Much of the last few years has been focused on our outputs. How many vaccines we’ve put in arms, how many families we’ve served through WIC, or the number of health assessments we’ve completed. All of this is important of course, but the impact that we have on Greene County goes far beyond just these numbers.
Every vaccine we administer is helping prevent potentially life-altering diseases. Each breastfeeding mother we educate helps ensure that a baby can grow and develop into a healthy child. The referrals we provide to clients after health assessments can give them the direction they need to improve their health and put themselves and their families on track for a better life. Every program we offer is more than a service, it is an opportunity to set someone up for success and put them on the path to living a healthier life. In 2022, the team here at the Health Department changed lives.
Looking forward, there are plenty of challenges ahead that Greene County is still facing. There are many people still suffering physically, mentally, and emotionally from the trauma inflicted by the past three years. We must contend with the politicization of our work and the rampant mis- and dis-information that is eroding people’s trust in institutions. And we must continue working toward building a healthier community, so all people have the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.
Thankfully, we aren’t working alone. Our partners in the City of Springfield, Greene County, CoxHealth, Mercy Springfield, Jordan Valley Community Health Center, Burrell Behavioral Health, the Healthy Living Alliance, and so many other government and community organizations are with us. Together, we can do more than react to the issues facing our community, we can help improve people’s lives.
I am so proud of our dedicated staff for continuing to live up to the expectations that have been set by our years of leadership in public health. As we look toward the future, I am excited to continue serving our community and transforming it into a place where we can all live healthier, happier and longer lives.
Director of Health
Dr. Nancy Yoon,
Coordinator, Office of Community Health Strategy
Administrator, Division of Environmental Health
Coordinator, Office of Communications and Outreach
Administrator, Division of Communicable Disease
Administrator, Division of
Chronic Disease Prevention
Health Planner, Office of Emerging Public Health
Coordinator, Division of Communicable Disease
OUR PROGRAMS AND SERVICES
- Communicable Disease
- Emerging Public Health
- Environmental Health
- Chronic Disease Prevention
- Health Administration
Epidemiology studies the spread of disease and risk factors and responds to occurrences of communicable diseases, such as COVID-19 or influenza, and incidents that could lead to the transmission of a disease, like dog or wild animal bites. The goal is to prevent the spread of disease.
The immunization program provides both routine vaccinations and vaccines required for international travel to prevent diseases like hepatitis A and B, tetanus, measles, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid, etc.
Our sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic works to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections through confidential testing and treatment.
The tuberculosis program prevents the spread of this disease by providing case management for people who have been exposed or show symptoms of tuberculosis.
Laboratory Services for SGCHD supports many programs by offering lab testing for diseases like STIs and COVID-19. Additionally, the lab does daily pollen counts and publishes these results for the community during pollen season. Results are used by, news, meteorologists and physicians. Finally, the lab staff offers community testing for private well water to ensure that it is free of harmful bacteria and other contaminants.
The COVID-19 Vaccination team has provided free immunizations to protect against severe illness caused by COVID-19 at the Westside Public Health Center and at partner locations across Greene County.
Health Planning is responsible for creating and updating plans, policies, and procedures in preparation for emerging health issues.
Food Safety and Compliance works with owners and managers to help educate and find compliance with local and state regulations. This can result in safe and healthy operation of food establishments (restaurants, bars, school cafeterias, concession stands, food truck, etc.) in Greene County.
Water Safety provides water quality testing for public pools and hot tubs to ensure that the water is safe for those who use them. Inspectors partner with operators to ensure chemical adjustments are made to make these safe and fun environments for the public.
Animal Control works to prevent the spread of rabies through the investigation of animal bites, containing aggressive dogs and securing dogs on the loose within city limits. Animal Control also investigates cruelty cases and picks up injured dogs, cats and wildlife. In the county, Animal Control offers limited, but similar services as well as assisting Greene County Officers in investigations and emergencies.
NEST Partnership is a program that provides free nurse visits for qualified families, both during and after pregnancy. Services are delivered in the home during scheduled visits. Nurses answer questions, monitor blood pressure and weight, connect families with community resources and teach ways to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby.
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a federal program delivered locally that improves the overall health of families by supporting the nutritional health of pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding people, as well as infants and children, up to the age of five.
Community Health Advocates focus on improving the lives of individuals and families in our community by connecting them to resources like healthcare referrals, housing assistance, employment and education assistance, childhood resources, and social-emotional support.
