“There is no citizen unaffected by the health department. The entire Peninsula benefits from many unseen activities. It is not necessary to walk into the building to enjoy the many services,” says Irene Ferrainolo (Fair-en-ola), population health manager. The Peninsula Health District includes York County, James City County, Poquoson, Newport News and Williamsburg. Hampton is a separate organization.
“I am impressed with the cooperation of all the localities,” says Ferrainolo. “There is a unified command center ready for whatever comes,” she adds. The organization values service, equity and data-informed decisions. The latter means that demographics and statistics are used to make decisions regarding all kinds of programs and how to use them wisely. “Equity” guarantees a fair distribution of resources within the community.
“We are the best bargain for health on the Peninsula,” says Ferrainolo. “Unfortunately, the services are underutilized. “Family planning and immunizations are especially underused,” she says. “These services are available to all residents and are not dependent on income.”
The health department’s mission is to protect the health and promote the well-being of all the people on the Peninsula. “Our vision is to have the area become one of the healthiest areas in the Commonwealth,” says Ferrainolo.
The department’s website lists 10 services that fall under its jurisdiction. Most are easy to guess. According to Ferrainolo the main emphasis is in clinic services, healthy pregnancy/baby/children and environment health. The latter includes the inspection of restaurants, pools and beaches.
There are, of course, many organizations in the community providing services and funds. Ferrainolo’s office partners with them. She is happy to be a link among localities as needed.
An important aspect of Ferrainolo’s office is emergency planning. This includes hurricanes, other disasters, terrorism, disease, anthrax and Surry. It is important to be ready with a plan, with all areas of the Peninsula coordinated, even if it is never needed.
Ferrainolo was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She taught special education for a while and saw the need for better health and nutrition. She then earned her Master’s degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh. She accepted her current position in Newport News in 1990 and has served here for 30 years. Her job requires some in-state travel but mostly local out-of-the-office meetings. She represents the department on various committees and supervisory boards. Her job (and others in her office) requires that she spend a lot of time away from the office. Ferrainolo says, “We joke that if you are in the office you are not doing your job.”
Ferrainolo, a widow, has one adult son. She particularly enjoys water aerobics and a group “Trivial Pursuit” game. Her team is called the “Bad Hombres.” “We play for the ‘joy of victory’ and claiming we are smarter,” she says with a smile.
TO THE POINT:
Peninsula Health District
Address: 416 J. Clyde Morris Blvd.,
Newport News VA 23601
Contact: Irene Ferrainolo, population health manager