Barry-Eaton District Health Department promotes health programs at City Council meetings across Lansing area

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Lisa Wegner, community health promotion specialist at the Barry-Eaton District Health Department, went up to the podium at the Grand Ledge City Council meeting on Monday, March 12 to speak about the department’s several programs. 

Wegner addressed the department’s Hepatitis A vaccinations, their Pathways to Better Health program and their Michigan traffic crash report and accident prevention.

Abigail Lynch, also a community health promotion specialist for Barry-Eaton District Health Department, said the Barry-Eaton District Health Department serves 21 communities in Barry County and 26 communities in Eaton County through providing helpful and affordable programs.  

“The Hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan started back in the fall of 2016 and Eaton County saw its first case that was linked to the outbreak in December of 2017,” she said. “Because we’re now considered to be part of the outbreak, we have funding from the state to really ramp up our prevention efforts to keep people from getting Hepatitis A.”

In addition to providing walk-in Hepatitis A vaccinations, Lynch said the health department also works together to provide helpful resources that help prevent diseases and other factors that play into health.

“We track the rates of chronic disease, we track the rates of communicable disease, all sorts of these things that can affect health,” she said. “One of those things is accident and injury prevention, so we were looking at data from 2011 to 2015 and trying to figure out the major causes of deaths through accidents was, and one of the top factors in that was traffic crashes.”

The traffic report done by the health department was shared at the Grand Ledge City Council meeting and will be shared at other meetings around the Lansing area. Lynch said she hopes sharing the reports through city council meetings and emails will lead government leaders to consider the data when making traffic-related decisions in the town or city they’re serving.

“We have a small team of people at the health department, I think there’s about 10 of us, who, in the course of a year, we make it to all of the cities, villages and towns at least once and sometimes twice,” she said. “Basically, we want to know what’s going on in the communities that we serve, so that’s one reason why we go.”

Lynch said the health department also wants to “give a face to a name” when they go to promote their services at the meetings. That way, members of each community can reach out to the department and their programs.

“We also want people in the community to know what kind of services we offer, so that’s kind of a venue for us to promote health department services,” she said. “It’s also a way for the government leaders in these municipalities to become familiar with the health department, put a face to a name and kind of facilitate relationships.”

Lynch said she thinks it’s important for residents to know what is going on in their community.

“We want the maximum amount of people to learn about the services that we offer because, often times, community members don’t know that we have a lot of great resources that, even if they don’t help them, they know somebody who these services could help,” she said.

Overall, Lynch said speaking at City Council meetings has been successful in connecting with people and government officials in all of the communities the department serves.

“Somebody from the health department is there after the meetings,” she said. “Someone from the municipality might come up and start talking to us about a different program. I’ve had people come up and provide feedback on some of our programs, and that’s good information to have.”

Many of the cities publish the health department’s monthly newsletter in their agenda, which also allows people of each community to learn more about the services they provide that could benefit them, Lynch said.

Grand Ledge City Council meetings are “pretty calm,” aim to serve community

Throughout serving on the Grand Ledge City Council for two decades and as mayor for the past 11 years, Kalmin Smith has experienced his fair share of City Council meetings.

Smith said, in his time being mayor, the City Council meetings at Grand Ledge have been calm and effective.

He said he has witnessed City Council meetings in other communities that don’t go as smoothly and believes that Grand Ledge has something special.

“Most of the council meetings here are pretty calm,” he said. “Things really go well here. It’s easy to be mayor.”

The council frequently gives members of the community time to speak throughout the City Council meetings. Smith said only a handful of Grand Ledge residents usually attend the meetings.

“People can watch it at home because it’s televised,” he said. “We usually will have one or two people each time and it might be a local complaint about something. Most often, it’s somebody trying to promote some activity in the community.”

Smith said the City Council meetings are always televised three times a day on the local channel for the two weeks following the meeting that was most recently held.

He also said people of the Grand Ledge community walk into City Hall all the time with questions and concerns.

“I look at it this way,” he said. “I want to live in a place that’s well run and where people get along, and if it’s well run and if the people who run it communicate what they’re doing really well and are open to input from the community, things really go easily and you can have a great community.”

Eva Lund, a Grand Ledge resident, attended her first City Council meeting on Monday, March 12 with her husband.

“This is our first meeting we’ve ever been to,” she said. “We just wanted to come to see what it’s like and see how it happens because I’ve never been to a City Council Meeting before.”

She said she initially thought the meeting would be intimidating, but after the meeting was over, she felt like she could comfortably come to the meetings in the future to voice an issue.

“I think it went well,” she said. “Everyone was civil and gave opportunity numerous times for audience members to speak or ask questions. It seemed like all of the things they talked about and decisions they made seemed reasonable.”

She said she thinks City Council meetings are important to residents of Grand Ledge because they can find out what is happening in their community and they can also have their voices and opinions heard by the council.

“Our point of view is just that we moved here three years ago and plan on raising a family here and being here long-term, so I’m just interested in keeping up to date periodically to just find out what’s going on,” Lund said.

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