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Make our health a county priority

A key responsibility of government is to protect public health and welfare, but public health often doesn't get a high enough priority in decision making.

For example, the Goodhue County Mining Study Committee, set up to help Goodhue County deal with frac sand mining, doesn't have a member with public health expertise or authority, even though frac sand dust and truck exhaust are known to cause death and disease.  

It can't be because the county doesn't have public health resources.

From the website of the Goodhue County Public Health Service (

"The mission of Goodhue County Public Health Service is to promote, preserve, and protect the health of our communities."

"The Goodhue County Public Health Service (GCPHS) is the oldest county health department in Minnesota. Thirty-five employees work in healthy communities, maternal and child health, adult health, and the jail health programs."

"These services are designed to improve the health of Goodhue County residents and/or to help individuals live comfortably at home when illness, age or disabilities occur. GCPHS promotes the health of our County by emphasizing disease prevention through education, collaboration with social service and health care providers, and the effective use of community resources and health services. GCPHS protects the health of the public by assuring water and food are safe as well as places used by the public such as swimming pools, hotels, and resorts.  GCPHS preserves the health of individuals and the community through health screening, immunizations and disease surveillance. Individuals may receive comprehensive case management to assure all of the necessary services are available to needy individuals."

Unfortunately, our public health officials are usually left to deal with the consequences of threats to health, when instead they should be invited to the table when decisions with health consequences are made.

In most legislatures, a "fiscal note" is required — a forecast of what a bill might cost in dollars and cents. Using the same concept, important public decisions should be preceded by a "health note" giving us an indication of whether the proposed action would make our community more or less healthy.  (NOT just whether regulations would be complied with.)

If we made health a priority, in a formal, organized way, many decisions would be made differently. (We wouldn't burn garbage, for example.) Frac sand mining is a good place to start.