Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Madison County Health Agency Urged Residents at Risk, Doctor Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Madison County Health Agency Urged Residents at Risk, Doctor Says

Article excerpt

Madison County residents are "at increased risk" of public-health problems because the county lacks a health department, says the state's top public-health official.

"This is the largest county in the state without a health department," Dr. John Lumpkin, director of public health for the state, said in a recent interview.

The residents, he said, need a health department: "I think not having one puts the people at increased risk."

Madison County is the state's eighth-largest county, with about 250,000 residents and 28 towns, including Alton, Godfrey, Granite City, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Granite City and Wood River.

It's one of just 11 counties in Illinois that does not have a health department. Illinois has 102 counties.

Madison County residents aren't necessarily unsafe, Lumpkin said, but they're not getting all the public health services they need at the local level.

Of major concern, Lumpkin said, is that no one is making regular restaurant inspections. That service usually is provided by governments at the local level.

In Madison County, he said, restaurants are only inspected if some evidence of a food-borne illness is brought to the attention of the state Department of Public Health.

Madison county residents get some public health services provided under contract by hospitals and the Visiting Nurses' Association, which works under contract with the government on infant care.

The county government provides a tuberculosis clinic, a solid-waste program, nuisance control program and some regulation of wells and sewage.

But Lumpkin said: "The real heart of public health . . . is protecting the food supply, protecting the water, doing the kinds of monitoring of a community to make sure there are no outbreaks of disease. In Madison County, the severity of an outbreak has to be so large we can see it in Springfield."

The call for a countywide health department has been heard before.

About six years ago, the county board defeated a plan for one. …

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