In an effort to implement new public health programs, Columbia County Public Health has hired a health promotion specialist, Suzanne Beaupre, who started the new role Nov. 12. Beaupre will join a staff of eight other individuals who all operate under the public health department of Columbia County.
Beaupre has a degree in Public Health from Tempe University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She said she spent many years in both Philadelphia and Portland managing medical practices, where she became well versed in healthcare systems.
“I moved into the field of emergency preparedness after become a member of my neighborhood emergency response team (NET) in Portland,” Beaupre said. “My last year was spent at the American Red Cross doing work in emergency preparedness-based community education.”
Michael Paul, Public Health Administrator for Columbia County, said the position is very important for the department.
“I cannot overstate the significance. Health promotion and chronic disease prevention is considered a foundational local public health program because chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes, are major causes of disability and death, and they exact huge costs on society and all levels of government,” Paul said.
Beaupre’s position will aid the county in disease prevention, according to Paul.
“I am a people person, so I can’t wait to build relationships and hear from community members about how they would like to see the health of their community improved,” Beaupre said.
While Beaupre is just beginning to become acquainted with the job, Paul said he believes her background and expertise are an excellent fit for the position.
“Her most recent employment was at the Red Cross, and she brings highly relevant public health education, training and experience,” Paul said.
The new position is part of a general overhaul that the Public Health department of Columbia County has experienced in the last year. According to Paul, the county started an in-house public health department last year, which has transitioned a few programs from the previous public health authority.
“When the county became the local public health authority last year, it made a lot of sense to have public health programs in house. That’s why we’re creating this position now,” Paul said.
Those programs, according to Paul, are focused on creating healthy environments, which means that the public health department can work more closely with other county departments as well as other local government entities to help create those environments. Beaupre said, because the department is new to the county, their initial efforts will be focused on building relationships with community members and stakeholders, data collection, and working on simple policy changes and capacity building.
“Programs will be the most successful if the community feels invested in them,” Beaupre said. “I think that starts with listening to people’s needs and priorities, previous experiences, and concerns.”
The health promotion specialist is funded by grants that the county received from the state in order to implement tobacco prevention education, as well as drug and alcohol prevention and education, Paul said. For that reason, Beaupre will need to work closely with the county commissioners, since they are the decision-making body for the public health authority in order to create those environments.
For Beaupre’s regular assignments, she will be responsible for providing education in conjunction with schools to implement tobacco and alcohol prevention programs. She will also assist local businesses that want to implement policies such as being a tobacco-free property. She will also be responsible for carrying out other duties that the different programs require, duties described by the Oregon Health Authority, the overarching body that governs local public health programs.
But overall, Paul said Beaupre will be instrumental in forming the link between all of Public Health’s programs and other departments in the county. He said the department’s success will depend on whether community partners view it as a resource and rely on their input. When those partnerships are strong, he said, the department can work closely with other agencies to identify funding for projects that will address the major contributors to chronic disease: poor nutrition and inadequate physical activity, substance use disorders, tobacco use, mental health, oral health, and unintentional injuries.
“I am extremely excited to be working in this role where I can help support this community on a larger scale,” Beaupre said. “I hope that my experience will prove to be a helpful resource.”