Baker County Health Department

Baker County Health Department – Environmental Health

Baker County Health Department - Environmental Health

Our Mission

The mission of the Department of Health is to promote and protect the health and safety of all Floridians. Our goals are attained by preventing and controlling the spread of acute, chronic and infectious disease; providing basic family health care and Dental services to persons unable to access care from the private sector; and monitoring the sanitary status of water and sewage systems, group living facilities and other activities that have the potential to threaten the public’s health. The department also provides early intervention and medical services to children with special health care needs.


Dr. J. Frank Curtis was appointed the first Sanitary Agent in 1902. In 1913, the State was divided into seven districts. Dr. Clarence H. Hobbs was in charge of the Central District, comprising of Hamilton, Suwanee, Columbia, Baker, Bradford, Alachua, and Levy counties. The headquarters for the district was in Gainesville, Florida. In 1916, the State was divided into eight districts. The Enabling Act, passed by the State Legislature in 1931, gave authority for the State Board of Health and Counties to establish local health departments. In 1939, Baker County appointed its first local health committee. A full-time health unit was organized in August 1940. The office was one room, located on south College Street, one block off U.S. 90. The Baker-Nassau County Health Unit was organized in 1941. This growing unit moved to the old courthouse in July 1945, which is the current public library. In October 1974, the health unit moved to the Third Street location, which presently houses the Baker County Commissioners. The Sixth Street location housed the Health Department from December 1985 until March 2001. The present location includes a 20,000 square foot state of the art facility that will have a greater capacity to meet the diverse health, social, and educational needs of a growing community. This location offers the traditional public health services, as well as community wellness and outreach programs.


Working Towards Wellness in Baker County
Health Needs Assessment Summary: Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida and the Baker County Health Department
Baker County
Baker County
・2000 Estimated Population- 22,334
・19.4% of Population in Poverty
(State- 16%)
・Population Mix: 86% White, 14% Non-white
・6,293 Households in 1997
・Average Household Income- $38,106
Baker county vs. Florida Population
Baker County vs. Florida Population
・AGE 0-24:
Baker- 8,318
Florida- 4,584,054
・AGE 25-64:
Baker- 10,998
Florida- 7,417,646
・AGE 65+:
Baker- 1,822
Florida- 2,711,222
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Stroke, 1998-2000 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Heart Disease, 1998-00 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Lung Cancer, 1998-00 Average
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Age-Adjusted Death Rate, 1998-00 Average
Diabetes Mellitus Age-Adjusted Death Rate, 1998-00 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Cancer, 1998-00 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Colorectal Cancer, 1998-00 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Cervical Cancer, 1998-00 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Skin Cancer, 1998-00 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Breast Cancer, 1998-00 Average
Metastic Breast Cancer at Diagnosis, 1997-99 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Cardiovascular Disease, 1998-00 Average
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Stroke, by Race, 1994-98 Average
・In Florida, Stroke was the third leading cause of death for whites, and the fourth leading cause of death for non-whites.
・Source: Office of Vital Statistics, 1999.
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Heart Disease, by Race, 1994-98 Average
・In the state of Florida, Heart Disease was the LEADING cause of death in all races.
・Heart Disease accounts for almost one in every three deaths in Florida.

