The fascinating and diverse role Health Protection Officers (HPOs) play in keeping our communities well will was celebrated at a book launch on 8 October.
The launch of “A Job worth Doing – Tales of Health Protection in New Zealand”, edited by Canterbury District Health Board Health (CDHB) Protection Officer Malcolm Walker, was held at the University of Canterbury Bookshop.
Evon Currie, General Manager of Community and Public Health, a division of the CDHB, says the role of a Health Protection Officer goes under the radar – until something goes wrong.
“We all benefit from the work of HPOs, even though we may not know it,” Evon says.
“Nowhere was this more evident than during the Canterbury earthquakes, where the role took on a profile it had never had before.”
Evon says health protection officers played a pivotal role preventing the outbreak of infectious disease immediately after the earthquakes.
“Compared with other similar disasters from around the world, this was pretty much unprecedented, and a credit to the work of the health protection officers.
“Some of the fundamental issues that arose during the period immediately after the earthquakes were access to good drinking water, silt contaminated by sewage, dust, insanitary houses, and the ever present risk of infectious disease being spread.”
The health protection team at the CDHB, with support from health protection officers from around New Zealand, helped prevent the outbreak of disease by:
Instigating a water sampling programme to assist the city council,
providing advice to places with their own water supplies (such as hospitals, schools and prisons),
providing advice on chlorination,
providing public health input into welfare centres.
Evon says the book captures the diversity of the role and paints a picture of how it has changed over the years.
“There are some fascinating stories in the book, covering everything from rats in pies, to climbing up rope ladders to board ships during storms. The stories demonstrate that health protection officers are a special breed of people; passionate about public health, and committed to carrying out the job the best way they can.”
Evon congratulated Malcolm for using his vast experience and large network of contacts to pull the book together, saying it is a wonderful resource for people interested in healthy communities.
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