Five Reasons for Why We Need a Regional Health Department
The Lehigh Valley Health Commission meeting is exactly a week away. At this meeting, county legislators from Lehigh and Northampton Counties will be voting on the future of the bi-county health department. We are encouraging all community members to attend this important meeting next Monday, July 19th at 6:30 pm at the County Council Chambers, Northampton County Courthouse in Easton.To learn more about the effort to establish a regional health department, visit RenewLV’s Regional Health page.
But why do we need a regional health department? Here are a few reasons:
1) It will provide essential services uniformly to all residents of the Lehigh Valley. Right now, services such as timely restaurant inspections, access to immunizations, cancer prevention services, and screening for communicable disease are ensured within the cities of Allentown and Bethlehem (which have excellent health bureaus), but are not so readily available outside of these cities.
2) Let us not forget about those spotty restaurant services that the Morning Call reported on back in 2005. This would not be a worry if we had a regional health department. [Morning Call Editorial, 8.7.2005]
3) The region is missing out on millions of dollars in state funding for public health services — money that the Valley’s residents are paying in taxes but are currently not getting back.
4) The health department will serve as a single point of contact for regional public health emergencies — including emergencies brought on by a natural disaster or an epidemic/pandemic.
5) If you live outside of Allentown or Bethlehem, you will no longer have to wonder: Where do I go to get my flu vaccine? Recall the scramble of the region’s school districts during the H1N1 scare.
Some have argued that many of the services that the Lehigh Valley Health Department would provide are already being provided by the state Department of Health (PADOH). While this is true in some cases, we must ask ourselves how effectively these services are provided. There are currently two PADOH offices in the region that are only staffed part-time. This places our region’s population at a risk — and this is unacceptable.
Since both counties in the Lehigh Valley work under a home-rule charter, it would seem that our leadership would prefer to have our public health services under local control. After all, one of the key roles of local government is ensuring the health and safety of its residents.
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