・Source: Office of Vital Statistics, 1999
Age Adjusted Death Rate for Cancer, by Race, 1994-98
・In Florida, Cancer was the second leading cause of death for all races.
・Cancer accounts for almost one in every four deaths.
・Source: Office of Vital Statistics, 1999
Age-Adjusted Death Rate for COPD by Race, 1994-98 Average
・Chronic Obstructive disease is the fourth leading cause of death for whites, and the eighth leading cause of death for non-whites.
・Source: Office of Vital statistics, 1999.
Diabetes Age-Adjusted Death Rate, by Race, 1994-98 Average
・Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death among non-whites in Florida and the seventh among whites.
・Source: Office of Vital statistics, 1999.
Risk Factors for Leading Causes of Death
・Heart Disease
Tobacco, obesity, elevated BP, cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle
Tobacco, diet, alcohol, environmental exposures
・Cerebrovascular Disease
Tobacco, elevated BP, cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle
・Accidental Injuries
Non-use of safety belts, alcohol, home hazards
・Chronic Lung Disease
Tobacco, environmental hazards
Costs of Chronic Diseases
・More than 90 million Americans live with chronic illnesses
・Chronic diseases account for 70% of all deaths in the United States
・Chronic diseases account for 1/3 of the years of potential life lost before the age of 65.
・In 1990, the total cost of chronic disease, which includes lost productivity, premature death, and disability, reached $655 billion in the United States.
・The cost of treating chronic disease totals more than 60% of total medical care expenditures.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Annual Report 1994: Health, United States, 1994
Prevention Counts
・In the past 100 years, life expectancy has increased by 30 years. 25 years of the 30 year gain can be attributed to public health measures, and only 5 years to curative medicine.
・It is estimated that reducing saturated fat intake by 1 to 3 percentage points would save $4.1 to $12.7 billion in health care costs and lost productivity over a 10-year period.
・Each $1 spent on diabetes outpatient education saves $2 to $3 in hospitalization costs.
・Smoking cessation programs in pregnancy can save $6 for each $1 spent.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Annual Report 1994; Heath , United States, 1994
Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, & Diabetes, Baker County vs. Florida
Baker County
・ High Blood Pressure: 29%
・Ever Had Cholesterol Checked: 72.5%
・High Cholesterol: 33.6%
・Diabetes: 7.8%

・High Blood Pressure: 27.5%
・High Cholesterol: 32.4%
・Diabetes: 6.1%
Prevalence of Risk Factors: Current Cigarette Use
_State: 20.5%
・Age 18-29: 24.2%
・Age: 55+: 13.8%
_5 Counties (inc. Baker): 25.1%
・Age 18-29: 24.6%
・Age 55+: 16.8%
_Urban: 16.4%
・Age: 18-29: 14.7%
・Age: 55+: 10.6%
Overweight Prevalence
・State: 56.7%
_Age: 18-29 42.9%
_Age: 55+: 59.7

・5 Counties (inc. Baker): 63.9%
_Age 18-29: 50.8%
_Age 55+: 68.6%

・Urban: 53.9%
_Age18-29: 42.5%
_55+: 54.9%
Obesity Prevalence
・State: 18.4%
_Age18-29: 11.5%
_Age 55+: 18.6%

・Five Counties (inc. Baker): 26.9%
_Age 18-29: 21.1%
_Age 55+: 27.6%

・Urban: 15.6%
_Age18-29: 11.1%
_Age 55+: 15.9%
Sedentary Lifestyle
・State: 26.6%

・Five Counties (inc. Baker) : 44.3%
_Age 18-29: 31.8%
_Age 55+: 47.4%
Eat 5 Fruit and Vegetables Per Day
・State: 20.7%

・Five Counties (inc. Baker): 25.1%
_Age 18-29: 27.1%
_Age 55+: 28.7%
Focus Group Findings, Tobacco
・Tobacco use is a norm in Baker County.
・Youth indicated that tobacco use is a norm because parents do it.
・Youth indicated that tobacco was easy to obtain and purchase.
・Chewing tobacco is a norm with males, and if the father chews, then the son chews.
・Participants felt that people were aware of the health risks of tobacco use.
Focus Group Findings, Diet
・Participants associated eating fruits and vegetables with a healthy diet, and “junk” foods and fried foods with an unhealthy diet.
・Barriers to healthy eating were cost and tradition. Cooking methods are passed down from generation to generation, and that people don’t always know healthier ways to cook or shop.
・Participants indicated that healthy foods cost more and that some are not available in the local grocery stores.
・Participants indicated that it is more convenient to purchase fast or prepared foods and that it is easier to obtain soda than water or juice.
・Another barrier to healthy eating was that there is little promotion, specials, or coupons for healthy foods, compared to the promotion of other foods.
Focus Group Findings, Physical Activity
・Participants indicated the need for some type of recreational facility.
・Participants indicated that residents would use a fitness trail.
・Barriers to physical activity included time, money, lack of motivation, location, transportation, childcare, laziness, embarrassment, and lack of awareness of what is available.
Top Health Issues, Not Ranked
・Tobacco use
・Heart disease
・High blood pressure
・Lung problems
・Teen pregnancy
Types of Programs Needed
・Community walking programs
・Recreational center
・Fitness trail/track
・Swimming pool
・Self awareness classes
・Cooking, wellness, & exercise classes


