Thanks from an out­go­ing med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NEWS - VALERIE JAEGER

As res­i­dents of Ni­a­gara, we have much for which to be thank­ful – gen­er­ally be­nign weather as far as Canada goes, ex­cep­tional hik­ing and bik­ing trails, and sea­sonal ac­cess to amaz­ing fresh pro­duce.

As med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health for Ni­a­gara for the past seven years, I am also grate­ful for the daily work of the hun­dreds and thou­sands of peo­ple across Ni­a­gara who ded­i­cate their lives to im­prov­ing the health of oth­ers.

Pub­lic Health‘s work is al­ways ac­com­plished in part­ner­ship with oth­ers; school boards, com­mu­nity ser­vices, pri­mary care, day­cares, the Y, and a host of not-for-profit and pri­vate sec­tor or­ga­ni­za­tions. I would hope that all our part­ners al­ready know how much their work is ap­pre­ci­ated.

In this ar­ti­cle, how­ever, I would like to high­light the im­por­tance of a group of peo­ple who would never ap­pear on pub­lic health’s usual list of ‘part­ners.’

I am re­fer­ring to those whose over­seas col­leagues be­long to the most dan­ger­ous oc­cu­pa­tion in the world to­day – jour­nal­ists. For­tu­nately, the mem­bers of the press in Ni­a­gara do not face im­pris­on­ment or worse, but nei­ther do I feel that they of­ten get the recog­ni­tion that they de­serve.

We in Ni­a­gara are so very lucky to still have lo­cally-based me­dia out­lets for both print and ra­dio that care about things that are hap­pen­ing close to home and have the in­ter­est and ex­per­tise to re­port on them. When I was do­ing my Master of Pub­lic Health train­ing at Univer­sity of Toronto a num­ber of years ago, we had a pre­sen­ta­tion from An­dre Pi­card, the health colum­nist from the Globe and Mail. He told our group that the press could ei­ther be our great­est ally or a per­pet­ual thorn in our side and that the choice was ours.

Al­though I do not agree with Mr. Pi­card on ev­ery­thing, he was ab­so­lutely cor­rect in this.

In my time here, I can truth­fully say that the bal­ance in Ni­a­gara is strongly to that of the lo­cal press be­ing a great ally. Not that Ni­a­gara’s re­porters are not in­de­pen­dent, be­cause they are. In their own words, the truth is to be un­cov­ered, not owned and I fully re­spect their need to probe and ques­tion. But, I can­not imag­ine man­ag­ing the lo­cal re­sponse to such things as the measles out­break, the HINI pan­demic or a toxic spill with­out the im­me­di­acy of lo­cal jour­nal­ism.

So, to all the re­porters and ra­dio show hosts, thanks for car­ing enough to ask the dif­fi­cult ques­tions, thanks for be­ing there when Pub­lic Health needed to let peo­ple know which schools are closed or whether it’s safe to go out­side again af­ter a toxic spill and, most of all, thanks for be­ing a voice for Ni­a­gara.

JULIE JOCSAK/STAN­DARD STAFF

Dr. Valerie Jaeger, served as med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health for Ni­a­gara for seven years. She re­cently an­nounced her re­tire­ment.

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