The Phelps-Maries County Health Department reported there were a total of 18,265 visits through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program last year.

Jodi Waltman, director of the two-county health department, shared that information with Phelps County Commissioners last week in her annual report for the department for 2012.

The report states that of that total, 18,096 visits were from Phelps County and 169 were from Maries County.

WIC, one of the many programs provided by the health department, helps to prevent health problems and improve the health status of participants through good nutrition and supplements the diets of qualified participants. WIC will not provide all of the foods needed but rather foods intended to supplement their diets.

All women, infants and children must meet income guidelines and medical criteria to qualify for WIC. Those who qualify include women who are pregnant, breastfeeding (nursing a baby up to 1 year old) and postpartum (up to six months after a pregnancy has ended); infants under 1 year old; and children from 1-year-olds up to age 5.

WIC promotes breastfeeding as the optimal feeding for infants and provides education and support. The local health department’s breastfeeding peer counselor, who provides counseling to 140 clients per month, received a state award in 2012.

Additionally, Phelps County’s breastfeeding duration rate in 2012 was 72 percent, which was ranked in the top 10 in Missouri. WIC is a federally-funded program.

Other services

Among the other services provided by the Phelps-Maries County Health Department are immunizations and annual flu clinics.

In 2012, the department administered 936 flu shots in schools — 680 in Phelps County schools and 256 in Maries County schools.

In addition, annual seasonal flu shots provided by the department last year totaled 2,155 in Phelps County and there were 981 walk-in immunizations last year.

The health department also offers a community care clinic with physicians and nurses for eligible individuals without health insurance, have a limited income and are on Medicaid/Medicare.

In 2012, there were 1,611 visits at the clinic — 606 primary care visits, 167 mental health visits, 784 medication pickups and 54 labs drawn/injections.

According to the report, a community planning group is working to transition the present clinic to a federally-supported clinic that can expand access to patients and operate 40 hours per week.

The area health department also performs environmental public health services, such as food protection and inspections.

Last year, the department conducted 53 inspections of day care facilities, 284 restaurant inspections, 58 lodging inspections and 88 retail food inspections and several other environmental public health services.

Communicable diseases

The health department also assists with communicable disease investigations. There were 465 such investigations conducted in Phelps County and 50 in Maries County last year.

Communicable diseases are those that are a concern to public health and are reported and tracked by the state and federal government. All states must collect information on the federally-reportable list. In addition, the states may choose to mandate the reporting of other diseases of interest to state officials.

While tuberculosis is an old disease, with the onset of drug-resistant bacteria, the disease has become more problematic. The health department worked with 535 individuals for screening of tuberculosis in 2012.

As part of its activities in keeping the community informed, the Communicable Disease Prevention Program is responsible for the maintenance of operation of the Phelps and Maries counties node of the Missouri Department of Health’s Health Alert Network (HAN).

The reporting of communicable diseases to the health department assists in identifying how many people are affected and who else is at risk as well as to protect those at risk.

The department also prepares for health emergencies; has maternal/child health initiatives, such as the healthy families program, teen outreach program and child abuse/injury prevention; HIV/STD services; breast and cervical cancer screenings; childcare health consultations; vital records, such as providing copies of birth and death certificates; health education and promotion; and community engagement; among other services.