Keeping Your Healthy New Year’s Resolutions
Frustrated by bad habits like smoking, overeating, or living a sedentary lifestyle, many of us vow to change through making New Year’s Resolutions. Each new year we pledge, I’m dieting, or exercising regularly or quitting smoking for good. By May, the walking shoes you bought are gathering dust in the closet, the diet cookbooks are being used to level the kitchen table, and the cigarettes are still in your back pocket or purse. Defeated many of us give up further attempts to change. Don’t give up just yet!
The Baker County Health Department offers the following tips on how to keep those healthy resolutions:
・Make only one or two resolutions.
・Choose resolutions that you’ve been thinking about for some time.
・Choose to adopt a new good behavior rather than trying to shake an energized bad habit.
・Choose realistic goals that you feel confident you can meet.
・Eat a good breakfast to start the day.
・Throw color at your meals. Eat more fruit and vegetables.
・If you have to eat fast food, make healthy choices.
・Drink beverages that are good for you at meals.
・If you smoke, stop. And if you don’t, don’t start!
・Get active, even if it’s only a little physical activity each day.
・Get plenty of sleep. If you are trying to quit smoking, adequate rest and exercise are especially important.
・Have a plan for when you are tempted.
・Give yourself rewards and pats on the back for you progress.
・If you get off-track, begin fresh the next day.
One of the most important secrets to keeping those New Year’s resolutions is to take the process of change one day at a time. It’s okay to make big changes through taking small steps. Those small steps will get you going and soon you’ll feel the positive effects of your efforts. That little bit of change can lead to long-term healthy habits that will last you far beyond New Year’s Day.


Children ages 3-20 are eligible for dental treatment at the Baker County Health Department. Children 2 and under are referred to a children’s dentist who has the special equipment needed for a child’s small mouth. We accept several different Medicaid plans. Patients who are not Medicaid eligible are charged for services at the Medicaid rate. We are not able to accept dental insurance plans.
Adults who are Medicaid eligible are seen for emergency visits, extractions, and preventive care



The Baker County Health Department and Baker County School Board Dental Program is a cooperative effort between the Dental Department, Baker County Middle School, Keller Intermediate School, and Baker County High School whereby eligible children are “bussed” to the Health Department during school hours for dental care
The following Groups of students are eligible for the bussing program:
・Children on Medicaid, ages 3-20
・Children on other need-based programs who are unable to obtain dental care in the community
How It Works
・Students are brought to the Health Department five or six students at a time.
・Children are provided with a desk so that they can complete their school work while waiting for their appointment.
・The school nurse will collect permission slips and coordinate the visits with the school and Dental Department.
・The Dental Department will send a letter home with each child explaining what dental procedures were done, and what treatment is still needed.
More Information
・Any parent interested in the program should contact the school nurse.
・Parents are encouraged to contact the dentist at the Health Department if they have any specific questions or concerns
・Teachers who know of a child who is in need of this service are also advised to contact the school nurse.

