Thu. Jun 1st, 2023

St. Louis County has a brand new well being director. Dr. Kanika Cunningham began this month after beforehand serving as a public well being officer with the division.

Cunningham, a St. Louis native, is a household medication supplier at Household Care Well being Middle in St. Louis. The neighborhood well being group operates two clinics that provide care to sufferers no matter their insurance coverage standing or skill to pay.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Sarah Fentem spoke with Cunningham about how her work there’s shaping her plans to deal with habit, sexually transmitted ailments and the coronavirus pandemic amongst residents in St. Louis County.

Sarah Fentem: How has the work that you have accomplished at a neighborhood well being heart as a major care doctor proven you what folks want? What’s one thing that lots of people that are not engaged on the bottom would not learn about?

Kanika Cunningham: Folks want that compassionate care. Desirous about the social determinants of well being and never simply specializing in that one side … that remedy listing, however, , entry to housing and meals and getting the payments paid — the fuel, electrical energy, all of that — truly goes into well being, consider it or not.

If I did not handle what was happening in somebody’s social life … it’s big. And so I feel that is one factor that I took away from them that sure, I like to observe medication, how I ship care. However I’ve to additionally take a step past and have a look at the opposite issues that may have an effect on somebody’s well being and their psychological well being as effectively.

I’ve to acknowledge the burnout issue amongst medical workers but additionally amongst public well being departments. So one factor internally, I do wish to be sure that I’ve a deal with workforce funding and improvement, as a result of our workers have burned out.

Fentem: Plenty of the work you probably did earlier than you bought right here was treating sufferers with habit. As any person who has expertise in that discipline, what do you assume the county needs to be doing?

Cunningham: Our system that now we have in place for any person to navigate who makes use of medicine is terrible.

I feel some folks deal with, , one side, therapy solely, and never acknowledge the person by which there are some individuals who could wish to proceed to make use of. We do know that it is a power illness, and it could take somebody 3,456 instances earlier than they will obtain what they are saying is restoration of their eyes.

We have to, , not solely give Narcan out and speak about therapy, elevated entry to therapy, high quality therapy, I might say that evidence-based practices, but additionally incorporate hurt discount rules, assembly folks the place they’re for any person who continues to make use of. We won’t overlook about that particular person.

Fentem: In the course of the pandemic, there was — to place it mildly — a variety of competition between the well being division and other people within the county, and the county council as effectively. What can we be taught from these very high-profile disagreements?

Cunningham: I wasn’t inside with, , the well being division and all of that [when that happened], however there was a variety of stress. So I hope to construct relationships and set up new partnerships and belief, and transfer ahead in a constructive means with the county council and with Dr. Web page’s workplace. In order that’s my hope.

Fentem: How a lot does the county well being division work with Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis on the metropolis well being division? I do know through the pandemic, these two departments teamed up rather a lot. Do you assume that that custom will proceed whilst we transfer out of the pandemic?

Cunningham: We’re truly good associates in actual life! You will have two ladies who’re truly good associates who care in regards to the neighborhood and the general public. So in fact, we’re going to proceed to work collectively.

And I feel what the pandemic confirmed was that when each of us come collectively for the sake of the neighborhood, have a look at the nice issues that we will do collectively as well being departments.

Fentem: I will keep on the subject of the pandemic. As we transfer nearly to the third anniversary of after we noticed the primary coronavirus circumstances right here in the US, how has the sport plan modified?

Cunningham: So I do not foresee us making any vital modifications with how we strategy it. We’re nonetheless going to make this a precedence to deal with it. As a result of we’re arising on this third anniversary, nevertheless it’s nonetheless current. We’re not utterly out of this but.

And my hope is for my well being division to proceed to stay a frontrunner in a area with bringing evidence-based, , data and knowledge to the forefront to assist shield our neighborhood.

[But also] Sure, now we have COVID, now we have mpox, however you must take into consideration our different STIs: gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, congenital syphilis. Now we have influenza, RSV, so now we have different rising infectious ailments that we have to proceed to observe. Sexual well being is admittedly necessary.

Now we have to consider pregnant mothers and our infants. We do not spend sufficient time speaking about maternal morbidity and mortality because it pertains to being pregnant and the postpartum interval.

So sure, now we have the pandemic, now we have COVID-19, however now we have all of these different well being points as necessary to the well being and well-being of households, and never simply the person particular person. So I do hope to proceed to, , incorporate that into our work right here. As a result of, , as a doctor as a major care physician, I care about your entire particular person, the entire particular person.

Fentem: Are there the rest you want so as to add earlier than we go?

Cunningham: I am from St. Louis. That is my hometown!

One factor I would like folks to learn about me is that I really like my neighborhood. And so I do perceive a variety of the problems and so I hope folks will be part of me, as I, , enter this position of being a director and collaborating with me as a result of I really like my neighborhood.

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