NORMAN — If you’ve used tap water to brush your teeth, eaten at a local restaurant or buckled yourself in with a seatbelt, thank your local health department.
In fact, send your regards to Keith Reed, the newly named administrative director of the Cleveland and McClain County health departments, and the man behind the scenes.
“When you really look at (how) public health impacts what you do — it’s huge,” Reed said. “There’s not much that you can do that there’s not some kind of public health impact to it.”
Reed’s responsibilities, which began Aug. 12, include ensuring the public health needs are met for Cleveland and McClain counties. Reed supervises services provided both in and outside facilities at Norman, Moore, Purcell and Blanchard, including food service inspections, hotel/motel inspections, nursing services, immunizations, communicable disease outbreak investigations and more.
Reed recently served as the director for the State of Oklahoma’s Center for the Advancement of Wellness. Before that, he was the administrative director for Comanche, Cotton, Caddo and Kiowa counties for four years.
He is a current member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. The eastern Oklahoman native has a bachelor’s in nursing from Northeastern State University and a master’s in public health from the University of Oklahoma.
Replacing the recently retired director, Shari Kinney, Reed said he plans to continue on the momentum established by Kinney and her staff.
Reed said he is still looking at county data to determine what, if any, changes need to be made. Whatever changes are implemented, he said, will be as tailored to the counties’ needs as is necessary.
Specific concerns Reed will continue to emphasize include tobacco use and obesity rates.
“Those efforts are in place now. Others are working on those and we are a part of those efforts. We want to continue to support those efforts,” he said. “I don’t want to come in and take over anyone’s efforts; I just want to support them the best I can.”
Reed said they also will work on getting Cleveland and McClain counties’ departments certified by the Public Health Accreditation Board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and protecting the public’s health by advancing the quality and performance of public health departments.
“Accreditation for me is about far more than just a certificate on the wall or a plaque on the wall to say, ‘Hey, we’re accredited.’ It’s to assure the public, and our partners in the community and ourselves, that we are meeting national standards in the way we execute public health,” he said.
“Public health covers, like, 10 essential services, so there’s a strong theory base to public health. It’s easy if you don’t do good self-assessments to focus on particular areas, but we want to make sure we focus on all 10 essential services. And that we do public health according to national standards across the spectrum.”
Other ongoing concerns will include being prepared for unforeseen challenges such as pandemics, bioterrorism or natural disasters.
“All those types of events impact the infrastructure within a community,” he said. “And the infrastructure is critical to the public’s health: safe water, for example. If you don’t have safe water, you have the risk of disease outbreak.
“During the tornado response, there was a lot of food prep that needed to go on to respond to first responders on site, so we needed to respond to that. Last thing you need is unsafe food practices to result in ill workers.”