The Guilford County Department of Public Health – which is now part of the county’s Health and Human Services Department – has had a heck of a lot to do during the pandemic, but at least now the department has been recognized for some of its terrific work.

The department has been named the “2021 North Carolina Public Health Association Health Department of the Year.”

The award is given to health departments that have “demonstrated outstanding and exemplary health initiatives and programs.”

The winning department only gets a measly $1,000 prize, but the recognition is the main thing.

Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann was congratulated by Guilford County Commissioners at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, May 5.

Many people don’t realize it, but the Guilford County Health Department was the first full-time health department in North Carolina and the second in the entire country.  It has long been considered a leader in the state when it comes to public health.

A century ago, in response to high infant mortality and the need for typhoid fever and smallpox vaccinations for school kids, on Monday, May 1, 1911, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners established the department and appropriated $2,500 for a physician’s salary and expenses.

Last year, the Health Department celebrated its 100th birthday and this year it can celebrate being picked as the best in North Carolina.

The department’s recognition was due largely to its work during the pandemic and especially its  “creativity and determination” when it came to trying to keep Guilford County residents safe.

Here are some of the initiatives that led to the selection of Guilford County’s Health Department for the award:

  • Care management for high-risk pregnancy
  • Programs that addressed the health of the homeless
  • . A transition program for former jail and prison inmates
  • Collaborative opioid awareness and related outreach efforts
  • COVID-19 testing, contract tracing, surveillance, vaccinations, mitigation and “nationally recognized” messaging campaign.