Is your health department running?

An Osterholmian analogy…

It occurs to me that your health department is a lot like your refrigerator. If you live in an area of the United States that pays for a state or local health department that has “the prevention and control of foodborne/infectious/communicable disease outbreaks” in its mission statement, then you are investing in both to keep your food choices safe.

Would you buy a refrigerator that determines its own performance level, not necessarily with the goal of maintaining a temperature that keeps food safe?

Would you buy a refrigerator with no thermostat and that continues to operate when the door is left open?

Would you buy a refrigerator that does both of the above, but only between 8am-5pm Monday-Friday?

Would you trust this refrigerator to keep your food safe?


Would you buy a health department that investigates outbreaks at its leisure instead of in response to public demand?

Would you buy a health department that does not advocate for improved surveillance laws and that does not measure and manage its own performance during outbreak investigations?

Would you buy a health department that can only work 8am-5pm Monday-Friday, even during large outbreaks (emergencies) that sicken hundreds of people?

Would you trust this health department to give you the information you need to make safe food choices?

We ALL do to some extent.


I have to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time. (It can’t get no worse)