• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

New director wants to know public health needs

CASSIE PRATHER looks forward to getting to know people in the community and the public health needs in Woodford County in the coming months. The Mount Sterling native began her tenure as public health director at the Woodford County Health Department in January. She and her family moved to Versailles last month. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Five months into her tenure as director of public health for the Woodford County Health Department, Cassie Prather says one of her primary objectives will be to complete a health assessment of the community. "It's needed so that we can check the pulse, the health of our community," says Prather. A large part of the assessment will focus on health data, but she says, "You want to marry that data with the ideas and perceptions of the people that you survey." She describes the survey component as her favorite part of the assessment. "I look forward to getting out into the community, finding out more about the folks of Woodford County and what they need in our health department," says the Mount Sterling native. Public health forums will provide one avenue for people living in the community to give input. "From the health assessment, a community health improvement plan is born," says Prather. "That's a written document that you can use as a tool or a guide for the next five years to address health issues in your county. That's why (a health assessment) is first on my list" of priorities. Also, she says, community outreach programs like HANDS (Health Access Nurturing Development Services), which now provides support services to 50 families (moms-to-be and new parents) in Woodford County, will remain as priorities moving forward. "Prevent, promote and protect - that's how I can summarize public health," says Prather. She pursued a career in public health after an internship at the Montgomery County Health Department. "Being able to work with the families and seeing the preventive side of health - rather than the treatment side - just sparked a fire in me," says Prather, who earned an undergraduate degree in health promotion at Morehead State University. Her internship was primarily in health education before being hired and then working in many different roles at the Montgomery County Health Department for almost 11 years, most notably as environmental program manager. In December 2015, Prather completed her master's degree in public health at Eastern Kentucky University. She was hired as public health director at the Woodford County Health Department in January of this year, and moved here with her husband, John, last month. "I want to have a vested interest in this community," says Prather, a mother to five children - all younger than nine years old. "I hope that I have set a good example for them and continue to set a good example for them," she adds. One of her biggest challenges as public health director will be dealing with ongoing state and federal budget cuts, which means, "We just have to do more with less," says Prather. Yet, she appreciates being able to rely on several longtime, dedicated employees who care about one another and the community.

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