Environmental Health

A safe and healthy environment is one form of preventive medicine that you can’t buy at the drugstore or get from your doctor’s office. Yet, it’s crucial to the well-being of you and your family. Environmental health services are an essential part of Florida’s public health programs. Administered by the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services through your local health department, these services are aimed at preventing or reducing health risks that may occur in your daily surroundings.
Detecting and correcting environmental dangers that can cause disease or injury is the job of Florida’s county health department sanitarians. They are an important part of a public health team that also includes doctors, nurses and administrative personnel. You may not be aware of the wide range of services provided by these sanitarians and the other environmental health workers. Yet almost every day, you and your family receive benefits directly or indirectly from their work.
Through public Education, periodic inspection, investigation of complaints and enforcement of laws relating to safety and sanitation, these environmental health workers help to make your neighborhood and community a healthier place to live.
The Food You Eat
Since food is one of the most common ways of spreading disease, a major environmental health effort is devoted to ensuring that the food you eat is safe and wholesome. The goal is to prevent such food-borne diseases as Salmonella, infectious hepatitis, and the often-fatal botulism.
In a food service establishment – whether a restaurant, school cafeteria, or a carnival hotdog stand – sanitarians inspect to see that food is properly stored, prepared and served. the sanitarian checks to see that each facility is designed with health rules and regulations in mind, and that each has a safe water supply and waste disposal system
Often, an inspection visit becomes an on-the-spot lesson in food hygiene taught by the sanitarian. In addition, the county health units conduct or sponsor training programs for food service managers. Sanitarians also inspect food processing plants, such as canneries, bottling plants and juice processing plants, grocery stores, meat and fish markets and slaughterhouses. The goal, once again, is to ensure that safe and hygienic practices are followed.
Environmental health workers investigate outbreaks of food-related illnesses and impound or destroy contaminated food products. They have authority to order corrective measures to ensure safe processing, storage, preparation and serving of food
The Water You Drink
Environmental health workers also conduct inspections to ensure that public drinking water supplies are safe for human use. Working in conjunction with the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, your local health unit has responsibility for regulating all private water supply systems and certain public systems.
Environmental health workers collect and test water samples and investigate outbreaks of waterborne diseases, including illnesses related to chemical contamination. At the request of private water system owners, sanitarians will provide advice on proper well location, protection and chlorination. They will also collect water samples for laboratory testing.
Plants that produce bottled water for drinking are also inspect5ed on a regular basis. Sanitarians check to ensure that the water is bottled and distributed for sale under clean conditions. Samples of water from each plant are tested each month to make certain the water is fit for human consumption.
Pollution Protection
As Florida’s population grows, the potential for pollution from the disposal of liquid and solid wastes increases. Environmental health workers are responsible for guarding against pollution and illness resulting from improper waste disposal.
Local Health workers review applications for permits for septic tanks and other individual sewage disposal systems to ensure proper installation and operation. They also inspect septic tank manufacturers, and companies that provide or service temporary services.
Sanitarians also inspect solid waste disposal sites, such as landfills, dumps and incinerators, to ensure they are operated in a nuisance-free manner.
Healthier Place to Live
Ensuring safe and sanitary surroundings for people in their homes, schools, daycare centers and in group living facilities is another responsibility of Florida’s environmental health program.
In many counties with minimum housing codes, local health workers conduct housing inspections or surveys in an effort to prevent hazards to the public’s health. Sanitarians also investigate complaints of unsanitary or unsafe conditions. If a significant health law violation or sanitary nuisance is found, owners are directed to correct improper conditions. When necessary, legal action is taken to correct an unhealthy situation.
Environmental health workers also inspect a variety of group living facilities, including nursing homes, public and private schools, recreation camps, drug and alcohol treatment centers, jails, migrant labor camps and trailer parks. In many counties, local health units are responsible for inspecting child care centers to ensure that they offer a safe and healthful environment for children.
Toxic Substances
Certain materials, such as some chemical gasses, are so toxic that their uncontrolled or accidental release into the environment can cause a serious threat to the life and health of people exposed to them. Public health workers help prepare written plans to be put into use in the event a toxic substance is accidentally released into the environment. If such an emergency occurs, local health unit workers will warn the public and take action to locate and control the toxic substance to lessen the danger to the community.
