For my third and final co-op I decided to stay in the Yellow Springs area to work as a Public Health Education Intern at the Greene County Health Department. I selected this co-op to gain knowledge about the public health system and its relationship with the medical system. Keeping my future goal of becoming a Physician’s Associate in mind, I went into this co-op wanting to know the kinds of resources that health departments have to offer, so I may someday direct patients there for local health support.
The mission of Greene County Public Health is “to prevent disease, promote health and wellness in Greene County and protect the quality of our environment.” This mission is accomplished through community outreach efforts, assessment, health education, collaboration and assurance of quality services, disease prevention and control, and emergency preparedness (gcph.info). As a public health education intern, I uphold this mission by offering support to the various projects the health educators are working on. For example, I helped a health educator conduct a tobacco policy scan for Greene County. It consisted of calling Greene County stores, worksites, apartment buildings, schools, etc. to ask them questions about their tobacco policy, and if they would like to give it an update.
Something else I have been working on is our mail-order naloxone (a safe drug that rapidly reverses overdose) program through project DAWN (Deaths Avoided with Naloxone). Project DAWN is a network of opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution programs that the health department utilizes to help prevent death by overdose in Greene County. Anyone is able to request their own Naloxone kit and people keep it on them for various reasons.
For example, some people keep it if they know of a family member or friend uses, and others keep it in case they see an overdose occur. I fulfill requests for narcan by gathering info from a survey, filling out intake forms, ensuring the requester has completed narcan training, then mailing them Narcan with other informational pamphlets. The survey asks basic demographic questions as well as their reasoning for requesting narcan to help the health department better gauge which areas and demographics are most impacted by drug overdoses. If you or someone you know would like a Naloxone kit, visit the link below! (click on the “click here to request your kit” link or use the provided QR code!)
Naloxone kit pictured at right.
Since starting at the Health Department, I have also helped out at a few outreach events in which we taught individuals who were interested in keeping narcan on them how to administer it, and then sending them off with their own narcan in case of an overdose emergency. I have loved this “hands-on” work and love interacting with people. A challenging aspect of this work, however, is hearing about the sad ways drug addiction has impacted individual lives, and the terrible ways our systems have failed them. I can see how over time this work could take a toll on your mental health. I feel I have started to learn how to not take work home with me through self-care and boundaries. I am so appreciative that I have been exposed to this, as leaving your work at home is pretty much essential to work in the healthcare world.
I have really enjoyed my time at the Greene County Health Department so far, and am so excited to see what I’ll learn about next.