Community Wellness provides tools, education, and resources to the community in order to prevent or manage chronic illnesses. Examples include education on healthy eating and active living, harm reduction supplies for those with substance use disorders like naloxone, and the facilitation of community partnerships to improve public health outcomes. Tobacco & Vaping Prevention provides works with community partners to provide personalized assistance with the development of school smoke-free and vape-free plans as well as training and education events for teachers and parents.
Business & Support Services, in addition to providing internal support and office management, assists the public with obtaining information and documentation such as birth and death certificates and vaccination records.
Communications & Outreach works to provide timely, accurate, and trusted information and education to the community through mass media and individual outreach.
The Community Health Worker Initiative (CHWi) works with individuals and families impacted by COVID-19 who need additional support to improve their overall health.
Our COVID-19 Call Center has provided a central line for members of southwest Missouri to call with COVID-19 related questions and to be connected to COVID-19 resources like testing and vaccination.
Community Health Strategy supports the collection, organization, and utilization of data for our department and community partners in order to inform decision making. This allows us to understand the needs of the community, the allocation of resources, and to measure success.
MEETING PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE
We have always known that making our services more accessible allows us to have the biggest impact on our community. To us, this means meeting people where they are and as they are. It’s why we opened the Westside Public Health Center for immunizations in 2004, established the NEST Partnership there in 2017, have opened various satellite locations across the county for the WIC program, and have embedded community health advocates throughout neighborhoods and organizations to help people navigate their needs. This tradition continued into 2022 as we expanded existing programs and started new ones in an effort to better help all people live longer, healthier, happier lives.
“The partnership with the O’Reilly Center for Hope has allowed us bring WIC services to the families in this neighborhood.”
“Working with our community partners to reach people who may not have access to a flu or COVID-19 shot otherwise has helped protect those susceptible to severe illness.”
COVID-19 Vaccine Nurse Manager
In 2021, months into the effort to vaccinate Greene County residents against COVID-19, we pivoted away from a single mass vaccination unit and work to reach people in other parts of the community who may have difficulty accessing traditional vaccine locations. Outreach clinics at libraries, shelters, churches, businesses, community centers, and many other locations resulted in more than 4,800 shots in arms in 2022. The events were hugely successful, with more than one in five patients surveyed in 2022 indicating “accessibility” contributed to their decision to get the vaccine. We know this effort helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the rate of severe illness in communities with challenges to access care.
As the flu season approached, we duplicated the successful model of Outreach clinics to increase flu shot availability as well. In October, we began offering flu vaccines side-by-side with the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. The immunization team worked with outreach staff to identify locations where we could reach more people who are underinsured or uninsured.
These efforts led to more than 200 people being vaccinated against influenza at no cost to them, many of whom may not have been able to access the vaccine otherwise. This immunization shielded them from severe illness and added an additional layer of protection for those close to them, especially those who are considered high risk.
Another example of successfully bringing services directly to populations in need is our shingles immunization program. Funding from the Greene County Senior Citizens’ Service Fund allowed us to vaccinate more than 1,000 people over the age of 65 against this potentially severe illness at no charge. For many, this effort is the only way most could afford the vaccination, which can cost as much as $200 per dose when insurance does not cover.
When Community Partnership of the Ozarks opened the O’Reilly Center for Hope as a hub to connect underserved individuals with community resources in June of 2022, the WIC team saw the opportunity to reach more people with their services. Since its opening in June, the new satellite location inside the O’Reilly Center for Hope has reduced barriers and provided more comprehensive support to our community. Since WIC operates at the center one day a week, this space has also become an option for other programs, such as the vaccination team and Community Health Advocate program, which helps connect underserved individuals to healthcare and other community resources.
While we continue to bring more services to more locations, we have also worked to move our existing services more accessible. Utilizing online screening and scheduling platforms, we have been able to break down barriers by making it even easier to make testing and vaccination appointments. This new tool is not only more convenient for patients, but also significantly reduces the time spent with each individual patient, which greatly expands the number of patients that can be seen.
SEEKING NEW PATHS
Community Health Advocate Adam Larkin’s very first client in the Jail Diversion program is also his first success story. The client was a man in his early 30s who had been unsheltered for the past three years. Working with Adam, he was not only able to find housing but now works to help others get off the street and into supportive housing. He is currently working on an apprenticeship with the heavy machine workers union in order to establish a career.
