Dramatic achievements in public health during the last century have improved our quality of life. Simple hygiene measures like hand washing and sanitation were taught to people living in New York tenements by the first public health nurses during the late 1800's. Those basic, though seemingly mundane public health measures have saved numerous lives. Public health, with its focus on prevention of illness and injury, is the quiet sentinel of the health field.

Sussex County Public Health Nursing, an office of the Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services, offers a wide variety of health-related activities and services to Sussex County residents. Its mission is to promote good health through community programs. The professional nursing staff directs efforts toward educating people about health issues, attempts to control communicable disease by investigating health problems and providing immunizations, engages in community partnerships to identify and solve health problems, and reaches out to people who need assistance finding community services. Public health nurses work to assure that people live in safe conditions that promote optimum health.

The Sussex County Office of Public Health Nursing maintains, promotes, and protects the health of our Sussex County residents.

The Office of Public Health Nursing offers numerous health clinic screenings throughout the year. Separate health screenings for women and men are scheduled at various locations throughout the county.

Cancer screenings for women include a physical exam of the breast and a pap test for cervical cancer. Cancer screenings for men include a prostate and testicular exam in addition to a PSA blood test for prostate cancer. Grant money is available to provide free screenings for people who meet financial eligibility.

Well-baby clinics are available monthly for children from birth to 5 years of age. Physical exams, vaccinations, and screenings (hearing, vision, lead, anemia, and urine) are offered. Nurses counsel parents about child development and safety issues related to children at specific ages. There is no fee for these clinics.

Skin cancer screenings and blood CHEM 18 screenings are also held throughout the year. Blood pressure readings are conducted at local senior citizen group meetings throughout the county along with educational programs tailored to the needs and requests of the senior citizens.

As flu season approaches, the public health nursing staff is finalizing plans to administer flu vaccinations at locations within the county from September through November. Pneumococcal vaccines and tetanus vaccines are offered at the same time. Clinic locations and dates are posted on the Internet at www.sussex.nj.us/nursing.

The Office of Public Health Nursing works closely with the Sussex County Emergency Preparedness Team and the Sussex County Domestic Preparedness Task Force in preparing for emergencies. Nurses collaborate with county and state agencies in planning for maintenance of health and fundamental services in the event of local, state or national emergencies. They participate in emergency drills to make certain they are prepared for any small or large public event.

Public health nurses ensure public safety by monitoring communicable diseases and tuberculosis cases within the county. Surveillance and disease trends are monitored closely and communicated to the state Department of Health as mandated by statute. Public education about diseases and their prevention and management are the responsibilities of public health nurses.

The office's "Take it to the Streets" outreach program presents health topics to area residents at various locations throughout the county; such as shopping centers, businesses and high trafficked areas in an effort to increase awareness of health issues.

Public Health Nurses are involved in the Sussex County Cancer Coalition. This is a partnership of community members and resource agencies that encourage cancer prevention behavior and increase early cancer detection for Sussex County residents. The coalition's focus, by way of public education, is to intensify awareness and reduce the morbidity/mortality rates of cancer in Sussex County.

As a member of the Sussex County Council of Service Agencies, public health nurses learn what other agencies in the county offer to residents. Networking and sharing information helps all agencies serve the population in more effective ways.

The Sussex County Office of Public Health Nursing maintains, promotes, and protects the health of our Sussex County residents. Close contact with the general population allows nurses to identify health needs of County residents. Their position as County agency employees permits nurses to use their knowledge of community needs in creating public policy that benefits everyone. Further information is available at sussex.nj.us/nursing, or by calling 973-579-0570, ext. 1211, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.