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County health data show department visits, clients served cut in half

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The number of visits made to the Rowan County Health Department for services from July to December amounts to half the visits made during the same period in 2019, which public health workers say signals the impact the pandemic has had on being able to properly address the health needs of the community.

Nina Oliver, the county’s public health director, shared data with the board of health on Tuesday about the number of department visits and clients served as of December versus the total visits and clients served between July 2019 to December 2019.

Those departments include adult health, breast cancer and cervical cancer prevention, child health, family planning, immunizations, maternal health, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, telehealth and dental.

By December 2019, 10 departments collectively saw 8,252 visits, which is more than twice the number of visits as of December 2020 — 4,091. In all of those categories except breast cancer and cervical cancer prevention, the number of visits up to the same point in 2019 was more than double July 2020 to December 2020.

Telehealth, however, saw only one visit in December and none throughout 2019-20.

Perhaps the starkest difference was seen in child health visits. Only 86 visits were made between July on December 2020. At the same point in December 2019, 740 visits were made for child health services.

The report presented to the health board shows the following:

• Adult health: 242 visits as of December versus 946 visits from July 2019 to December 2019

• Immunizations: 236 visits as of December versus 640 visits from July 2019 to December 2019

• Maternal health: 767 visits as of December versus 1,253 visits from July 2019 to December 2019

• Family planning: 928 visits as of December versus 1,422 visits from July 2019 to December 2019

• Sexually transmitted infections: 457 visits as of December versus 1,073 visits from July 2019 to December 2019

• Tuberculosis: 54 visits as of December versus 247 visits from July 2019 to December 2019

• Dental: 1,305 visits as of December versus 1,920 visits from July 2019 to December 2019

Data also show the number of clients served among the departments. As of December, all 10 departments have collectively served 3,651 patients. Between July to December of 2019, those departments collectively served 4,376 patients.

Alyssa Harris, the county’s community health manager, said the numbers show the great amount of work public health staff are putting in to address the pandemic in addition to providing essential services such as WIC and sexually transmitted invections testing and prevention. WIC, or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, is a federal assistance program that serves low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children younger than 5 with their healthcare and nutrition needs.

But despite the pandemic, locals still continue to experience various chronic conditions that must be addressed.

“All that work really takes away from the other things,” Harris said.

Oliver said that as of Dec. 29, more than 19,000 hours have now been dedicated to the pandemic response in Rowan County since March. For reference, about 8,600 hours make up one year.

“So in 10 months, we have dedicated two years of our lives to the COVID response,” Oliver said. “It really hit me. I do think it’s pretty impactful.”

The role of public health workers, Harris said, is to understand the community’s needs so that they can work with their partners to ensure community needs are being addressed.

But as the community continues to vaccinate locals and better manage the pandemic, it relieves some burden on not only public health staff, but also first responders, Harris said. And with more vaccinations, health department staff expect the number of visits and clients served to increase.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246. 

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