Since 1900, the average life span of Americans has increased by 30 years, and 25 of those years are related to public health initiatives such as safe food, clean water, vaccinations and the other day-to-day community health improvements that we may take for granted. Employees of the Northeast Texas Public Health District work every day to prevent people from getting sick or injured in the first place. Our families are immunized from many diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, shingles, hepatitis, meningitis and the flu. Every day, we have clean water coming from the faucets in our homes. Many of us eat at a local restaurant or food establishment each day, and we each assume that the foods we purchase are safe to eat.

National Public Health Week is held during the first full week of April, and it provides the opportunity for public health employees across the United States to display their passion for promoting health, for preventing illness and for protecting our communities. You are probably aware of our main office location at 815 N. Broadway Ave., right next to the Tyler Municipal Court, but we actually have offices in 20 counties in East Texas. NET Health operates the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinics in Tyler, Jacksonville, Alto, Palestine, Canton, Gun Barrel City, Athens, Sulphur Springs, Quitman, Lindale, Gilmer, Mount Pleasant, Daingerfield, Atlanta, Clarksville, Linden, Marshall, Jefferson, Carthage and Henderson. That program is directed by Tecora Smith.

Russell Hopkins directs our Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which works with law enforcement, medical systems, emergency management and elected officials in seven East Texas Counties (Smith, Gregg, Wood, Rains, Van Zandt, Henderson and Anderson) to respond to community emergencies such as tornadoes and floods, as well as receive and investigate reports of infectious diseases within our region. Led by Cindy Spier, our regional laboratory accepts water and milk samples to test for cleanliness, while a separate area of the laboratory performs certified testing of sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

Micah Alsobrooks directs our Vital Statistics Department, which provides birth certificates and death certificates for Tyler residents. Our Environmental Health Department, directed by Ginger Points, conducts activities related to food establishment sanitation, and our registered sanitarians investigate public health complaints and educate the public about creating safe environments. Sylvia Warren, R.N., administers the Immunizations and Tuberculosis Department, which provides access to vaccines, entry into immunizations registries, and TB testing in Smith County. The Center for Healthy Living provides cancer screening services, healthy living classes, diabetes education, exercise sessions, health screenings and assistance with health insurance enrollment, all led under manager Joy Johnson.

NET Health employees also are active in many community groups such as Fit City Tyler, the Healthy Me Healthy Babies Coalition, the Northeast Texas Community Health Worker Coalition, the East Texas Human Needs Network, the Hispanic Business Alliance, the East Texas Minority Health and Wellness Coalition and several of the School Health Advisory Councils that exist to improve the quality of life and health for our fellow East Texans.

Our column will continue to focus on a variety of health issues that hold importance to our community. Send us an email at ContactUs@netphd.org, or call us at 903-535-0020, and let us know if you have questions or if you have a topic or topics that you want covered.

Happy National Public Health Week, and here’s to your health!

George Roberts is chief executive officer of NET Health.

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