Jefferson College Student Candith Bruner Accepts NACCHO Model Practice Award with Collaborative Team at National Conference

(Pictured left to right) Laura Hanen, NACCHO Interim Executive Director and Chief of Government Affairs; Kevin Sumner, NACCHO President-elect; Dr. Umair Shah, NACCHO President; Candith Bruner, Near Southwest Medical Reserve Corps Volunteer; Adam LaChappelle, Regional Near Southwest Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator; Dr. Jody Hershey, West Piedmont Health District Director; and Dr. William Barnes, NACCHO Interim Executive Director and Chief Program Officer.

When the West Piedmont Health District was presented a national Model Practice Award for an innovative campaign to fight mosquito-borne disease in Martinsville, Candith Bruner was there.

Serving as a Near Southwest Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, Bruner, a student at the Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, accompanied Martinsville police on a door-to-door campaign to educate citizens about mosquito control in their neighborhoods. The unique program called “Fight the Bite” reached over 3,300 households last summer and continues this year with a focus on Zika.

Bruner recently attended an annual conference of the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) in Pittsburg to represent the Medical Reserve Corps as the West Piedmont Health District accepted the award, which celebrates local health departments for developing programs that demonstrate exemplary and replicable best practices in response to critical local public health needs.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to speak with public health professionals from all over the country” said Bruner, who manned a poster presentation for the health district, in addition to attending educational sessions and the award ceremony. “I am proud to have been a part of this highly successful collaborative effort.”

Dr. Jody Hershey, district director and innovator of the program, referred to Bruner as “our most dedicated volunteer,” noting that Bruner spent many Saturdays involved in the canvassing. This included working side-by-side with Martinsville City police officers, talking to residents about how to avoid mosquito-borne diseases, answering questions, and distributing informational door hangers in English and Spanish. Hershey noted that “this new, proactive teamwork approach was a win-win! It shared a very important intervention message with the public. Candith’s presence also increased officer confidence allowing them to get to know their assigned community residents better.”

Zika is an infectious disease mainly spread via the bite of mosquitoes. Infection during pregnancy causes microcephaly and other brain malformations in some babies. Infection in adults has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome.

 “This is an excellent example of how unique partnerships can support the work of health departments in addressing public health concerns without adding undue financial burden,” Hershey said, adding that the District is continuing the program this summer.

Bruner is pursuing coursework in healthcare management and administration.

“My experiences as a Near Southwest Medical Reserve Corps volunteer have complemented my education with increased exposure to public health, emergency management, hospital administration, and much more,” she said. “I look forward to seeing the growth of this collaborative Model Practice in and beyond the West Piedmont Health District.”

Canvassing photo used in the body of this story is used courtesy of the Martinsville Bulletin.