How I spent National Public Health Week

By Patty Hayes, Director at Public Health – Seattle & King County

Last week we celebrated National Public Health Week, my favorite time of year. As the director of the department, I am steeped in public health on a daily basis, but I am always ready to learn more. I met with different staff – people I don’t get to see too often – to find out more about what they do. As always, I was inspired by their work and their dedication to our important mission.

Here are some things I did during National Public Health Week:

  1. I used new platforms to communicate with staff and people in the community. I participated in my very first Periscope interview, a live interactive video that allowed me to field questions from employees and from the public. In this interview I talked about how I got started in public health and what our department is doing differently compared to other counties. You can view a recorded version of it here.
  2. I learned more about our great staff AND great volunteers. Our Public Health Reserve Corps – a veritable army of volunteer doctors, nurses and support staff – does wonderful work. This week, a group of them set up shop at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank to provide medical care to people experiencing homelessness. It was an exciting day because our Preparedness Team and Public Health Reserve Corps were also being filmed by NACCHO (National Association of City & County Health Officials), who was recognizing their 2015 National Health Security Strategy Award for volunteer recruitment and training. I wasn’t able to join them in person, so I am so glad they were able to share their experience. And, if you’re looking to volunteer, I highly recommend learning more about what they do.
  3. I saw creativity in action. During a trip to our Columbia Public Health Center, I saw our Nurse Family Partnership program putting together toolkits for moms and families who can’t afford important brain-building supplies like books and blocks.
  4. I was reminded about the breadth of work our department does. For example, Board of Health member and Kenmore Mayor David Baker and I joined our communicable disease detectives at their daily round-up meeting to review the cases they work on every day. These folks handle over 5,000 investigations every year, gathering and sorting through the details to separate the serious outbreaks from the more routine events. On just this one day, they reviewed cases on the flu, foodborne illnesses – including E. coli, shigella, salmonella, botulism and listeria – pertussis, hepatitis C, mumps, Zika virus, and horse-to-human infections. This portfolio is amazing, but it’s not hard to find this breadth of knowledge and commitment on every floor and in every building where we are.
  5. I shared my appreciation for our Public Health staff. When I wished Executive Dow Constantine a “Happy Public Health Week!” he responded with, “Every week is Public Health week!” I tend to agree.

Thanks to all of the groups who let me participate in their meetings and mingle with staff. This was a great experience, and as always, I am honored to lead such a wonderful team of people.