Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a series of articles highlighting the different county departments.
DOBSON — When most people think about the county Health and Nutrition Center, it’s likely that things like immunizations and flu shots come to mind, but the department is much more than that, according to Director Samantha Ange.
“We’re huge,” she said enthusiastically. “We take care of people from infancy to their senior citizen years. From baby to grandpa to Fido.”
The goal of the department, Ange said, is simple.
“My mission is to protect the public’s health, whether that be through rabies control, environmental health or communicable diseases,” she said.
When asked what she considers her primary responsibility, Ange pointed to the department’s mission statement.
“The mission… is to protect, educate and promote personal, family and community health; to ensure a safe and healthy environment; and to prevent or control the spread of disease,” she said.
With a budget of just more than $11 million annually, Ange oversees close to 150 employees providing 60 different services to the community.
Those services include adult health services like the women’s health clinic, which offers things like the breast and cervical cancer control program and the primary care clinic; immunization services; communicable disease prevention; family planning; laboratory and x-ray services; a nutrition program that features medical nutrition therapy and diabetes education programs; a dental program that offers comprehensive dental care; pediatric services; and family care services.
But that’s just a portion of what the department offers.
“We also offer things like environmental health services, from the water you’re drinking to the toilet you’re flushing,” she said. “Basically, we’re everywhere.”
And “everywhere” includes programs to promote public health, environmental programs to protect food and ground water, animal control, migrant health services and senior services.
It is a comprehensive center with far-reaching responsibilities, according to Ange.
“Public health programs like our center is the silent miracle behind the scenes,” she said. “If everything is going well, people don’t hear about us even though we’re out here working every day. If you take your child to daycare have a septic system in your house, public health is there.”
At a Glance
• About 36 percent of patients served are Hispanic.
• 37 percent are male.
• 63 percent are female.
• 51 percent of the center’s revenue comes from Medicaid, with about 18 percent provided by the county (a sharp contrast from the usual 30 to 40 percent via local funding, Ange said).
• 39 percent of the money spent by the center is used for senior services.
• Nearly a third (30 percent) of the money spent is used for maternal/child health.
“We are the public health agency for the county,” said department spokesman Thomas Williams. “Traditionally, people think of us as doing things like immunizations, but we’ve come a long way and that’s evident in the variety of programs we provide. Years ago, most public health agencies weren’t providing a lot of dental services, but now we have a very state-of-the-art facility and a very comprehensive dental program.”
“The one thing public health centers like us do is fill in the gaps,” she said. “If there’s something creating the potential for an unhealthy environment, we fill in the gaps and take care of it.”
Services at the center are offered on a sliding fee scale based on the patient’s income, and many are offered free, Ange said.
“Our big thing is to not charge unless we have to, and if we do, to charge the minimum price we can to get things done.
“We’re not here to make a profit, but we charge a little bit when we have to to sustain the program,” she noted.
Ange said she and all of her “extremely well-qualified” staff take their duties seriously.
“We protect the health of the citizens of Surry County,” she said. “If there wasn’t an agency like this looking out for the public health, things like hepatitis, salmonella and E. coli wouldn’t be discovered and wouldn’t be taken care of.
“The things we do make it safer for the average person to live a healthy life every day.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.