Ten years as a stay-at-home mom and Army wife ended abruptly when my spouse was medically discharged only halfway to his planned military retirement. The realization that I would now be the primary provider for our family signaled for me two transformative realizations. First, obtaining a college degree was critical and subsequently obtainable since our final duty station offered a four-year university, Cameron University. Second, if I was to no longer be in the home providing for those I love most, how I spent my days would decidedly go beyond myself and contribute to the greater good of society.
Like many others, it took a few years to find my niche. Continuing to seek out opportunities and partnerships to make a positive difference, I discovered public health. It was refreshing to know my passions could fit into a singular career field. It’s hard to narrow down what makes me most proud to work at the Comanche County Health Department (CCHD). Being a state employee is a great privilege. The staff at CCHD are truly dedicated to working together in order to deliver the essential services of public health to our community. I am so thankful to work alongside each of them.
The Ten Essential Public Health Services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1994) include monitoring health, diagnosing & investigating health problems and hazards, informing, educating, and empowering on issues of health, mobilizing community partnerships to identify and address health problems, developing policies, enforcing laws that protect health and ensure safety, linkage to care, assuring a competent workforce, the evaluation of programs and systems through quality improvement and performance management, and research for insight and innovation to address health problems. Combining epidemiological science with evidence-based programs to improve the overall health and well-being of our citizens is an honorable and exciting opportunity. However, I would have to say the public health partnerships over the past year are what have provided a true sense of community when looking to improve population health and safety.
From collaborating with Lawton Public Schools on issues of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the positive impact research shows of protective factors like nurse-family partnerships such as Children’s First, to working with the City of Lawton to identify areas of food deserts and deprivation ripe for healthy food access initiatives for the citizens, to providing educational workshops for kids in partnership with Fit Kids of Southwest Oklahoma and the Lawton Farmers Market, to real discussions of social determinants of health such as how transportation and poverty impact health behaviors due to limited access with Comanche County elected officials and area social service providers, and many more, it has been an absolute pleasure to not only learn and absorb as much as I can, but to put action to ideas through partnering with countless others who are also Lawton Proud. I look forward with great expectation to continue identifying research, implementing strategic plans, and forming partnerships in order to ensure we are delivering effective programs and services to those in Comanche County who need them most.