Community Outreach Specialist, Taney County Health Department
What are the unique public health challenges in Taney County?
In the Branson area there is primarily a tourist economy, so generally ten months out of the year folks are employed and working and in January and February that economy activity goes down. So, unfortunately, that leaves a lot of individuals without jobs during those winter months. That also leads to experiencing unstable housing in a lot of our areas. That is a challenge that continues to be faced year after year for our community.
What is your role as a public health professional, and how did COVID change your role?
With the COVID pandemic, my role changed significantly. Prior to that, my role was to focus on evaluating programs and looking at how we can best serve our community with the programs that we are implementing. Are the programs effective? And what can we do to just better improve health outcomes overall for the community.
Part of my role with our team is to look at our Community Health Assessment. I’m part of the coordination process for that, as well as working with community partners to look at these priority areas and make a path forward to try to improve the health of the community.
How important are partnerships with other community organizations?
They are essential. There are a lot of areas that our organization alone just can’t reach, and so we rely on those partnerships to build bridges with those communities, and develop trust and support with that population. A lot of our community partners work every single day with these communities, and so they know these populations best. We really try to work diligently to tailor some of our interventions and our communication to meet those needs.
How does Missouri's Foundational Public Health Services model guide your work?
A lot of those pieces really help to translate the tasks of what we do into how do we improve the outcome – how do we move the needle. The communication piece, especially with this community, looking at what are the ways that this population prefers to receive public health communication.
With the COVID pandemic, we recognized early on the need to answer the question, "How do we get urgent public health information to these populations quickly?" Unfortunately some of these populations experience barriers to accessing various forms of media - Internet being one of them - and so we’ve really had to work diligently to get information and messaging to them to keep them informed during the process.
How does your work with community partners help you assure the Foundational Public Health Services for your community?
One of the areas where we really want to try to support our communities that may be experiencing unstable housing is to work with our partners to cluster some of the services that they need. For one of those, we partner with Elevate Branson to provide on-site WIC services. We also try to coordinate any childhood immunizations with those WIC appointments. So we really try to create an opportunity for the people to access these important services sort of all at the same time, so that they can get care consistently to address many areas.
Community Outreach Specialist