Striving to make Kitsap County a safe and healthy place

By ED WOLFE | County Commissioner

As we have come to more fully understand the connection and interdependence of our natural environment and our health, we recognize safeguarding both is vital but takes vigilance and a myriad of diverse, innovative and efficient approaches.

At the forefront of understanding our interactions with the environment and each other, and behind the scenes standing guard to protect our community, is the Kitsap Public Health District, which just celebrated its 70th anniversary.

This past year, as chair of the Kitsap Public Health Board, I witnessed the dedication and professionalism of the leadership and staff in proactively protecting our citizens and natural resources to create safer living environments. Through preventing illness and injury, the district is helping our community live up to its full potential. The public health district is authorized and required under state law but has no taxing authority and is one of only 115 local health jurisdictions nationwide that achieved National Public Health Accreditation.

While the public may read notices about beach closures or flu outbreaks, it is lesser known that the work and reach of the Kitsap Public Health District extends well beyond responding to reports and preventing the spread of communicable disease and other public health hazards. All day and every day, it is also continually monitoring for sewage spills, red tides, illegal dumping and contaminated drinking water.

This is done through ensuring that Kitsap’s 60,000 septic systems are working properly; inspecting public pools and testing the waters at swimming beaches; and enforcing the clean-up of over 600 illegal dump sites and properties with garbage-handling problems. With its water pollution identification and correction program, the public health district is protecting the public from waterborne illnesses and ensuring we don’t get sick when we swim or eat shellfish.

Our public health district also has agreements to provide services with neighboring tribes and counties, and coordinates with state and local agencies, and the tribes for emergency preparedness and response, ensuring not only the health of Kitsap but also its surrounding environs.

Prevention is key to maintaining well-being. The health district annually inspects more than 1,400 restaurants, grocery stores and other food venues to ensure our food is safe to eat. It makes about 1,700 home visits to families with newborns and young children to help them get off to a good start and find access to health care and other support services — which prevents future high health care and education costs. The health district tracks over 2,000 reports of disease annually and provides medical case management for more than 170 people living with HIV/AIDS. The district also processes 18,000 requests for birth and death certificates each year.

The Kitsap Public Health District is definitely committed to its vision of “Striving to make Kitsap County a safe and healthy place to live, learn, work and play!” I want to commend our Public Health Officer Dr. Susan Turner, Administrator Keith Grellner and all of the staff at the Kitsap Public Health District for their extraordinary dedication to safeguarding and promoting the health of us all.

For more information on the Kitsap Public Health District, to report concerns online or to sign up for electronic notifications of health advisories, go to or call 360-728-2235.

— Ed Wolfe represents Central Kitsap on the Kitsap County Board of County Commissioners.