(Fargo, ND) -- Several Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH) employees and personnel spoke with WDAY Radio about their departments, how they provide their services to the community at large, and what they look to do in the future.
Environmental Health focuses on education and licensing of establishments in Fargo, West Fargo, and multiple counties in southeast North Dakota.
"If you are going to go get some food tonight to eat, you just assume that food is safe and that we are taking care of it,"said Grant Larson, Director of the Environmental Health Department of FCPH, "Behind the scenes, that is what we are trying to do. We are trying to prevent illnesses in the community and to keep people safe. We take pride in doing that and it's a fun job to do."
Several different categories fall under the purview of Environmental Health. There are eleven different stations under the umbrella; including Animal Boarding, Aquatics, Body Art, Food and Beverage, Lodging, Massage Therapy Establishments, Mobile Home Parks, Nuisance Complaints, Pet Stores, Tanning Facilities, and On Site Sewage Treatment. These different departments under Environmental Health act to ensure health policies are being followed in places the public would typically engage with. Larson says the largest of the departments is easily Food and Beverage, which holds 1,135 different licenses with 1,808 inspections between January and November of 2022. This is in comparison to Aquatics, which shows 66 licensed pools across Fargo Cass's purview, totaling to 132 inspections taking place in the same time period.
You can learn more about health inspections done by the Environmental Health department by clicking here.
Public Health Nursing
The Public Health Nursing Department also covers a wide range of specific programs through the employment of RN's, LPN's, CMA's, Home Health Aides, and Support Staff.
Suzanne Schaefer, the Director and Supervisor of Public Health Nursing, says the department offers several programs which engage with the community directly. These programs include Adult Home Health, which provides in home care for adults who wish to remain independent, Correctional Health, providing nursing services at the Cass County Jail, The Nurse-Family Partnership Program, which provides mentorship to expectant mothers for up to two years, School Nursing, which places nurses in local school districts across the county, and a Tuberculosis Case Management Program, which looks to provide therapies and medications for patients.
"I am incredibly proud of the work they do every day, sometimes we find ourselves in challenging situations..."said Schaefer, "I can tell you the passion I feel from the nursing staff in all these different areas of work that is done is remarkable."
You can learn more about clinic hours at Fargo Cass Public Health by clicking here.
The Health Promotions teams look to educate and inform the community through various initiatives and collaborations.
"We are very much population based and we are involved in community change and policy work, "said Larry Anenson, Director of FCPH Health Protection and Promotion, "We meet with a variety of individuals around the table and often ask who should be around the table because I think that is an important piece of public health is collaboration."
Overall, the goal of Health Promotions is to provide educational resources to the community to promote healthier ways of living. Melissa Markegard, FCPH's Mental Health Coordinator, says they do this by generating signs, stickers, and other promotional items in highly visible spaces like public transportation. In the interview with WDAY Radio, employees spoke on tobacco quitting programs, breastfeeding initiatives, childhood obesity prevention, alcohol programs and server training, and a public health initiative focused on mental health.
"As far as I know, I am the only mental health person in local public health in North Dakota, "said Melissa Markegard, Mental Health Coordinator for FCPH, "Typically, public health doesn't have a whole lot to do with mental health. We have been partnering with local agencies in our community and I think those partnerships together with some of our educational pieces has been incredibly important."
You can learn more about Health Promotions by clicking here.
Reproductive Health services looks to provide contraceptives, sexually transmitted infection and disease testing and counseling, and birth control options.
"It's extremely important to focus on the preventative aspect of family planning," said Anenson, "Our pelvic exams, our cancer screenings are extremely important... Our immunizations - we provide a wide range of immunizations in our clinic to help prevent disease... pregnancy tests are extremely-extremely important, and we are able to provide that as well."
Anenson says they are a critical resource for the people who wouldn't be able to afford services otherwise. Approximately a third of the individuals who use FCPH's Reproductive Health services are uninsured, and many of the people who do use their services are placed on a sliding fee scale, which is adjusted based on income. Anenson also says the program will not turn away people due to an inability to pay. Anenson also says they can provide education in several different settings. This includes a one-on-one basis, a classroom setting, service clubs, and other agencies that request FCPH's services.
A full page dedicated to frequently asked questions can be found by clicking here.
North Dakota's WIC Program, otherwise nationally known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children under the USDA, provides financial assistance for food, education and guidance, and guidance for families in need.
Kim Vance, WIC Director at Fargo Cass Public Health, says the program saw 3,900 individual residents, and saw an average of 2,600 people per month. Vance says the largest draw to their service is based on food assistance, which allows parents to buy pre-approved foods for themselves and their children. However, families are also given routine visits at the FCPH clinic and are also taught about educational resources. These are some of the things that impact a majority of children across North Dakota.
"They'll come to WIC because it is much more low-key, it's much more 'I learned things while I am there'..," said Vance, who asserts approximately 50% of babies born in North Dakota use WIC services, "I pulled some national [data], they said the average income - that was a few years back - but $18,000 was the average income of the people who were on WIC."
You can learn more about Fargo Cass Public Health by clicking here.