First of Two Parts

Pamlico County Health Department: Agency Survives & Thrives, while facing Challenges

At Right, Melanie Dixon, director, receives the accreditation award from Teresa Ellen, NC Accreditation Board Chair.
At Right, Melanie Dixon, director, receives the accreditation award from Teresa Ellen, NC Accreditation Board Chair.

By Advika Kumar

Editor’s note: A team of Duke University students, having spent several months behind the scenes at Pamlico County Health Department, offers this upbeat two-part report and shares a major milestone in the journey of this rural health provider.

BAYBORO – For the first time since its inception, the efforts of the Pamlico County Health Department have been recognized through accreditation, with honors. Accreditation is a status given by the North Carolina Local Health Department Accreditation Program, establishing “a basic level of capacity and service that a local health department must provide to ensure the health of the public.”

So what exactly does accreditation mean? Why does it matter? 

It measures every aspect of the Health Department: public health initiatives, lab services, environmental health, and even the safety and quality of the facility itself. The process of accreditation includes three major components – a self-assessment completed by the agency, a site visit by a multidisciplinary team of peers to review performance standards, and a determination of accreditation status by an independent Accreditation Board comprised of state and local public health officials, Board of Health members, County Commissioners, and public members.

Health departments must meet at least 144/147 of the standards set by the North Carolina Local Health Department Accreditation program to achieve accreditation with honors, a benchmark the Pamlico County Health Department passed with flying colors. 

“All of the agencies recently achieving re-accreditation have much to be proud of. They have not only demonstrated their ability to meet a set of important performance standards but excelled in many areas. Through re-accreditation, these agencies demonstrate a strong commitment to continuously work to improve the quality of services provided to their respective communities,” comments Amy Belflower Thomas, NC Local Health Department Accreditation Administrator.

The health department’s work is critical to maintaining a healthy Pamlico County that is able to serve all of its residents. “That’s why we’re here”, says health director Melanie Dixon. “To help our county improve its quality of life and meet their needs by advocating for them and supplementing medical facilities to provide healthcare and additional resources”.

What is the role of a health department?

To understand the value of the Health Department in Pamlico County, it is important to understand the core function of public health: the work of protecting and improving the health of Pamlico County residents in all aspects related to preventing and minimizing negative effects of disease outbreaks and spread, environmental hazards, and health behaviors. 

The Pamlico County Health Department occupies a unique space in the Pamlico County healthcare sphere: addressing multi-faceted demands set out by the Public Health Law of North Carolina. 

The General Assembly created this law with the following goal in mind: “to ensure that all citizens in the State have equal access to essential public health services” and create a setting where all can achieve the highest level of health possible. 

What the Pamlico County Health Department can do for you:

Ten services are designated to a county’s health department:

Monitoring health status to identify community health problems.

Diagnosing and investigating health hazards in the community.

Informing, educating, and empowering people about health issues.

Mobilizing community partnerships to identify and solve health problems.

Developing policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.

Enforcing laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.

Linking people to needed personal health care services and ensuring the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.

Ensuring a competent public health workforce and personal health care workforce.

Evaluating effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services

Conducting research.

Through programs ranging from breast cancer screenings and compiling health resources for residents to share on their Facebook page to working with the Duke Global Health Institute to research access to healthcare in the county, the Pamlico County Health Department has assumed many roles that span these 10 services.

 While public health includes vaccinations, clinic appointments, and testing services, the health department is also in charge of services such as restaurant inspections and rabies control. 

New services and on-site renovations

In the past year, the local health department has been in the process of strengthening existing services and supplementing them with new additions.

New services added in the past year:

DOT/CDL/U.S. Coast Guard physicals

Chain-of-custody and in-house urine drug screens

Child car seat safety

American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED training

American College of Surgeons Stop the Bleed training

Acute sick visits, for issues such as coughs and the flu

New services in the planning stages:

Physical Participation Examination (Sports physicals)

Syringe Service Program for individuals involved in the justice system, free of cost.

ServSafe Training for food service establishments

Mosquito Trappings

American Heart Association CPR Training for healthcare providers

The expanded services at the health department have been accompanied by staff-led renovations to modernize the building’s features and create a professional setting that enhances patient convenience, the use of resources, and the quality of services being provided. From the moment they enter, Pamlico County residents can take advantage of the new door, and its accessible touch-free option, the first of many recent renovations at the Pamlico County Health Department.