Public Health Branch Overview

Public Health Branch Overview

HHSA’s Public Health programs have got your whole family covered, from your newborn to your great-grandma. Need a birth certificate? Check. School immunizations? Check. Food assistance for your hungry kids? Check. Help with a chronic illness? Check. Death certificate? Check. There is something for everyone when it comes to Tulare County Public Health programs.

In addition to those that help protect the well-being of all Tulare County residents, such as the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program, the Tobacco Awareness and Education program, and Environmental Health programs, there are Public Health programs specifically geared toward helping lower-income families, such as WIC, CHDP, Family PACT, and CCS (yes, we have an acronym or initialism for almost everything!). Add to that programs that target specific health issues such as AIDS, HIV, immunizations, childhood lead poisoning, obesity, and women’s health issues like breast and cervical cancer. Read on for some of the details about those programs.

PHEP plays a vital role in emergency preparedness. Through extensive planning, education, and training, PHEP ensures that the county’s first responders and health care system are prepared to respond  when public health emergencies arise, such as major disease outbreaks, bioterrorism incidents, chemical spills, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, or extreme weather conditions.

Then there are the health crises that we bring upon ourselves. Did you know that tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death in the nation? The Tobacco Awareness and Education Project aims to change that by working to decrease the use of tobacco products and raising awareness of the health problems associated with tobacco use. The project also works to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors and to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in apartment buildings; it also reports violations of tobacco laws.

Maybe you’re starting to tip the scale at a level you are not at all happy with. You’re not alone—we have an obesity rate of over 29% in Tulare County. Residents who need help adjusting their diet and exercise programs can take advantage of the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (NEOP) program, which cooperates with other local programs to offer education on basic nutrition, eating healthy on a budget, increasing physical activity, and healthy recipe food demonstrations. You can also take advantage of the local community events hosted by NEOP that encourage healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, like the Fruit & Veggie Fest, Food Day, Latino Health Awareness, and other community forums. NEOP encourages you to make small changes today for a healthier tomorrow!

Lower-income families often struggle to get the health care they need, and HHSA’s Public Health Branch provides a number of programs to mitigate that problem. Maybe you’re a young mother with lots of love but few resources; if you’ve just had a baby, are breastfeeding, or have a child under the age of five, you might be eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which provides vouchers for purchasing healthy food, as well as nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care and other social services. There are nine WIC locations in Tulare County that you can call or visit to see if you’re eligible for the program; some income guidelines apply.

What if you don’t have any medical coverage and need medical attention but cannot afford to pay for it? If you have low income, don’t qualify for Medi-Cal, and are unable to pay for your medical expenses on your own, you may qualify for the TCMS (Tulare County Medical Services) program. If you are ill and need to see a doctor right away, you may apply for the TCMS program at one of our health care centers.

There are several Public Health programs that can help you keep your children in good health. One program helps you get regular checkups for your children, which can uncover health problems in their earliest stages when they are easier to treat. The CHDP (Child Health and Disability Prevention) program provides no-cost health checkups to children and youth from low-income families. Free or low-cost vaccinations are available through our Immunization Program for children whose parents cannot afford them. And when your child has a debilitating illness, such as cancer, a heart defect, cerebral palsy, or problems associated with premature birth, the CCS program (California Children’s Services) may be able to help cover the costs of treatment. Eligibility for this program includes being a resident of Tulare County, having a child under 21, and meeting certain income requirements.

Here’s another health concern you might not be aware of: If you live in a home built before 1978, it’s possible that the paint used in the home contains lead, a toxic substance that, over time, can lead to a wide range of damaging effects on the body, especially for children. It can affect your child’s ability to learn, pay attention, grow normally, and behave appropriately. The Lead Poisoning Prevention program works to prevent the damaging effects of lead poisoning by providing home inspections, testing, identifying and removing the source of the lead, and—along with your primary care physician, a public health nurse, and an environmental health specialist—developing a treatment plan for your affected child.

Just as regular checkups help keep children healthier, regular screenings for certain types of cancer help keep women healthier. At Every Woman Counts, the goal is to detect breast and cervical cancer as early as possible. At our Visalia and Farmersville clinics, screenings such as breast exams, mammograms, pelvic exams, Pap tests, and follow-up services are available to women without health insurance or those who have Medi-Cal or Medicare. Get screened! Ninety-five percent of women whose breast cancer is found early survive.

Men, women, and teens with low income can take advantage of the Family PACT (Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment) program to find out about birth control methods, get contraceptives, and learn how to prevent or treat sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If you need help applying for Medi-Cal benefits, Family PACT can help you with that, too, so you can get regular and preventive medical care.

But suppose you made a mistake and now you’re afraid you might have an STD, maybe even AIDS? Check out the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Education program to get confidential and rapid testing, as well as information about your diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention.

Of course, we would be remiss not to mention our quality health care clinics in Visalia and Farmersville, where children and adults can receive treatment for a wide variety of ailments. Specialists like pediatricians, obstetricians, ophthalmologists, cardiologists, and endocrinologists are available at the clinics to treat whatever health issues that may arise, in a warm, welcoming environment, and in your preferred language.  The health care centers accept a variety of insurance and payment plans, including Medi-Cal; they even help those with no insurance. There are specialists onsite to help figure out what type of health care coverage you might qualify for.

And finally, any discussion of public health programs would be incomplete without addressing the basics: birth and death. Whether you’ve just been blessed with a new bundle of joy or just experienced the passing of a loved one, you’ll need the services of the Office of Vital Records, where you can register your baby’s birth or obtain an official death certificate, available either by mail or in the office.

And there you have it. From birth to death, when it comes to protecting health and preventing disease, HHSA’s Public Health Branch has got you covered!

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