Dr. Claudia Sarbu and Dr. Delphine Grynszpan are the provincial Medical Officers of Health (MOH) for the Regional Health Authorities. Medical Officers of Health are physicians who have public health training through specialty training in public health and preventive medicine. MOH use their skills and population health knowledge to play collaborative and leadership roles in promoting and improving the health and well-being of their communities. They are responsible, with the public health team, for monitoring, preventing and controlling communicable and chronic diseases, investigating disease outbreaks and hazards to health and coordinating public health responses to health threats. MHO carry out legislated requirements under the Communicable Disease Act and other acts that pertain to communicable disease prevention and control, environmental health, drinking water protection or food premises regulations.
Communicable Disease Control
Eastern Health staff and physicians may contact the MOH when they need advice about a patient’s lab report or if they receive a request to do contact tracing.
- Communicable disease issues often take priority over other activities
- Some apparently mild illnesses spread easily and can affect a lot of people, eg Influenza
- Some illnesses are quite severe and although they may not spread easily they can have significant impact on people very close to them, e.g. meningococcal meningitis
- Some illnesses can be easily prevented altogether by immunization, e.g. measles
- Some illnesses require consistent treatment and for a long time to be controlled, e.g. TB
- Frequently, communicable disease issues also involve the environment
Environmental health issues can range from concerns individuals have about well water to the impact of industrial development on population health determinants. Within Eastern Health, two Environmental Health managers oversee day-to-day issues, but most of the work is done by Environmental Health Officers (EHO) with the Government Services Centre. EHOs are also known as public health inspectors – their day-to-day inspection and education activities help to protect the health of citizens of the communities in which we live.
Population Health and Health Determinants
The MOH also has a broad understanding of population health and health determinants. So much of what we do in the public health arena is based on interventions or actions that only result in small changes in the rates of disease or injury over long periods of time. And many of the tools we use are not as simple as a one-time immunization to prevent disease.
Advocating for policy change (eg. legislation to promote the use of bike helmets, or school nutrition practices) takes time, networking and a regular review of evidence. The search for evidence inevitably results in a need for data on program activities and processes as well as health outcomes, the results of research and evaluation studies. Information sources such as Community Accounts are invaluable in understanding our communities.
The importance of chronic diseases on the health of our population naturally come to the forefront when looking at population health. Heart disease and cancers figure prominently in our aging population, so attention is rightfully brought to bear on this topic.