Septic Tanks
Septic tank home wastewater treatment and disposal system IN’s and OUT’s
What is a septic tank system?
A septic tank system consists of a large, watertight tank that receives wastewater from the home plumbing system. The tank is followed by an underground drainfield consisting of a network of perforated pipe or chambers for distributing partially treated water from the septic tank to the soil for final treatment and disposal.
How does it work?
Septic tanks contain bacteria that grow best in oxygen-poor conditions. These bacteria carry out a portion of the treatment process by converting most solids into liquids and gasses. Bacteria that require oxygen thrive in the drainfield and complete the treatment process that was started in the septic tank. If the septic tank is working well, the wastewater which flows out of the tank is relatively clear, although it still has an odor and may carry disease organisms. It should flow only into the drainfield, never onto the ground surface or into Florida waters.
Operation and maintenance
After the septic tank system is placed in service, proper operation and maintenance of the system will ensure continued efficient service and prevent sudden replacement expenses. The septic tank and drainfield are designed and installed to handle a maximum calculated daily sewage flow. Consistently exceeding the design flow will eventually overload the system, and cause failure. the tank may receive new solids faster than it can treat them, and the drainfield may become saturated from excessive water use.
Various products are on the market which are said to start, accelerate, or improve the action in the septic tank. Since all necessary bacteria are already present in the sewage entering the system, such products are not recommended.
Maintenance of a septic tank will depend largely on the daily sewage flow and individual household wastewater characteristics. With ordinary use and care, a septic tank should not require pumping out more than once every three to five years. It should, however, be inspected to determine the depth of accumulated sludge and grease.
Waste from kitchen garbage disposal units puts an extra load on a septic tank system. If a disposal is used, the capacity of the tank should be increased to handle the increased solid wastes. The tank may also require more frequent pumping to remove accumulated solid waste buildup.
Failure to pump out a septic tank system when indicated will result in solids or greases overflowing into the drainfield, which in turn may become clogged, and stop functioning. In this event, not only will the tank have to be pumped out, but the drainfield may also have to be replaced.
Septic tanks can be cleaned by septic tank cleaning firms permitted by the county health department. This type of work should be done only by experienced professionals who will pump the entire contents of the tank into a tank truck and dispose of the contents in an approved, sanitary manner.
Septic tanks installed after January 1, 1998, are required to have outlet filters. For information on how to service/clean the filter, call your septic tank contractor or county health department.
Contaminants can travel long distances in some soils. Therefore, drinking water wells should be located at least 75 feet from any part of a septic tank system. With certain exceptions, septic tanks and drainfields must be located at least 75 feet away from the high water line of ponds, rivers and lakes. Also, the drainfield should be located so that it will not be saturated by surface water drainage, or runoff from roof gutters.
Preventing failures
Septic tank systems fail when the drainfield does not dispose of sewage as rapidly as it is being added to the system. thus, improvements that reduce the amount of incoming water or improve the quality of wastewater passing through the system will increase the system’s longevity. Other important considerations include the following.
A drainfield can be damaged by compaction due to vehicular traffic and can be blocked by excessive shrubbery or tree root growth. The drainfield should be unobstructed and seeded with grass. Grass and sunlight aid in evaporation.
Washing machines are responsible for large volumes of water entering the septic tank. The surge of wash water can create turbulence in the tank which increases the amount of solids flushed into the drainfield. Space washings throughout the week rather than doing many loads at a time, or, install a separate system for washing machine water.
Cooking oils and grease are trouble makers. The type of bacteria found in septic tanks and drainfields do not survive of function well in solidified grease. Grease and cooking fats should never be washed down the sink drain. Save grease in jars or cans for disposal in the garbage.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be prevented but not cured. The virus attacks the brain of warm-blooded animals, including people
How is rabies spread?
When an animal is sick with rabies, the virus is shed in the saliva and can be passed to another animal or a person, usually through a bite. Transmission may also if the saliva or the animal’s nervous tissue enters open wounds, the mouth, nose or eyes of another animal or person.
What do rabid animals look like?
