Chat about public health issues with Dan Partridge

February 27, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Dan Partridge is the new director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.


Good afternoon. This is Dennis Anderson, managing editor of the Lawrence Journal-World. I will be moderating today's chat with Dan Partridge, the new director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. Welcome, Dan.

Dan Partridge:

Hello Dennis and thank you for providing me with this opportunity to hear from the public.


Before we start with readers' questions, please give us some brief background on yourself.

Dan Partridge:

Sure, my background is 16 years in public health with the Reno County Health Department in Hutchinson KS. I started work there as an environmental health sanitarian and left this past January as Associate Director. During that time I have gone back to school and will be receiving my Master of Public Health degree this May from the University of Kansas.

I am married to Rhonda Partridge and have two sons Matthew and Kurt.


What are the pressing health issues in Douglas County?

Dan Partridge:

Currently my focus is on creating new connections within the community, both at the personal level as I am new to the community, and also as an agency. Some of the foundation principals of public health practice are to:
monitor the health status of the community
create partnerships for solutions to health issues, and then
link people to those services.

This requires a commitment to community engagement. Fostering that committment, both internally within the Department and with our community partners is high on my list of priorities.

In short I don't want to define the public health issues without first listening to and understanding the needs.

I would also add that Lawrence and Douglas County have benefited for many years from the work done by Health Dept. staff and I hope to continue to be able to provide the department with the resources and leadership it has enjoyed over the years.


Here come the readers' questions.


The Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market has always wanted to have monthly chef demonstrations at the Saturday Market. In the past the market has been told that the samples would need to be prepared in advance (in the chef's certified kitchen) and individually packaged in a sealed container.
Is this information accurate?
Weighing the benefits of exposing folks to great recipes using fresh fruits and vegetables prepared by talented chefs with the challenges of preparing these dishes out of doors, what can be done to bring the chefs demos to our citizens?

Dan Partridge:

Food safety has been a high visibility concern lately and rightly so. Foodborne illness is greatly under-reported in the U.S. and also very preventable when proper precautions are taken. While I appreciate good food as much as the next person we can't ignore the public benefit that come from safe food practices. Food service regulations focus on controlling potentially hazardous foods unfortunately cut fruit such as melons are known to support the growth of disease causing bacteria and controls are needed.


What is the role of the health department in the community?

Dan Partridge:

The core functions of public health are:
To assess the community for environmental and public health threats.
To assure that health needs and issues are identified and met.
To shape public policy for the benefit of the public's health.
These are lofty goals and require many partners. At the Lawrence-Douglas County we provide immunizations to help control the spread of communicable diseases, provide family planning services, work with teen mothers to help them provide the best care possible for them and their child, provide food vouchers for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their children, develop community partnerships and then inspect regulated facilities such as child care home and swimming pools.


What do you plan to advise residents of the Lawrence-Dounglas County area about the October 14, 2006 ruling of the Food and Drug Administration that infant formula should not use or be be made up with fluoridated water, either from the tap or from nursery water containing added fluoride, as sold in various stores in the Lawrence area?

Dan Partridge:

We see many new mothers through our programs and we encourage them first to breast feed if possible as this provides the greatest benefit to the infant. I have not asked staff how they advise mothers who use formula but will look into that for you.


Federal law states, "If mercury levels in a waste exceed the Toxicity Characteristic Leach
Test (TCLP) level of 0.2 mg/L for mercury, then the waste is identified
as a hazardous waste based on the toxicity characteristic". The EPA considers solutions hazardous waste at only 200 parts per billion and water contaminated at only 2 parts per billion.

Presently, flu vaccine contains 50 mg/l of mercury from the thimerosal preservative. The concentration of mercury in the flu vaccine (containing thimerosal) presently being recommended to babies and pregnant women is 250 Times more toxic than the above level the EPA considers to be hazardous waste. Most vaccines contain a concentration of mercury at 50,000 parts per billion The concentrations of mercury in the vaccines equate to 250 times the concentration of mercury to be considered hazardous waste by the EPA. Why does the Health Department recommend hazard waste be injected into any form of life? AND what do you do with the unused toxic vaccines?

Dan Partridge:

We follow current guidelines from the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the federal government makes there decisions on immunizations they look very carefully at the risks of receiving any vaccine and compare it to the benefits of avoiding the disease. Flu kills approx. 36,000 people a year. Some mercury free vaccines have been developed so there are alternatives.


Is health care access not an un-alienable right?
When will money stop taking precedance over life?

Dan Partridge:

I believe the opportunity to live in a community which has set in place public health policies and regulations that minimize threats to health to the greatest extent possible is the role of government.
How to pay for medical care is a political question that I can't answer.


Who should answer that question?

Dan Partridge:

The people you elect.


We're out of time. I want to thank the readers for your questions, and Dan Partridge for his answers. Dan, I hope you can come back for another online chat down the road.

Dan Partridge:

I appreciate everyone's questions and the concern and interest they show. If you want me back I would be glad to do this again.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Lawrence-Journal World for their interest in public health and the City of Lawrence and Douglas County for their long-time support.


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