In the early years, communicable disease was the leading health problem in Surry County. Tuberculosis and syphilis were very prevalent, as was diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough, polio and pellagra. Original services of the Health Department were targeted to the control, prevention, and treatment of communicable disease. Public Health Nurses were responsible for visiting the homes of scarlet fever patients and putting bright yellow QUARANTINE signs on the home's front door. Public Health Nurses educated patients about cleanliness and hygiene. They often brought cleaning supplies and helped the family clean the home. The early Public Health Nurses often visited homes with no electricity, no running water, dirt floors and some, with live chickens inside the home. Today, scarlet fever is almost non-existent in our county. Tuberculosis, almost unheard of a few years ago, is again a concern. Today's Public Health Nurses can be found working in Health & Nutrition Center clinics, giving educational programs at community meetings and schools, doing blood pressure checks or cholesterol screenings at Health Fairs, flu shots and pneumonia shots at worksites and community locations, giving childhood immunizations, and making home visits when necessary.
In the early years of the Health Department Tuberculosis (TB) patients with active cases were sent to the Sanitorium at Black Mountain, North Carolina where they stayed for treatment until they were discharged. One of the doctors from the Sanitorium would come to Surry County monthly to follow the cases. In 1936, there were 38 recorded cases of TB in Mt. Airy. The Sanitorium at Black Mountain is now closed and the chest doctor no longer comes to see patients. TB patients are now followed by their family doctor or a chest specialist. The Health & Nutrition Center continues to do TB skin tests and TB related chest X-rays. Either the family doctor or the state TB doctor reads the X-rays and gives medical orders for drugs that are recommended. These drugs are furnished free to the patients through the Health & Nutrition Center.
In the early years of the Health Department, immunizations were only given on certain days of the week. Early vaccines were DTP, Typhoid, Smallpox, and the TB skin test. Later, IPV and Oral Polio were added and smallpox dropped. Around 1960, MMR, influenza and pneumonia were added. The most recent additions to the vaccines given were the Hib and Hepatitis B. Syringes were made of glass and had to be cleaned and sterilized for reuse. The first needles had to be cleaned, sharpened, and sterilized for reuse, too. Now the Surry County Health & Nutrition Center gives immunizations every workday to infants, children and adults. Through use of a computer system, children who miss their scheduled vaccines are identified and parents are contacted with a reminder to get the life- saving vaccines. Many of the life-threatening diseases encountered and treated by the Health & Nutrition Center in its early years have been brought under control through the advancements in the field of immunization, along with the discovery of Sulfa drugs, penicillins, and tetracyclines. Through the immunization programs, measles and rubella have been brought under control. Diphtheria, whooping cough, and polio have also been conquered. A primary focus of today's Health & Nutrition Center is prevention. To that goal, shot clinics are held throughout Surry County in the fall to provide flu and pneumonia shots. Annually, the Health & Nutrition Center gives about 5000 flu shots and several hundred pneumonia shots throughout our community.
In our southern states, as in many other areas of the country, Public Health Nurses visited patients in their homes who had communicable or chronic diseases. These nurses monitored the patients and their medications or treatments. During these visits, the nurse helped the entire family, especially children in need of vaccinations or other services. The family was dependent on the nurse helping them. From time to time, a family member was sent home from the hospital with some type of need that the family did not know how to care for, so they would call on THAT NURSE from the Health & Nutrition Center that visited "Uncle Joe" when he had TB and ask her to go out and help the family. This was the beginning of home health care services in our area. In 1966, the Federal Government (HCFA) started paying for some of these services in the home. They offered hospitals the opportunity to participate in providing this care. However, hospitals declined this involvement so health & Nutrition Centers became certified agencies . In February 1967, the Surry County Health Department was certified as an agency by Medicare. The agency started out with 22 patients the first year and has grown continually.
In 2001, the Surry County Health & Nutrition Center Home Health Agency served 486 Home Health patients and 109 Personal Care Services patients. Senior Services served 878 patients with over 58,000 visits. They provide a broad range of services including skilled nursing, aide visits, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and IV therapy. The program helps people remain at home and is cost effective. With all the changes in managed health care these days, home care is the leading service to help control cost and provide the patient with needed services in the place we all want to be "Home Sweet Home".
In the early years of the Health Department, midwives delivered many of the babies born in Surry County. In the 1940's, midwives in our area were trained and certified by the Surry County Health Department. Doctors such as Robert Caldwell also came to the homes and delivered the babies there. Eventually, almost all babies were born in area hospitals. Early Public Health Nurses had the job of transporting premature babies born in Surry County to hospitals such as Baptist that had a premature nursery. The babies were transported in a hand-held incubator heated with a hot water bottle and a small tank of oxygen attached to the end of the carrier. Today, the Surry County Health & Nutrition Center is actively involved in promoting good prenatal care and reducing the infant mortality rate in our county. Several programs are in place for this purpose. The Prenatal Clinic provides prenatal care to women in an effort to reduce prenatal complications and to help assure that every pregnancy will end in the delivery of a healthy baby and a healthy mother. This clinic is administered through Mt. Airy OB-GYN. The Maternal Outreach Program (MOW) provides services to high risk Medicaid eligible women enabling them to fully avail themselves of health and social services known to promote better birth outcomes. Lay outreach workers provide supportive services. Maternity Care Coordination (MCC) provides case management services that assist Medicaid recipients in gaining access to medical, social, educational, and other services. MCC's assure that patients maneuver through the service maze and receive health care services for improved pregnancy outcomes. The RIM program (Reducing Infant Mortality) promotes the health of Surry County infants from their first heartbeat in the mother's womb to the baby's first birthday. A series of twelve classes called, "Babies and You" is offered at no charge to Surry County industries. Monthly hospital classes are also provided. Follow-up is provided to patients who are at risk for early repeat pregnancies to help increase spacing, between pregnancies. A Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Council and a Vasectomy Counseling Team have been formed. The SIDS program (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) provides counseling to patients who suffer the loss of a child to SIDS.
