JCH’s families through innovative collaboration agreements -- agreements that all started with these two public health champions,  saying “yes” to wellness.  Congratulations Lauren and Victoria on being 2013 Public Health Champions of the Year.

·         Reducing the toll of Tobacco in our Communities through Youth Engagement and Policy
Skyler Basta, Joey Rubano, Maria Dauphanis, Dan Martinez, Myra Keeble and Laura Keegan

Over the past four years, youth in Jefferson County have become engaged in tobacco prevention efforts by joining local Breathe Easy (BE) Teams. Supported by their high schools and Jefferson County Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Initiative, BE teams have made significant gains in shaping tobacco-free norms, decreasing youth access to tobacco products and reducing the environmental impact of tobacco in local communities. This year, JCPH would like to recognize four particularly engaged BE Team members from Wheat Ridge High School as Public Health Champions: Skyler Basta, junior; Joey Rubano, junior; Maria Dauphanis, junior; and Dan Martinez, Athletic Director and sponsor of the Wheat Ridge High School BE Team.

During spring 2013, the Wheat Ridge High School BE Team led students from other area schools in an Earth Day Cigarette Butt Pick-Up at Crown Hill and Discovery Park. Together, youth collected 4,996 cigarette butts in 45 minutes, but the work didn’t stop there. These Public Health Champions were so moved to create a healthier, tobacco-free community that they coordinated a second, informal cigarette butt pick-up to help reduce the toll of tobacco in Wheat Ridge parks. Their efforts helped raise awareness about the negative impact tobacco and tobacco litter have on the environment and the benefits of tobacco-free parks and recreation.  Dan Martinez’s willingness to support youth and encourage leadership in community issues is to be commended.

An enormous congratulations to Skyler, Joey, Maria and Dan, for their meaningful contributions to public health and tobacco prevention.

The Edgewater City Council is a public health champion for their work creating an e-cigarette policy in the town of Edgewater that protects its residents from the potentially negative health effects of these products and discourages their use around children.  Edgewater’s City Council saw that the tobacco companies marketing of e-cigarettes on television, radio and billboards stood to do away with years of tobacco advocacy work by once again trying to normalize tobacco use as well as to lure youth to their new products.  The Council voted to prohibit e-cigarette use in smoke-free places, and make it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase a marijuana vaporizer in their city.  Council women, Myra Keeble and Laura Keegan are accepting the award  on behalf of the entire Edgewater City Council as they were instrumental in addressing e-cigarettes and vaporizers in the Edgewater city code.  In addition, BE Team students will  present  the public health champion award to the Edgewater City Council during the Council’s regular monthly meeting on March 20th at 7:00 p.m. Thank you Myra Keeble, Laura Keegan and Edgewater City Council for your work reducing the toll of tobacco in our communities.

·         Promoting Water Quality and Assuring Safe Drinking Water
Bruce Bevirt, Environmental Investigations, Inc.

Bruce Bevirt is an expert in groundwater quality and safe drinking water.  For more than 20 years,  Bruce has provided his services to the many residents in Jefferson and neighboring counties  who rely on well water for their drinking water supply.  In 2013, Bruce’s expertise was especially sought after due to the flooding that caused severe damage and left many homeowners with significant challenges.  During the flood,  Bruce provided his services to help flood stricken families quickly evaluate the quality of the water in their well and determine what they needed to do to make sure their drinking water was safe. The services he provided included: collecting water samples for water quality testing;  interpretating  water quality test results;  disinfecting wells if needed; and, educating homeowners on ways to protect their well from flooding in the future. Bruce provides the facts and information our citizens need to make good decisions and is a public health champion for his efforts to promote water quality and safe drinking water.

Bruce came to Colorado as an Environmental Scientist for the clean-up at Rocky Flats in 1992.  He started his Environmental Investigations, Inc. in 1994 and with  the motto  “Health Protection Through Scientific Investigation”  continues to improve water quality in Jefferson County and help his Coal Creek community.   As one of his neighbors was quoted as saying, “When I think of Bruce, I think of a person who is always willing to listen and help with any problem. Even if it’s inconvenient.  He always has time for everyone.  He’s very smart, but humble too.“   Congratulations  Public Health Champion, Bruce Bevirt. 

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