Inyo-Mono Public Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson

It’s National Public Health Week, so we spoke with Inyo-Mono Public Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson.  Cleland Hoff interviewed the doctor about the many aspects of Public Health that mostly go unnoticed.

Dr. Johnson said that the citizens are impacted by Public Health when they go out and eat at a restaurant.  Inspections are done by Environmental Health in Inyo and Mono.  When you drink water, Environmental and Public Health inspect the small water systems.

Communicable disease is addressed by Public Health – whooping cough, influenza, H1N1 Bird flu – surveillance and epidemiology.  Chronic disease is addressed by public health, including disease prevention.  Dr. Johnson said public health works with families to treat and prevent obesity. The departments help with infants, mothers and breast feeding.  Children with special needs fall under California Children Services which is housed in public health. Immunizations – programs for that, too.

Dr. Johnson said, “Those are just some of the many things we do.  Every phone call is different – rabies, hantavirus, whooping cough, concerns about a meal eaten at restaurant, or contamination of a water supply.”

Johnson concluded that “Things are going well.  We’re usually invisible.  This week we wanted to call your attention to Public Health.” The doctor  encouraged the public to call with questions and concerns.

He did add that one thing Public Health is concerned about is smoking.  He said that both counties have helped the public decrease the rate of smoking.  He said a ballot initiative, Proposition 29, would add another tax – $1 per pack.  “This is important,” he said.  “The money will be used for cancer research and to help kids from starting to smoke.”

Johnson said that recent data shows that teen smoking continues to increase.  He also said that the political reality is that the amount of money spent by Proposition 29 is dwarfed by money spent by the tobacco industry which would “love this initiative go down to defeat.”