Clinics for the control of venereal disease were started by the Health Department in 1931. The clinics were held twice each week at the Health Department in Mount Airy. Patients were referred for treatment by their family physician or the "Welfare Department". Patients who refused treatment during the contagious stage were placed in the county jail and given treatment for at least thirty days. The Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic at the Surry County Health & Nutrition Center works to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases through screening, treatment, education, counseling, and contact of known cases. Any individual requesting service is eligible. All services are free of charge. The AIDS program provides testing, counseling, referrals and education for individuals and families dealing with the AIDS virus. The program is open to all residents of Surry County. No fee is charged for these services.
In the 1930's, all schools were visited by the Health Department when they opened in the fall. All pupils were vaccinated for smallpox who had not already been immunized. The Health Officer would then examine the children for such diseases as diseased tonsils, adenoids, defective teeth, defective vision, defective heart or lungs and orthopedic defects. Notices were sent to the parents about any problems urging them to see their family doctor. Pupils through the fifth grade were weighed and their weight recorded each month. Notices were sent to the parents of those whose weight was ten percent under weight. A half-pint of milk was furnished by the Red Cross, Kiwanis Club, and Parent Teacher Association for those under-weight children who could not pay for it. The nursing services in the school included inspection for skin diseases, lice, weighing the children, investigation of communicable diseases, and routine examination of vision and teeth. There were no dental clinics. Correction of problems were left entirely to the parents, and in many cases, nothing was done because of a lack of funds. The Health & Nutrition Center school health nurse's primary coal is to promote the maximum physical, social, emotional, and education growth of children through activities that are aimed at determining the individual health status of each child. The nurse's responsibilities include reviewing immunization records and coordinating ninth grade physicals. Scoliosis screening is conducted in grades 5, 6, and 7. The nurse is contacted to screen and follow-up all skin and scalp diseases and communicable diseases. The nurse serves as health advisor, educator, and counselor to the school faculty, parents, and students as the need arises. The Dental Health Program services include educational sessions for school and community groups, fluoride mouthrinse program, plaque control, sealants, school fluoridation, dental screening, and referral services. The Children's Special Health Services program provides early detection, diagnosis, and treatment and follow-up of chronic conditions of the ear, nose and throat. The Orthopedic Clinic offers physician exams and consultation, physical therapy, nutritional counseling, diagnostic X-rays, limited outside treatment and follow-up observation and monitoring for eligible children with orthopedic problems. The CSC (Child Service Coordination) program provides service coordination for children with, or at risk for, developmental disabilities, chronic illnesses, and social/emotional disorders. The Developmental Evaluation Clinic (DEC) is a traveling clinic which meets the needs of children who have special problems and require comprehensive evaluation before proper plans for the future can be made. This clinic provides an in-depth physical, mental, and social evaluation of the child. The clinic serves persons aged 0-21 who have developmental disabilities. The Pediatric Clinic at the Surry County Health & Nutrition Center provides comprehensive health services to infants and children in need. Children receive physical assessments, developmental evaluations, lab tests, vision and hearing screenings, nutritional assessments, immunizations, health education, and counseling. The services of the Pediatric Clinic are provided on a sliding scale basis.
In the 1930's medical care and hygiene in industrial plants in Surry County were entirely under the supervision of the individual plant. Most plants employed a doctor who was subject to be called at any time. Typically, each employee paid approximately fifty cents per month for this service and in case of illness, there was no extra fee. No nurses were employed at any of the plants. Today, the Surry County Health & Nutrition Center has a WATCH (Worksite Approach To Controlling Health) program which is designed to improve health and prevent disease in participating local businesses and industries. The program includes health risk appraisals, risk reduction counseling and health awareness classes and activities. It is available to any worksite for a reasonable fee.
In 1935, the leading causes of death per 1,000 population in Surry County were Pneumonia, Nephritis, Tuberculosis, diseases of the heart, and cancer. In 2001, the leading causes of death were heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases. The Adult Health Clinic programs aims to contribute to early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases, enhance public awareness and understanding of chronic diseases, disease related risk factors, and prevention. Services provided by the General Adult Health Clinic include immunizations, TB skin tests, and laboratory and X-ray services. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) is designed to reduce the incidence of breast and cervical cancer through pap smears and breast exams. Patients are referred to local contractors for mammograms. The Diabetes Education Program treats individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes and their family members or others who need to know more about the disease and how to prevent complications associated with uncontrollable diabetes. The program offers educational classes/workshops at the local community college. Other education materials are provided. The Colorectal Clinic provides early detection of cancer or pre-cancerous conditions through the use of sigmoidoscopy.