Lexington Health Department top-notch

I have big news to share.

At its August meeting on Monday, the Board of Health will celebrate the accreditation of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. This is the conclusion of a five year in-depth review of our operations in addressing the health of our community.

Only 44 other health departments nationally have attained this highest distinction.

What makes this cool is that the process was initiated by our community health assessment which led to the well-publicized Community Health Improvement Plan, CHIP, which involved hundreds of Lexingtonians.

So, you were a big part of this achievement. Aren't you glad you live in Lexington?

In 1904, Lexington established its first board of health. It confronted issues like sewage in the streets, the deadly influenza pandemic of 1917, which killed millions worldwide, food quality and clean drinking water. What we do today isn't so different.

The Health Department operates at a level of excellence that fulfills our mission to "Prevent, Promote, Protect" in the following areas:

■ Protecting us from infectious diseases. (We are the first responders to an outbreak.)

■ Enforcing health laws like the smoking ordinance.

■ Staffing our public schools with quality nurses and providing child immunizations.

■ Conducting restaurant inspections, certifying food handlers.

■ Advocating for the funding of initiatives like HANDS (a remarkable maternal-health program for first-time parents)

■ Establishing nutrition programs and implementing WIC, which addresses poverty among women and infants.

■ Devising emergency preparedness protocols.

■ Participating with other agencies to combat threats like health inequity and the recent uptick in heroin use.

The independent Public Health Accreditation Board poked, prodded and interviewed us. The result is what we already knew: our public-health operations are conducted at a very high level.

This accreditation assures that the department subjects itself to the rigor of outside review, has competent staff, follows established protocols, has an engaged board and involved community.

It also establishes that its work and finances are shown in the light of day, that the staff is involved in long-range planning, and all our activities link to 10 essential health department services.

The accreditation reflects years of commitment to excellence in our public-health services by, among others, Mayor Jim Gray and our council representative, Chris Ford. We are blessed with involved leaders, Dr. Rice Leach, our commissioner, and Roanya Rice, our public health officer. Our board generously volunteers hours to their oversight role.

Also Jessica Cobb, Jennifer Wyatt, Mindy Sekhon, and Carla Basanta deserve mention for managing the accreditation process.

But we are even more blessed by the public health workers who have served, and are serving, all of us. They are the folks who deserve our gratitude.