MAKING A FRESH START
One of the first clients to take full advantage of the CHWi program was a pregnant woman who was new to our community and primarily spoke Spanish. Working with one of our Community Health Advocates, this soon-to-be mother got connected to our NEST program for prenatal support and got signed up to receive WIC benefits so she would have access to nutritious food through her pregnancy and for the first years of her son’s life. Our team then worked with her to assess other needs and helped her find a part-time job, childcare that she could afford, transportation assistance to allow her to get to work and all of her health care appointments, and even made sure that she had a jacket so she could be safe during this winter’s extremely cold weather. One conversation with our CHWi program has led to this young woman taking many steps to improve her health, the health of her newborn baby boy, and set her up to life a longer, healthier, and happier life.
MEETING PEOPLE AS THEY ARE
“Our clients are the success of the Jail Diversion program. They see a path and have hope for better lives and are finding purpose. Real personal wellness growth, not simply avoiding further criminal justice issues.”
Community Health Advocate
“Our community health worker initiative breaks down barriers to accessing care by building trust and forming relationships within vulnerable communities at the individual level.”
Public Health Program Specialist
Sometimes, physical barriers are not the only thing preventing people from accessing services that may help improve their wellbeing. Navigating the various overlapping and intertwined systems in our community is overwhelming for many. As the local public health agency serving Greene County, we have taken an active role in 2022 to meet people not only where they are, but as they are, especially when gaps exist.
Often, all a person needs is to be pointed in the right direction, which is where our Community Health Advocates come in. Working with various health department programs and community organizations, our Advocates focus on improving the lives of individuals and families by connecting them to healthcare and community resources.
Our Community Health Advocate (CHA) programs have transformed since their beginning, when CHAs focused on offering door-to-door blood pressure screenings and healthcare referrals. To reach more people in a more meaningful way, the program has since shifted to work directly with WIC members, prenatal and infant care clients in our NEST partnership program, and shingles vaccine recipients to identify their needs and connect them to our healthcare partners and social service providers.
Additionally, in 2022, Springfield-Greene County Health received funding from the Missouri Department of Health through its Community Health Worker initiative to hire 6 Community Health Advocates to help address the various chronic diseases and social determinants that exacerbated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes identifying community resources to address barriers such as access to health care, limited transportation, food insecurity, etc.
Finally, understanding that some people in our community face unique barriers, we worked with Greene County to establish the Jail Diversion program. The program finished its first full year of providing individual assistance to people transitioning from the criminal justice system back into the community. These Community Health Advocates connected more than 60 people in 2022 to help them access the resources they needed to reduce their chances of returning to prison. The success of this initiative can be seen by the nearly 4,000 days the participants did not spend incarcerated in 2022, saving the local community between $219,000 and $260,000.
Overall, Springfield-Greene County Health Community Health Advocates who are a part of these programs assessed the needs of nearly 900 participants and made more than 720 referrals to critical services like healthcare, mental health services, housing assistance, employment opportunities, childcare programs, and even social-emotional support. These referrals allowed clients to access resources, achieve stability, and live healthier lives.
2022 BY THE NUMBERS
100% of Jail Diversion participants obtained housing and employment while less than 1% relapsed into criminal behavior.
Made 638 referrals for resources like food assistance or clothing closets to families through the Community Health Advocate programs.
Reunited 409 dogs with their owners and sent 499 dogs and 178 cats to find forever homes through rescue partners.
Completed 3,589 STI tests for patients seeking free testing and treatment.
PARTNERING FOR A BETTER COMMUNITY
In pursuit of our vision to create a healthier community, every area of our department embraced the spirit of collaboration that is so essential to public health. Whether partnering with federal or state governments, local healthcare or community partners, or internally between divisions, collaboration drives many of our accomplishments.
“Working hand-in-hand with the state to stand up the Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) program to reduce sexually transmitted infections and stop the rise in syphilis in our community is going to be a game changer!”
Coordinator of Communicable Disease Prevention
“The many programs and initiatives the department put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been possible without the resources provided by FEMA. Opportunities like this allow us to better serve Greene County and the surrounding area.”
“Working with the epidemiology team helps us better respond when animal bites do occur. Together we are working to ensure that our community remains free of rabies cases in humans.”
Animal Control Supervisor
For example, in 2022, SGCHD received funding through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Disparities grant, which funds our initiative to reduce public health disparities and improve health outcomes among underserved individuals. Throughout 2022, the Federal Emergency Management Agency continued to support our local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with reimbursement for needs such as testing, vaccine and education. Finally the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is a continual source of support. In 2022, the agency approached us to partner on reducing the rate of STIs in Greene County through the new Disease Intervention Specialist program and helped fund our COVID-19 Community Health Worker initiative (CHWi) program.
