On Aug. 6, Amy Wehunt, the coordinating nurse for the Osage County Health Dept. (OCHD), spoke to the Pawhuska Kiwanis Club. Health Educator Andrew Graham, provided the visual presentation. They were guests of Pastor Kathy Morris, who was the Kiwanian of the day.

Amy Wehunt, said: "I just began working here two months ago. I’m from Pawhuska originally; I worked at the Kay County Health Dept. for 13 years and now I’m back at the Osage County Health Dept. I’m so excited to come back to this community and offer services here. I’m not sure if you are aware of all the services the health department offers. I know a lot of people just think we offer flu shots, but there are a lot of other things that we do offer."

Wehunt began with a staff overview.

"We have a new administrator, Bill Pearson. I’m the coordinating nurse there and I recently hired another nurse.

Sharon Griffin is our local emergency response coordinator. If we were to have a local emergency, she would be the one who would coordinate with other counties," Wehunt said.

"Heather Barkley is our administrative supervisor. Cyndi Rasberry does the general health education. She goes out to the schools and does a program. Brian Coatney is the Sanitarian. Andrew Graham is our Health Educator," she said.

The department offers all of the recommended childhood immunizations for children, booster shots and recommended immunizations for adults, Wehunt said.

With pertussis, commonly called whopping cough, on the rise again she said that older adults working in daycare facilities or church nurseries should be immunized.

To address communicable disease outbreaks, the OCHD staff conducts follow-up investigations.

"We do all of the follow-up on all of the tuberculosis (TB) cases in our county of latent or active TB, and that includes the skin test, the X-ray examinations, we have a doctor we sent the X-rays to at the Oklahoma state lab and he’s been a TB specialist for 35 years," Wehunt said.

Another aspect of communicable disease control is foodborne illness investigation, which the staff sanitarian, Brian Coatney, handles, she said.

OCHD also conducts investigation of health related complaints such as potential rabies exposure.

Public health inspection efforts are done by OCHD sanitarian, Brian Coatney, who regularly inspects: eating and drinking establishments, retail and wholesale food stores, hotels, motels, school cafeterias, barber shops, camps, parks and public pools and special event/temporary food establishments.

Coatney also teaches the food handlers classes at OCHD, Wehunt said.

According to the written materials provided, OCHD also offers services to businesses engaged in food manufacturing and body piercing and technical assistance in handling the West Nile virus and mold.

The cost of services has changed in the past year, Wehunt said. OCHD services were free at one time but currently, OCHD offers health clinic services on a sliding fee scale based on the income of the recipient.

"They will not refuse care for anyone if they have an inability to pay," Wehunt said. If clients are underinsured or uninsured, care will be provided, she added.

Describing the health clinic services, Wehunt said: "We do routine immunizations, blood pressure, blood sugar screening, sexually transmitted disease screening, health education, pregnancy testing. We also offer health screenings such as: breast cancer examination, cervical paps and diabetes."

In addition to the services of the health clinic, OCHD offers several programs to improve the lives of children and mothers.

"We also have a Children First Program for first-time moms. A nurse goes and does home visits and she educates and she can stay with the mom until the child is two years of age. This program is to reduce the rate of infant death," Wehunt explained. "They also do developmental screening to make sure the baby is doing what they should be for their age – the developmental milestones for their age."

"Sooner Start is a program that is for children from birth to three years, who have delays or special conditions," she said. "Usually, they come into the home. They offer developmental testing, parent education, nursing, occupational, physical and visual therapy, hearing and audiology for children who are delayed in one or more of these areas." Referrals are made accordingly, she said.

Through the Women Infants and Children Program (WIC), nutrition education and counseling are offered.

"Also, we have a nutritionist who will see individuals one-on-one and you don’t have to be a WIC participant to receive those services," Wehunt explained.

Health education and family planning services are also important components of the OCHD’s outreach to the community.

"We do a lot of health education: STD/HIV prevention, nutrition education, personal wellness and fitness programs, stress management with ideas and activities, communicable disease education, blood-borne pathogen training, health and hygiene training for school-aged children, arthritis education and training for seniors and health fairs," Wehunt said.

There is a dental health education program as well. "They go into the schools and educate on oral hygiene care."

"We offer family planning services with birth control methods, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, annual physical exams and pap smears… and testing for prostate [cancer,]" she said.

"The services are always confidential and are offered without the consent of a parent or guardian regardless of the client’s age because we want our clients to feel comfortable and know that they can come."

Current OCHD initiatives include: tobacco cessation, physical activity and nutrition to prevent obesity, injury and violence prevention, immunization, healthy families, public health systems, access to care, development and regulations, bioterrorism and preparedness, Wehunt said.

In all of the services OCHD provides, they try to inform and partner with the community as much as possible, Wehunt said.

OCHD produces press releases to inform the public in response to public health concerns. In the event of a communicable disease outbreak or natural disaster of any kind, Wehunt said, OCHD acts promptly to inform the public.

"We are the ones the media calls for information," Wehunt said.

Wehunt concluded her presentation with a reminder: "Don’t forget to come in and get your flu shots! We also have shingles immunizations for those 65 and older."

The Osage County Health Dept. is located at 1115 E. 15th St. in Pawhuska. Call 918-287-3740 or visit their website at: http://osage.health.ok.gov for more information.