Monday, February 19, 2018
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What Is Public Health?


Public health in Nodaway County

Have you or a family member eaten in a restaurant, taken your child to a licensed day care, or received an immunization or flu shot?  Then you have benefited from public health.

County Health Departments were created by Missouri statute back in the 1930s and their primary functions were caring for the indigent, tracking and controlling disease outbreaks, and conducting environmental inspections to assure food and water safety.  Most health departments consisted of a nurse working for the county commission.

We still perform the CORE functions today.  For example, we continuously monitor the county for communicable disease and must investigate confirmed cases to help contain a possible outbreak.

Since that time, most county health department, including yours in Nodaway County, are supported by a mill tax of their own, and provide many services designed to educate and prevent, not just treat and protect.

A short list of a few of the services we offer

  • Health screenings such as lead and hemoglobin
  • Education opportunities
  • Restaurant, daycare and lodging inspections
  • Immunizations, including flu and shingles
  • WIC (Women, Infants and Children) federal nutrition program
  • Birth and Death Certificates
  • Emergency Preparedness

Unfortunately, many residents continue to believe that our services are only for low-income residents.  In fact, MOST of our services have not income guidelines and are available or at a small cost to ALL residents of Nodaway County.



Public health and its benefits to Missourians are not well understood by many.  Some people associate public health with immunizations for children and inspections of restaurants.  Other see public health as the dedicated “county nurse” visiting older people in their homes.  But few realize the broad range of activities and responsibilities for which public health is accountable.

Actually, public health is a sophisticated science for identifying and dealing with real or potential health threats to the community.  Public health’s primary purposes are to improve the health of communities, prevent disease from occurring and to save lives.  An effective public health system assesses and promotes health and safety; prevents or minimizes the occurrence of disease and injuries, plans, prepares, and responds to natural and manmade disasters; identifies barriers, and facilitates access to primary and preventive health care; and enforces public health laws and regulations.

Public health is often confused with health care.  A health care provider diagnoses and treats each of his/her individual patients.  Public health professionals diagnose whole communities and develop a plan of action to improve the health status of the entire population.  Although the principal role of public health has remained the same, its focus has changed over the years.  Early in the 20th century public health efforts were primarily directed to disease prevention.  In the latter part of the 20th many century public health agencies took on the responsibility of providing care to indigent populations.  Because expanded insurance coverage has made personal health services more accessible to most people, public health is now able to focus more closely on its principal role of protecting the public.

Entering into the 21st century, public health has many challenges such as new diseases, infections and bioterrorism threats.  Building capacity and assuring readiness to confront these challenges is essential.

From Strengthening Public Health, MDHSS

Nodaway County Health Center • 2416 South Main, Maryville, MO  64468 • 660-562-2755 (phone) 660-562-4995 (fax)