Public health took center stage at Tuesday's meeting of the Harvey County Commission, as Health Department Director Lynnette Redington presented to the governing body on the policy statement recently released by the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments for 2018.

Serving a primary function of protecting and promoting the population's health, the vision of the KALHD is to have a system of local health departments committed to helping all Kansans achieve optimal health by providing Foundational Public Health Services — a model Redington said has been utilized over the past few years.

Key areas of the FPHS model specific to community needs include communicable disease control, health promotion and chronic disease and injury prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health and access to clinical care. Specific services under the umbrella of FPHS include all hazards preparedness/response, community partnership development, addressing health equity and the social determinants of health — which are part of the 90 percent of other factors outside of health care that impact health outcomes — and more.

Redington noted the FPHS model is intended to help the legislature and citizens understand how public health works as local departments work to ensure a minimum set of programs and services are offered to promote and protect the health of Kansas residents. In the Harvey County Health Department, Redington said employees are active and involved in the majority of capabilities lined out in the FPHS model — with the main exception being environmental health, which she said is addressed by other departments (i.e. Planning and Zoning).

Through the KALHD policy statement, priorities are also outlined for the year, which Redington noted line up with those held by the Kansas Association of Counties in 2018 — like clean air, clean water and the expansion of dental care, the latter of which she noted is not as big of an issue in Harvey County as it is in the western part of the state.

Another priority for the KALHD includes state support for local public health, especially with the state ranking near the bottom nationally (46th), according to a 2016 study by Trust for America's Health.

"Our support for local public health has continued to drop," Redington said.

Parallel to the drop in state support, overall health outcomes have also fallen in comparison with the rest of the country, with Kansas ranking 12th in 1990 and dropping to 27th as of 2016.

KAHLD and, in turn, the Harvey County Health Department has also prioritized efforts to expand Medicaid, restore funding and strengthen behavioral health services, oppose an increase of allowable exemptions on immunizations (which lead to decreased vaccination rates) and eliminate or reduce the sales tax on food in Kansas — the highest current rate in the nation.

"We feel that is very much not helpful for folks to get healthier options," Redington said of the food sales tax.

Collaboration (combining prevention efforts with clinical care) and change are keys in making sure public health needs are met in regards to these priorities and Redington said the health department mirrors that approach, working with Newton Medical Center and other community partners while also trying to invest resources in the key areas outlined by the KAHLD in 2018.

In other business, the county commission:

Received information and requests for RSVPs to three upcoming events, including the Conservation District's annual meeting on Feb. 5, the REAP Board of Directors meeting on Jan. 18 and the Local Government Day in Topeka on Jan. 24.
Heard a report on the Equus Beds aquifer and recent action taken by the city of Wichita in preparation for drought, with the information presented to the commissioners to prepare for an upcoming presentation by Wichita city officials at the meeting on Jan. 29.
Was presented with information on the Stepping Up initiative targeting the reduction of the number of people with mental illness in the prison system.
Learned of many issues that will be coming before the State Legislature in the current session, including one County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber pointed out to the commission that regards an effort by the 911 Coordinating Council to raise 911 fees (while also establishing mandates for the amount of training dispatchers need).
Approved an invitation to bidders for two dump trucks and two snow plows for the Road and Bridge Department.
Was informed of the Harvey County RSVP's second annual Martin Luther King service project coming up this Saturday at both Newton Dillons stores, where volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food and hygiene items for Safehope, Salvation Army and New Hope. The project filled eight carts last year and Director of the Department on Aging Robert Carlton noted the group is looking to increase those numbers this year.
Learned that flu immunizations increased by 11 percent in 2017, while total immunizations increased by seven shots in total to 460.
Received a report on this weekend's Trapper's Rendezvous, with 4,772 Boy Scouts and Troop Leaders attending the event.
Approved a lease agreement with the city of Newton for the Harvey County fair grounds, hearing no additional changes were made to the agreement at the city commission's last meeting.