In order to create lasting improvements to our community’s health, our department collaborates with our health care partners, including CoxHealth, Mercy Hospital, Jordan Valley Community Health Center and Burrell Behavioral Health. After working very closely over the past few years to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our team continues partnering with these organizations to assure access and reduce the prevalence of illness in Greene County. This year, Jordan Valley Community Health Center and the Health Department took the next step in improving maternal and children’s health outcomes by partnering to bring the Family Connects program to every eligible family in Greene County. Program implementation is part of our 2022 Community Health Improvement Plan, and will provide a nurse home visit for families after an infant is born to assess their health and the community connections of the family.
In addition to the partners already mentioned, collaboration with community organizations continues to be vital to success, especially when it comes to delivering services to vulnerable populations. We have found that working with trusted community partners in comfortable, familiar spaces have made our programs more effective. For example, in 2022, Springfield-Greene County Library District hosted 122 vaccine COVID-19 vaccine clinics and handed out 4,500 at-home test kits and 50,000 masks on our behalf. Springfield Public Schools hosted an additional 15 vaccine clinics. SPS also continued to support our vaping education program for middle and high schoolers. With the help of Community Partnership of the Ozarks, we formed the Greene County Health Equity Collaborative to begin the process of improving health outcomes for disparate populations. These are just a few examples of the dozens of other nonprofits, businesses, and organizations that have contributed to the health of our community.
As our external collaboration has excelled, our team has continued to find new and innovative ways to work across programs and divisions within the Department to better serve our community as well. One example of this in 2022 was a collaborative effort by the Animal Control, Epidemiology, and Communication teams. Seeing a need for more communication on lost pets, responsible pet ownership, and rabies prevention information, the Animal Control team proposed the creation of a new platform to get this information to the public. Working with Animal Control and Epidemiology staff, the Communication team added more useful and relevant information to the redesigned Animal Control webpage, updated the rabies prevention education materials, and created the Springfield-Greene County Animal Control Facebook page in February of 2022 to share this information and raise awareness of the animals currently at the Animal Shelter. The response from the public on this new source of information has been overwhelmingly positive. The content posted was viewed more than 628,000 times and helped several people reunited with their lost pets.
As we move forward to create new programs and implement innovative ways to address public health issues, our team will continue working together to strengthen our response and serve our community.
2022 BY THE NUMBERS
Held 296 COVID-19 and/or flu vaccine outreach clinics to make these immunizations accessible to every part of our community.
Provided prenatal case management to 349 pregnant individuals and 379 infants through our NEST Partnership program.
Provided 21,801 people with information on COVID-19, vaccinations, testing, and other resources through the COVID-19 Call Center, events, door-to-door outreach, etc.
Provided WIC benefits and services to our 11,198 members.
REGAINING OUR MOMENTUM
“Our food inspectors have had to wear many hats these past few years. We are grateful for the opportunity to get back to work building partnerships with Greene County’s thriving food service industry!”
Environmental Health Program Coordinator
“We are thankful to our partners for filling the gap we left at the start of the pandemic, but I am glad we are able to provide testing and treatment to our community again.”
Public Health Nurse
“I am happy to be able to use my skills to make our guidance and services accessible to Spanish speakers in our community.
Community Health Advocate
Much of 2022 was spent resetting the priorities our department was working toward before March of 2020. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has waned, and we have shifted to an ongoing response, many programs found time to reestablish their baselines and set new, ambitious goals.
For example, the Environmental Health team worked tirelessly to provide food establishments with education and helped to rebuild the relationships that took a backseat during the pandemic. In just one year, the team revitalized its food safety program, restarted pool safety inspections, and even began a quality improvement project to build a more effective program than even before the pandemic began. In 2022, 97% of high priority food establishments received an inspection.
Another area that was significantly impacted was our sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment program. The clinic closed completely during the beginning of the pandemic, which resulted in high demand once these services were restarted in March of 2022. The team overseeing the STI program was able to meet this demand and even work to expand with more testing opportunities in October 2022.
Some programs were able to retain their existing capacity but were faced with unexpected challenges that changed the way they had to work over the last few years. For example, prior to 2020, we may not have expected a pandemic would have significant effect on our Animal Control program. However, as more people began working from home, many of them adopted new pets.
