Department of Public Health seeking input from the public

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Vernon - posted Fri., Sep. 13, 2013
Celeste Jorge, epidemiologist, Department of Public Health, addresses the audience. Photo by Lisa Stone.
Celeste Jorge, epidemiologist, Department of Public Health, addresses the audience. Photo by Lisa Stone.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health hosted a public forum at Rockville High School on Sept. 10 to learn about what health issues matter most to local residents. Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen, along with the manager of public health systems improvements, Kristin Sullivan, addressed audience members and got feedback from them during the “Your Voice Matters” event.

This was the first of many forums to engage the eight counties of Connecticut, however, the DPH was disappointed with the turnout of only about a dozen citizens.

The purpose of the DPH’s statewide plan is to build a safer and healthier Connecticut by the year 2020. The DPH is looking for input from people who are concerned about the direction the state’s health is taking, and is looking to brainstorm for a program that would help with such issues as obesity, lead poisoning, sexual diseases including HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, mental health issues and smoking.

According to the DPH, the rate of youths that are smoking has dropped by 50 percent over the past few years. This is encouraging, considering the health risks involved with smoking, especially when the smoker’s body has not finished developing. The DPH stated that smoking is a major cause of several serious and even fatal diseases.

The DPH went on to say that many mental health issues are addressed via the hospital emergency rooms. This costs the state a great deal of money, which could be better spent elsewhere. DPH said that there is a need for conventional treatments through standard healthcare providers. The statistics they presented said that people from the ages of 18 to 44 have the highest emergency room visits for mental health issues. People 65 and older have the lowest rate of mental health ER visits. They are looking for a solution to this problem.

A particular issue that the department addressed was vaccinations for children, as many children are now going without proper vaccinations. Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, can lead to the death of newborns to six-month-olds.  A simple vaccine can insure the safety of the child. Pertussis is on the rise in the United States and this is an area that the DPH feels is in need of being addressed.

According to the DPH statistics, Connecticut presently has more than 10,000 cases of HIV/AIDS. The department feels that this is a result of risky sexual behavior and is looking for the community’s input in this matter as well.

The spokesman for the DPH said, “Where we live matters to our health. That is why these community health forums are so important, as they provide us with the opportunity to hear directly from the people about the health issues that matter to them the most. This perspective is invaluable, as we work together with communities to improve the health of Connecticut.”

The DPH says that public input is an important part of the State Health Assessment, and will provide valuable information for the State Health Improvement Plan. They are asking for the community’s assistance in these matters. For more information about the upcoming forums in the state, visit or call 860-509-8070.

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