KFL&A Board of Public Health discusses summer successes, autumn goals

Environmental health compliance inspections took up a great deal of the summer agenda for KFL&A Public Health. Screen captured image.

The Board of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health met on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, for the first time since taking a summer hiatus.

The meeting began with a welcome message and land acknowledgement by Board Chair Denis Doyle. 

Doyle remarked on a recent celebration held in honour of staff and volunteers, where Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Province of Ontario, commended KFL&A for having the province’s lowest COVID-19 fatality rate and high vaccination uptake.

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, then presented a review of Public Health’s summer activities, which he called “some of the priority ticket work that we’ve embarked on with our staff.”  

“When we think about the days of summer, that’s the time a lot of people take a break. But this is the busiest time for our environmental health compliance inspections… We continued with routine inspections of safe drinking water systems, inspections of food premises, [and] rabies prevention and control investigations, and also we participated in a number of inspections of facilities that had to do with recreational programming [like swimming pools],” Oglaza explained.

To ease the transition for families as students return to a more regular school year, KFL&A Public Health and the Maltby Centre have created a ‘digital toolkit’ for families that focuses on getting “back to basics” to support family mental health. To order your copy of the toolkit, email [email protected]

Infectious disease control outreach was also a summer priority, said Oglaza. With the decreased focus on pandemic emergency response, KFL&A Public Health was able to partner with Addictions and Mental Health Services — KFLA to provide an outreach service to people requiring addictions and mental health services or any other health care, “to meet them where they are in the community” for testing, screening, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

In Oglaza’s words, “We were able to detect cases that otherwise might have not been tested [and] were able to then link individuals to care to provide treatments. That positive aspect of this approach will continue.”

Public Health has also been able to focus on catching up with the backlog of regular school immunizations that were forced to halt because of the pandemic response. Oglaza pointed out, “We’ve done clinics utilizing the existing infrastructure of mass immunization clinics… During the times of less demand for COVID vaccine, we transformed those mass clinics… to bring in grade seven students who had missed their [regular] vaccine earlier in the year.” 

And while that program continues, Oglaza said, it is important to remember that vaccines still remain the most effective measure in preventing the spread of COVID-19, which “will stay with us for any foreseeable future.”

Preparations are also under way for the administration of the universal influenza vaccination program, with Public Health readying its vaccine supply to meet demand and planning for vaccination programs. Oglaza encouraged the public to prepare for the upcoming winter season by queuing up for both Covid and flu vaccinations.

On a different topic, the Board received a recommendation from Susan Stewart, Director of the Community Health and Well-being Portfolio and the Healthy Communities Team, with regards to fossil fuels advertising.

 Stewart stated, “On June 8, 2022, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) published an open letter to five Members of Parliament, including the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Minister of Health. This letter urges the federal government to address fossil fuel advertising similarly to tobacco, as both industries pose significant risks to public health.”

“Direct and indirect health effects from fossil fuels have been well-documented, demonstrating a significant threat to public health,” explained Stewart. “While advertisements from the tobacco industry have been banned due to the health risks of commercial tobacco, burning fossil fuels, which also pose significant threats to public health, has not been subjected to similar regulations. Additionally, although current regulations in Canada prohibit businesses from making false or misleading claims, greenwashing by fossil fuel industries continues to occur.”

After some discussion of the information presented, the Board voted to support Stewart’s recommendation on climate advocacy by endorsing the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment’s open letter on fossil fuel advertising. As well, they will send a letter indicating that KFL&A Public Health has made this endorsement to: Mark Gerretsen, MP for Kingston and the Islands; Scott Reid, MP for Lanark-Frontenac Kingston; Shelby Kramp-Neuman, MP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington; Loretta Ryan, Executive Director of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies; and all Ontario Boards of Health.

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