The primary purpose of the Population-Based Services (PBS) component of the DeKalb County Board of Health is to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease, protect against environmental hazards, prevent injuries, promote and encourage healthy behaviors, and respond to public health emergencies.
To achieve this purpose, the staff of PBS carries out the following essential public health functions:
- Monitor health status to identify community problems.
- Diagnose and investigate health problems/hazards in the community.
- Inform, educate and empower people about health issues.
- Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
- Develop policies and plans that support community health efforts.
- Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
- Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.
The Population-Based Service areas include:
Division of Health Assessment and Promotion
The mission of Health Assessment and Promotion is to monitor and assess the status of health in DeKalb County and to work in partnership with the community to prevent illness and injury by promoting healthy behaviors.
Communicable Disease Control
The Office of Communicable Disease Control works to decrease the rates of illness and death from infectious diseases and to contribute to the wellness of DeKalb County residents by applying epidemiological principles and methods. The office is responsible for the surveillance, investigation, control and prevention of communicable diseases and clusters of diseases throughout DeKalb County.
Assessment, Surveillance and Epidemiology
The Assessment, Surveillance and Epidemiology unit provides information to the Board and to community groups about the health status and needs of DeKalb residents.
Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP)
An initiative that involves the community in health planning efforts is MAPP. MAPP, beginning in mid-2001, is a strategic approach for improving community health that engages the community in prioritizing public health issues and identifying resources in DeKalb County. The Board of Health is facilitating this process.
Tobacco Use Prevention
In a special initiative that stems from the $15.8 million in tobacco settlement dollars awarded to the Georgia Department of Human Resources’ Division of Public Health, the DeKalb County Board of Health will receive $673,723 during the fiscal year 2001 to develop a tobacco use prevention program.
The Board of Health will work with the Prevention Alliance on Tobacco and Health (PATH) coalition to develop strategies to address the broad goals established by the state Division of Public Health.
One of the biggest killers in DeKalb is injuries. Safe Communities and Safe Kids are the Injury Prevention programs that work to reduce the number of childhood, motor vehicle, pedestrian and violent injuries.
Division of Environmental Health
The goal of the division of Environmental Health is to promote courteous, quality service dedicated to a healthy DeKalb County. Its programs are organized into four main areas: food protection, residential, land use, and technical services.
Food Protection Services
The Food Protection unit reviews and approves plans for new food service establishments, issues permits and conducts ongoing inspections. In addition, it evaluates and issues temporary event food service permits for festivals, carnivals and fairs. Tourist accommodations such as hotels and motels are also routinely evaluated and inspected. Lastly, the Food Protection unit investigates all food-borne illness complaints.
The Residential Services team provides rodent control assistance such as investigating infestations and controlling rodent populations through baiting, as well as rabies control services including alerting citizens to areas of infection, enforcing home quarantine for dogs and cats and locating persons exposed to rabid animals. Unsanitary conditions such as garbage, trash and dead animals are investigated and eliminated.
Land Use Services
Land Use Services involve several aspects of sewage removal. They are: issuing permits for new septic tanks after reviewing plans, conducting soil analyses and inspecting sites, and inspecting repaired septic systems. In addition, the unit inspects and issues permits for sewage pump-out trucks and issues permits for commercial sewage disposal systems. Another service is testing well water for drinking safety.
The Technical Services team conducts a variety of regulatory and educational activities. It issues public pool and spa permits and evaluates water chemistry and pool safety. Efforts to protect against environmental hazards include coordinating in-home lead assessment and evaluating and testing homes for radon gas. Occupational health and safety services involve reviewing all occupational fatalities and making recommendations to prevent additional injuries and fatalities. The team also reviews and approves construction plans for commercial trash compactors. Educating the public is an important part of the scope of services.
Center for Public Health Preparedness
The DeKalb County Board of Health is one of three local public health agencies in the U.S. selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as Centers for Public Health Preparedness. We are in the second year of a three-year project that has a total budget of approximately $1.8 million. The three Centers for Public Health Preparedness will serve as demonstrations for other local public health agencies as they work to enhance their capacity to respond to an act of bioterrorism or other public health emergency. Areas of enhancement include integrated communications and information systems across multiple sectors, advanced operational readiness, and comprehensive emergency preparedness training and evaluation activities.
The DeKalb County Board of Health’s Center for Public Health Preparedness focuses its efforts on the following five areas of emergency preparedness:
Working with hospitals, public safety agencies, emergency management agencies, medical examiners and physicians to develop coordinated emergency preparedness plans.
Working to enhance reporting from hospitals and to develop new sources for data collection (e.g., medical examiners and 911 calls).
Working to increase awareness of the potential for a bioterrorist event among health care providers and collaborating with the state public health laboratory to improve specimen handling protocols.
Developing a distance-based learning capacity in order to provide effective and timely training in the areas of epidemiology, surveillance, environmental health and disaster response.
Distributing treatment protocols, developing integrated communications systems and preparing public relations strategies.
Although focused on acts of bioterrorism, these activities will also benefit the community more broadly by providing improved disease surveillance, enhanced emergency preparedness, a multipurpose training network, a better trained and more experienced workforce, and an integrated communications system across multiple sectors.