New educator for health dept.
PLYMOUTH — “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” goes the old saying — and an exciting new venture is in the works at the Marshall County Health Department.
For the first time, the agency is staffing a part-time Health Educator, a position larger county health departments regularly employ.
Sandy Read, R.N., has been in the new position since January. She is well qualified for the post, and has a passion for “improving the health of the county,” she says. The Tippecanoe native graduated from Triton Jr./Sr. High School and Purdue University with a BPE degree (Bachelor of Physical Education). She taught physical education and health for 11 years at LaVille High School and coached girls basketball, volleyball, track, and soccer. “I love the outdoors,” she said.
She taught GED and adult basic education in Plymouth, but her real passion lay in the areas of wellness and fitness. In the late 1980’s she began a fitness/wellness program in her P.E. classes—well ahead of its time. So, she went back to school, receiving her R.N. degree from Ivy Tech in 2010. Her first experiences as a nurse involved establishing herself as a consultant, providing health screening and health coaching for companies’ employees.
Fast forward to today, when her unique background and interests landed her the job of Health Educator for the Marshall County Health Department—the first of her breed. There is no end to her plans and aspirations for increasing fitness and wellness across the county. The challenge will be to prioritize efforts to fit within the 20-hours-per-week she works.
Read has a plan of action which includes the following:
• Updating the Health Department’s database of health-related services available in the county by visiting every organization which deals with clients’ health: fitness centers, food pantries, the Women’s Care Center, WIC, Real Services, etc. Her goal is to help people connect with services and help to avoid duplication.
• Identifying gaps in services currently offered. She will then try to fill the needs either personally or by involving other people/agencies.
• Interacting in safety preparedness as it applies to health. She will work closely with the Emergency Management Agency and prepare to set up PODs (Points of Dispensing) in the event mass inoculations are needed, helping to train volunteers at the sites. She attends “table top” classroom exercises in disaster response, such as the Hazardous Materials table top held recently at the Marshall County Jail.
• Speaking at group meetings around the county (Jaycees, Lions, Kiwanis, Optimist, etc.) to educate them about the role and staff of the Health Department and to encourage members to volunteer in emergency situations.
• Working with schools as appropriate. The Purdue Extension Office does nutrition education in the elementary schools. Read sets up displays at school health fairs (see Photo) and will educate (hopefully through fall registration processes) parents on where to go to vaccinate their children and resolve other health issues.
• Educating the elderly in various settings. She will teach having all medicines, oxygen tanks, and pets handy to grab in case they need to leave quickly in an emergency.
Read is eagerly awaiting a community assessment performed by the St. Joseph Regional Health organization. The report will identify unmet health needs in the county. “We cannot afford to conduct such an extensive survey,” she said, “so the St. Joe document will provide invaluable information.”
The key to her success in the job, according to Read, will be involving people who want to help. This energetic health educator is off to a solid start in doing just that.