Health and Community in the North Country
The first three weeks of my internship with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department have been hugely educational for me and I feel that I have already gained a lot of important knowledge of the North Country, the broad field of Public Health, and the experience of participating in an office-based internship. The main focus of my first week here was to become oriented in the office, begin to get to know some of the staff members, and start to develop some goals and expectations for the internship. The week began with introductions, a few online and in-office trainings, and a bit of paperwork. Throughout the week, I finished two short courses online: Orientation to Public Health and County Animal Response Team (CART). Both built nicely on my previous knowledge of the Incident Command System (ICS) and added to my general (and growing) understanding of public health and emergency preparedness and response. I also had the opportunity to sit down with several members of the Department for Meet and Greets. Out of all the orientation I had in the first week, these meetings contributed most to my getting to know the programs, challenges, and successes of the Public Health Department.
I also started working on a short project (or possibly one element of a pretty long project) by reviewing the Department website. I started by clicking through each page and link on the current site and noting dead ends, empty pages, and disorganization. Understanding that the County government has some regulations on the appearance and structure of the website, I then began to compile some ideas for a revamped version of the site with help from my review of the other Public Health Department websites. Finally, I used those notes to build a potential plan for the future of the current site of this department. Generally, the main priorities of the plan are to clean up dead links and empty pages and to reorganize the information provided into a more user-friendly format. The Department would like to create a web location where all members of the St. Lawrence County community--residents, first responders, administrators, lawmakers--can access the same information regarding the public health of the county.
The early part of Week 2 was devoted to developing two informational pamphlets on Fluoride Varnishing (one for providers and one for parents/guardians) and learning about the treatment in the process. At the end of the day on Tuesday, I started entering data from a Point of Distribution exercise held in April. Into Wednesday, I worked on compiling the responses to the survey into a spreadsheet and then summarized the data in a narrative. On Thursday, I had the chance to accompany the Sanitarian on a site visit for a garbage complaint. I enjoyed having the chance to get out of the office and meet some members of the community. Although we only spoke with one family, the visit gave me a glimpse of how the Public Health Department interacts with residents directly, in addition to doing all of the behind-the-scenes work I have been seeing in the office.
This past week (Week 3) has been one of many meetings. To highlight a couple: I attended both the County Animal Response Team (CART) and the Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) meetings on Monday. I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet other professionals in the Public Health field and learning about how several organizations can work together to achieve a mutual goal. It became clear by the end of these meetings that none of the organizations represented, including the Public Health Department, could work unassisted by their partner organizations. I also had the opportunity to attend a local Emergency Preparedness meeting at the Canton Fire Department, where a State Trooper led a discussion about active shooter preparedness in local schools. It was really interesting to see the effect of recent national events on a community as local as Canton.
Moving forward into the next three weeks, I will be working further on the project of refreshing the Department’s website. The overall goal is to produce an online location that is simple, convenient, and user-friendly and that adds to the continually improving relationship between the Department and the general public. More to come soon!