The Animal Control team began to notice an increase in calls, because as the population of pets in Greene County increases, so does the need for services.
They handled this new pace with grace and empathy while always keeping the health and safety of our community top of mind.
These are only a few examples of the extraordinary work our team at Springfield-Greene County Health put into regaining our momentum. We have overcome several challenges that were caused by the pandemic, and many of our programs have set their sights on new ways to serve our community.
SUPPORTING GROWING FAMILIES
Amber became a WIC member when her oldest son was born, so when her now 1-year-old daughter was born premature, she knew where to turn. Her daughter, Willow, was in the NICU for 61 days, and when she finally came home she needed special formula that would have been difficult for Amber to purchase on her own. Though the WIC program, the family was able to get the nutritional resources that Willow needed in order to thrive!
SHAPING THE ROAD AHEAD
As our teams have worked to regain momentum, there have been many opportunities to continue advancing our mission in new and innovative ways. Many of the lessons learned in the past few years along with the people we’ve been able to add to our teams have laid the ground for new or improved programs and initiatives. With such a solid foundation, the future of Springfield-Greene County Health is exciting.
One of the most important lessons we’ve learned in the past few years is that even when an emergency affects us all, it does not impact us in the same ways. The idea that disparities in health exist is not a new one, but the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted them in several ways. That is why we identified health equity as one of our strategic priorities in our new strategic plan, along with community health to ensure that we are working to increase our impact across Greene County. Additionally, we have fully supported the creation of the new Health Equity Committee and Greene County Health Equity Collaborative. Led by our Chief Medical Officer, these groups have already worked on and inspired several new initiatives.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted just how much work we have ahead of us to ensure that we are providing effective and culturally competent services and information to everyone in Greene County.”
Dr. Nancy Yoon,
Chief Medical Officer
“Nothing we do would be possible without our staff. I am excited to take on this new role and prioritize workforce development in our department!”
Public Health Program Representative
One important example of how a focus on health equity will improve our department is the work to assess and expand the accessibility of our services and information to those with non-English language preferences. Working with internal staff and outside services, we want to ensure we can equitably engage with the deaf and hard of hearing community, Spanish speakers, and many other groups with limited English proficiency.
Other programs have also looked for ways to reach more of our community in need. In 2023, for instance, the WIC program will be decentralizing its program and expanding to three brand new locations in west and northwest Springfield and a new building in Republic. This is only possible because of a continued partnership with Missouri WIC and the Jordan Valley Community Health Center.
Springfield-Greene County Animal Shelter
While we must ensure that our existing programs and services reach all who need them, there are several areas that we are looking to invest in to amplify our impact. Our Animal Control officers have been utilizing the aging shelter in innovative ways to keep up with the demand of their program. Thanks to a partnership between the City of Springfield and Greene County, a new animal shelter, will better ensure a safe and secure environment to house animals, as well as shelter employees.
Priority Health Issues
In 2022, our department came together with leaders from dozens of public health, health care, mental health, and community organizations to assess the needs of our community and create plans to address them. The Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) identified mental health, substance use & recovery, and diabetes as priority health issues. Mental health and substance use were also identified as priorities in the 2022 SGCHD Strategic Plan. Looking forward, we will be aligning efforts and working with all relevant stakeholders to begin to improve the outcomes related to these issues that are severely impacting our community through collaborative approaches. Using the CHNA as its guide, Springfield-Greene County Health and other Healthy Living Alliance partners will begin working on its Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) in 2023. CHIP initiatives include bringing a Family Connects nurse home visit model to every child born in Greene County, creating an Overdose Fatality Review Board to address the growing number of opioid overdoses, implementing a Community Information Exchange system to improve referral pathways to healthcare and community organizations, and advocating for a trauma-informed community.
A Critical Investment
Finally, to continue serving Springfield and Greene County effectively, we must reinvest in our most critical asset - our team. None of this work would be possible without the exemplary staff at Springfield-Greene County Health. That is why we identified workforce development as a priority in our new strategic plan and added a new workforce development position who will formalize and build on our many efforts to recruit, hire, train, and support a strong public health workforce. This includes continuing to recognize and support the mental health of our team to ensure that we are able to collectively weather any potential storms in our future. Not only will this allow us to continue building a successful and innovative team of dedicated public servants, but it will also prepare us for the road ahead and allow us to better fulfill our mission to protect and improve community health.