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Local health departments, or LHDs, are the backbone of community health. While their work can be seen at the ground level, scientific innovation has helped improve public health quality among the 2,800 LHDs in the U.S. today.

Last week during its annual conference in Dallas, the National Association of County and City Health Officials recognized three LHDs — one each for small, medium and large populations — for outstanding uses of data and technology. Each winner used science and “outside-the-box” strategies in bettering the health of their communities, including:

  • Crook County Health Department, Prineville, Ore. — which used a health impact assessment to help develop a 20-year transportation plan focused heavily on biking and pedestrian safety;
  • Gaston County Health Department, Gaston, N.C. — which addressed problems such as disparate teen pregnancy rates, using IT and software to identify at-risk households and deliver teen pregnancy prevention programs;  and
  • Denver Public Health, Denver, Colo. — which prominently featured a mobile device app that collects patient information and tracks immunizations, which removed paper-based data entry and reduced costly labor.

Applicants were judged on contribution to their communities, health improvement, originality, creativity, uniqueness and overall contribution to promoting public health.