O'Brien County gets public health update

O’Brien County Public Health nurse administrator Judy Nieuwenhuis talks to the board of supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in Primghar. She updated the supervisors about the services her department provides.

PRIMGHAR—Judy Nieuwenhuis wants to protect and promote the well-being and health of O’Brien County and its residents.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, in Primghar, the county public health department’s nurse administrator updated the board of supervisors on the services her office provides.

She started out by saying her department’s mission statement had been updated recently to say that she and public health nurse Erin Smith will “provide professional, respectful, caring and compassionate services to the community, promoting optimal health and safety through prevention, protection and intervention.”

The previous mission statement for Nieuwenhuis’ office said, “The mission of O’Brien County Public Health is to protect the health of the public and achieve equity in health status among the residents of the county.”

Her department’s immunization program has a goal of reducing and ultimately eliminating the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases by working with the public and private health-care providers throughout the area.

Nieuwenhuis’ office offers vaccines to children who meet the qualifications of Vaccines for Children, a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of the inability to pay.

“We have talked to the schools about making sure in April that we go and do any immunizations that the kids need,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Before, there was some miscommunication that we weren’t going to be going to the schools.

“I talked to all the schools and changed that to make sure that they know we are going to be coming,” she said. “We’re going to come in April and then we’re going to come again in August before school starts to make sure that all the kids that are supposed to be immunized are.”

The county public health department, which is based on the first floor of the courthouse in Primghar, also offers immunization audits to all schools and registered day cares in the county to ensure that all needed immunizations are up-to-date.

“We do audits every year to make sure that the kids are immunized,” Nieuwenhuis said. “If they’re not, we send home letters to the parents and they have 60 days to comply.

“If they don’t, I go back and talk to them,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a burden for the families to get here, so we have gone to the school and given the immunizations there.”

She talked about what her office does for infectious disease management.

“There are certain diseases or outbreaks that we have to follow up on for the Iowa Disease Surveillance System,” Nieuwenhuis said. “We have to go in and say that we have contacted the parents, if it’s a child, or the parents, whoever it is, and make sure that they have seen a doctor.”

Her department works with county emergency management agency coordinator Jared Johnson, Sanford Sheldon Medical Center, MercyOne Primghar Medical Center and other community partners on emergency planning and preparedness.

“We’re working with Jared to make sure that we are prepared in case we do have any kind of an outbreak so that we’ll be ready for it or any kind of disaster that occurs in our county,” Nieuwenhuis said.


Other services that O’Brien County Public Health provides include the following:

  • Caring for Kindergarten: An educational program dedicated to aiding kindergarten students throughout the county’s public and private schools in being able to afford nutritious snacks during the academic year.
  • The I-Smile Dental Home Initiative: A program managed by the Iowa Department of Public Health that connects families with preventive dental care and education for their children. O’Brien County Public Health subcontracts with Webster County to provide this service.
  • Maternal and child health: O’Brien County Public Health subcontracts with Webster County to provide education to expecting mothers or postpartum mothers who need extra maternal assistance.
  • Tobacco prevention: O’Brien County Public Health collaborates with Community Health Partners of Sioux County on local tobacco control interventions and initiatives.
  • Foot care and blood pressure screenings: O’Brien County Public Health offers monthly foot care and blood pressure screenings at the Willoway Complex in Sutherland.
  • Medication administration: O’Brien County Public Health office provides medication administration for patients who need monthly injections and have latent tuberculosis.
  • Wellness and fall assessment programs: O’Brien County Public Health collaborates with Sanford Sheldon Medical Center and MercyOne Primghar Medical Center to offer home visits to county residents who were recently released from the hospitals and who do not qualify for other services.
  • Child development screenings: O’Brien County Public Health offers parents of children ages 2 months-5 years the opportunity to have developmental screenings completed.
  • Iowa’s “5-2-1-0 — Healthy Choices Count” campaign: O’Brien County Public Health plans to develop a program this summer that fits the campaign to fight childhood obesity in the county; “5-2-1-0” stands for four simple daily health habits: five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of recreational screen-time activities, one hour or more of active play and zero sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • An information resource: O’Brien County Public Health provides assistance in helping people find needed resources for housing, Medicaid and Medicare information, and day-care providers, among other things.

For more information, contact O’Brien County Public Health nurse administrator Judy Nieuwenhuis at 712-957-0105 or jnieuwenhuis@obriencounty.org.