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Christians watches families thrive at Public Health

Thu, Nov 29, 2012

One on One

Kelley Christians wanted to make a difference and advocate for healthier outcomes in El Paso County, so she became a public health professional.

Christians, health services division director at El Paso County Public Health, is second in command of the health department and oversees the majority of its employees. The 36-year-old has held the job for three months.

Despite the constant funding challenges, she says it’s motivating and uplifting to watch lives changed through the health department — particularly those of children, thanks to the educational programs and resources offered to families by the health department.

What attracted you to health care as a profession? And why public health specifically?

I have always felt motivated to help others and as a health care professional, I am afforded many opportunities to help others. Working in Public Health, I have an opportunity to make a difference where I live and grew up by advocating for change to achieve positive health outcomes for our community members.

What are the challenges of your job?

Stability of our funding presents an interesting challenge in Public Health as our country is facing the fiscal cliff and possible future cuts to government-funded programs. The challenge lies in striking a balance of maintaining numbers of patients served in our clinics while recognizing we have fewer staff to perform the work than we did four years ago. This challenge provides opportunities for us to think of things differently and encourages innovation to achieve our goals.

What are some of the things you count as major successes?

Our most recent major success would be submitting our application and required documentation with the Public Health Accreditation Board for national accreditation of our agency. We are excited about this process and anticipate a site visit to take place in spring 2013.

I would also consider the Healthy Community Collaborative group as an ongoing success in our community. The Healthy Community Collaborative goal is to stop and reverse obesity rates as part of CDC’s 10 Winnable Battles in the United States. As a registered dietitian, I am motivated by the challenge presented in how to reach a large population to affect long term behavior change. The commitment from different community members is important as we address obesity with a multi-layered approach, because obesity is a complex issue.

Health care is undergoing some serious changes in the next few years? Will your job be affected by those changes?

Health care reform will change how we do business in some avenues, which provides us with an opportunity to find new ways of serving our clients and meeting their needs. An example of this is using social media to provide educational messages and community resources to clients without having to meet face to face as often.

What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

I find it very rewarding and motivating to see all the lives touched through the programs offered by El Paso County Public Health, especially the children whose lives are changed in a positive way from the education and resources that are accessible to their parents and caregivers. Through programs like WIC, Nurse Family Partnership, Health Care Program for Children with Special Needs, I’ve seen how children and families are empowered and learn how to make changes that will enable them thrive. I love interacting with people, especially children and if I can make a difference in just one person’s life, that is worth everything.

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