Animals with rabies may show strange behavior – they can be aggressive, attacking for no apparent reason, or act very tame (especially wild animals). They may not be able to eat, drink or swallow. They may drool because they cannot swallow their saliva. They may stagger or become paralyzed. Eventually they will die.
What do I do if an animal bites me?
Immediately scrub the wound with lost of soap and running water for five to ten minutes.
Try to get a complete description of the animal and determine where it is so that it can be picked up by animal control staff for quarantine or rabies testing.
Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room.
Call your county health department or animal control agency with your description and location of the animal. The animal will either be quarantined for ten days (if it is a dog, cat or ferret) or be tested for rabies.
If you kill the animal, be careful not to damage the head, and avoid further contact with the animal even when it is dead.
How do I protect myself, my family, and my pets from rabies?
Have your veterinarian vaccinate all of your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses against rabies, and make sure you follow your veterinarian’s instructions for revaccination.
Avoid contact with wild or stray animals.
The most common animals in Florida that contract rabies are bats, gray foxes, raccoons. These are wild animals, and should not be kept as pets
Never feed wild or stray animals – avoid attracting them with outdoor food sources (like uncovered trash). Feed your pets indoors.
Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property.
Support animal control in your community
If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal, DO NOT examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves. Wash your pet with soap and water to remove saliva from the attacking animal. Do not let your animal come into contact with other animals or people until the situation can be dealt with by animal control or county health department staff.
Sanitation Tips
Food-Germ Tips
In order for bacteria to grow and multiply, they must have food, moisture, and a favorable temperature.
Bacteria are most frequently spread by UNWASHED HANDS
Some Bacteria that cause food poisoning are often found in infected cuts, boils, pimples, and in the nose and throat.
Food poisoning outbreaks can be caused by either chemicals, bacteria, or parasites.
Food Handling Hints
Avoid contact with soiled utensils or unclean surfaces
Food should be purchased from approved sources only.
Foods should be separated when stored in the refrigerator. Cooked processed foods should be stored ABOVE raw foods
Foods that are mixed after the original preparation are more hazardous to health due to additional handling
DO NOT overload refrigerators. Arrange foods for free air circulation
When foods are re-heated, it is vital that each portion be reheated uniformly. This may require mixing or stirring.
Temperature Control
A thermometer, accurate to +/- 03 degrees Fahrenheit, should be placed in a refrigerator to measure the warmest spot, usually next to the door, and where it can be readily seen and easily read.
Food holding temperature that is “almost cold enough” or “almost hot enough” increases the hazards of food borne illness. Therefore, follow these temperature control practices.
Poultry products should be heated throughout to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Pork products must be heated to a minimum internal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit
After cooking hot foods, maintain at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
Potentially hazardous foods must be stored at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frozen foods should be maintained at, or below, 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
The approved ways of thawing frozen foods are
In a refrigerator at 45 degrees Fahrenheit
Beneath well-drained RUNNING water at, or below, 70 degrees Fahrenheit
In a microwave oven
As part of the cooking process
Dishwashing Tips
To do a good job of dishwashing the dishes must be scraped and pre-rinsed before being washed rinsed and sanitized.
Dishes can be sanitized during the dishwashing process by using hot water or by using chemicals such as Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach).
The temperature of the hot water for the sanitizing rinse cycle on the mechanical dishwashing machine should be 180 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
In manual dishwashing operations, the hot water for sanitizing should be maintained at, or above 170 degrees Fahrenheit, or no less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a minimum of 50 ppm available chlorine.
Dishwashing sinks are NOT to be used for hand washing. A separate, conveniently located sink is to be used for this purpose.
Cloth towels are not to be used on dishes and silverware after the dishes and silverware have been washed and sanitized. The policy is to let AIR DRY.
No smoking shall be permitted in food storage and preparation areas, or in areas where utensils are cleaned or stored. Employees shall not resume work after smoking without first thoroughly washing their hands.
As a food service worker, there is no substitute for
Knowledge and alertness
Teamwork and cooperation
Steam tables, bainmaries, warmers and similar hot food holding facilities are PROHIBITED for the rapid reheating of potentially hazardous foods.
Shop carefully…buy only safe foods.
follow safety rules for storage and refrigeration
Make cleanliness the “Golden Rule” in your kitchen.
See that everyone in your family follows your rules for food safety.