To serve our entire community and to achieve health equity by promoting well-being, preventing disease, and protecting the environment through partnerships, innovation, and excellence in public health practice.
Erika Van Dam
Deputy Health Officer
Board of Health
Under Act 368 of the Public Acts of 1978, Health Department of Northwest Michigan is organized as a district health department that includes the four counties of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego. District health departments are organized by local governing entities, which are the County Boards of Commissioners.
The Board of Health of Health Department of Northwest Michigan is comprised of two members from each of the four county's Board of Commissioners. These eight individuals meet on a monthly basis to approve Health Department programs, budget, and expenditures; to adopt regulations; to learn everything possible about health problems in the community, and to participate in finding solutions for those problems. The Board of Health employs the Medical Director and Health Officer, who direct the agency staff.
The current members of the Board of Health are as follows. Citizens may contact these Board members through the County Clerk's office in their respective counties.
David HeeresAntrim County (231) 533-6353
Karen BargyAntrim County (231) 533-6353
Shirley RoloffCharlevoix County (231) 547-7200 x12
Nancy FergusonCharlevoix County (231) 547-7200 x12
David WhiteEmmet County (231) 348-1744
James KargolEmmet County (231) 348-1744
Duane SwitalskiOtsego County (989) 731-7500
Julie PowersOtsego County (989) 731-7500
Our HistoryHealth Department of Northwest Michigan is currently in its 9th decade of service to the residents and visitors in our 4-county district. Since our establishment in 1930 as District Health Department No. 3, the department has changed names, staff, buildings, programs, and internal divisions, but dedication to our mission to protect and promote good public health remains the same, and as strong as ever.
We take protection from infectious disease and good sanitation for granted now, but in the early years of the health department, it was a different story. In the 1930s, Health Department sanitation services involved only testing the water supply at schools and resorts, and inspecting dairy farms that produced milk. Only 17 percent of the milk supply was pasteurized. Well and septic system permits, restaurant, school, and daycare inspections would all come much later.
Communicable diseases have always garnered a great deal of effort by the health agency staff. Common diseases in the 1930s included pertussis (whooping cough), measles, typhoid fever, smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, venereal disease and tuberculosis. Due to public health initiatives such as immunization, improved hygiene and sanitation, and infection control, most of these diseases are either nonexistent or very uncommon in our area today. However, communicable disease control continues to be an important part of the health department's efforts almost 90 years later.
In 1934, a great deal of money and energy went into assuring proper nutrition for children, including noonday school meals and distribution of cod liver oil. Today, children and families continue to be our primary focus. Programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Maternal Infant Health Program (MIHP) provide nutritional counseling to parents, and in the case of WIC, assistance in purchasing nutritious food.
Medical Directors throughout our history include Dr. Carleton Dean, 1930-40, a pioneer in public health; Dr. A. F. Litzenburger, 1943-67, whose work laid the cornerstone for many of today's community health programs; Dr. Robert S. Libke, 1967-77, whose genuine concern for people provided the initiative for change and growth; Dr. Jim Harrison, 1978-80; and Dr. Brian Youngs, 1980-2000, who demonstrated a commitment to quality and high standards of care. Our current Medical Director, Dr. Joshua Meyerson, came to us in October 2000. His goals include improving immunization rates across the region, increasing access to medical and dental care, and enhancing collaborative efforts with other physicians and health professionals across northern Michigan.
Because of past efforts to control infectious disease, along with the introduction of vaccines and antibiotics, the Health Department today has the luxury of focusing mostly on eradicating chronic illness by promoting healthier lifestyles. Although the causes of death are mostly the same as they were in the 1930s--heart disease, stroke, cancer and accidents--the knowledge to help prevent these illnesses is available today, and staff continue to educate community residents about healthy lifestyle choices.
It's anyone's guess what public health challenges the next 90+ years will bring, but Health Department of Northwest Michigan will strive to meet them with the same dedication to service in the community as its shown since 1930.