Lake County General Health District: Keeping us safe & healthy since 1919
COVID-19 vaccinations at Lakeland Community College.
By Mary Flenner
The Lake County General Health District has been a driving force working to prevent disease, promote health, and protect our community for over a century.
Since the pandemic, the Lake County General Health District has become much more of a household name, but prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, most people just thought of the organization as a provider for flu shots or for their nutrition programs under WIC.
Health Commissioner Ron Graham says, “We offered traditional services such as water, WIC nutrition, clinics, and vaccination programs, but recently we’ve expanded more into data and operations.”
Graham started with the Health District in 2007 as WIC nutrition supervisor. He was promoted to director of health services & emergency planning and then became health commissioner in 2015.
Today, the Lake County General Health District provides a long list of services for individuals, the community and businesses. Some of those services include: air pollution control, beach and air quality, food safety, car seat offerings, Cribs for Kids®, emergency preparedness, mosquito control, bed bug prevention, lead control and volunteer opportunities. Graham also shares that they have expanded their home maintenance department for sewage and doubled their food program in recent years.
The Lake County General Health District was established in 1919 under the Hughes–Griswold Act, a direct response to the 1918 influenza epidemic (pandemic) of 1918-1919. Prior to its adoption, municipalities were responsible for their own health programs, which resulted in over 2,000 separate health departments in Ohio, with many of these departments having little medical training or public health knowledge.
Since the formation of public health agencies, the life expectancy of Americans has increased dramatically through the prevention of diseases through safe food and water supplies, sanitation, nutrition, vaccines, and antibiotics.
The Lake County General Health District was the 14th health department in Ohio to become accredited, in August 2016, under the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) standards.
Graham shares that one of their major shifts in focus has been to more data utilization and “bringing partners together to share data.”
“We’re conducting more community health assessments and doing a lot more community planning. We critiqued the gap between public health and health care, including focusing on more population-based planning and working with partners to look at strategic solutions. We try to bring partnerships together to reduce duplications and to help agencies get their word out with less expense.
“We’re working on data collection programs within the school districts, including screening and programs to monitor performance. We coordinated a community tracking program to monitor senior citizens and also started virtual outreach programs with Council on Aging,” he shares of their newer digital capabilities.
“We support everyone from business providers to blue collar workers. It’s a fun challenge to problem solve. So much of public health is rooted in 1920, so we are trying to set the standard and push to where public health needs to go in the future to be successful,” Graham continues.
“We are always looking for new ideas to reach the community because everyone has different needs. The population of Mentor-on-the-Lake has different issues than Painesville. So we work closely with each to come up with their own improvement plan.”
The COVID-19 pandemic brought an unexpected focus shift, as they have led the charge in getting Lake County residents vaccinated and are working to manage the outbreak.
LCGHD recently collaborated with the Cleveland Clinic, Lake County Commissioners, Lake County Emergency Management Agency, Lake County Fire Chiefs Association, Lake Health, Lake County mayors/city managers, Laketran, and University Hospitals to hold a COVID-19 megapoint of dispensing (POD) to provide 3,000 COVID-19 vaccinations at Lakeland Community College in April. More vaccinations are being scheduled for May.
“We want to reiterate that the vaccine is safe. The risk is very, very slight. We really encourage everyone who can to get the vaccine so we can remove mask mandates.
“If anyone has any concerns about health, please call, email, or text us. We’re here to help everybody,” Graham concludes.
For more information on vaccinations or their offerings, visit www.lcghd.org.