By Melanie Stegner

Ann Stehn, administrator of Horizon Public Health, presented the annual report of the organization at last week’s Pope County Commissioners’ committee of the whole meeting. 

In February of 2021, HPH was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board. “This serves to recognize health departments for their ability to meet public health standards and to promote continuous quality improvement that will strengthen our capacity to deliver essential public health services,” said Stehn.

To gain the accreditation, HPH submitted 11,189 documents. That’s documents, not pages. HPH is only the tenth local public health department in Minnesota to successfully gain the recognition. 

Horizon’s COVID-19 response was also discussed. HPH staff devoted 16,284 hours to COVID response. Staff traveled 1,680 miles through HPH communities to assist with the response. 

By the end of 2021, the total COVID count was 9,004 for the HPH coverage area. Of that number, 279 were hospitalized with 62 admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. HPH recorded 68 of Minnesota’s 4,530 COVID deaths. The organization’s COVID dashboard on their website was viewed 152,609 times in 2021.

Horizon held a total of 365 immunization clinics for the year, giving 10,544 COVID vaccines and 213 influenza vaccines. Pope County boasts 67.2 percent of children at 24 months as up to date on immunizations and 43.5 percent of adolescents between 13 and 17 years old. 

Horizon Public Health partners with the head start program to complete required screenings and screened a total of 70 kids for health and development. HPH also monitors kids for high lead levels. They had 14 leads total for high lead referrals, two were from Pope County. 

The organization was active in ensuring the health of mothers and their new babies as well as children and teens by providing preventive care screenings to low-income families and also provides resources and education to area families. 

Last year, 44 car seats were distributed to children eight years and under with education provided to their parents and caregivers. Ten families of babies born with birth defects were assessed and connected with resources from the Birth Defects Information System and Early Hearing Detection Intervention.

The Follow Along Program is a program offered by Horizon Public Health. It’s a fun and simple way for parents and guardians to ask questions about how their child is hearing, moving, seeing, playing and several other skills. It’s also an easy way for HPH to distribute information about services available to families. 706 children participated in the program in 2021.

HPH’s Child and Teen Checkup program offers complete health and development checkups at no charge for any person under 21 that is insured by Medicaid. The goal is to ensure that these kids receive age-appropriate screening, preventative services and treatments that are medically necessary. The team at HPH made 12,243 contacts and partnered with 7,474 parents to assist in getting their children in for well child exams with their primary care providers.

Mental health is a factor of huge importance to Horizon Public Health. Post-partum screenings are available to new mothers to assist in the overwhelming task of a new baby. HPH offers home visiting services as well both to new mothers and to families in need. 

The Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-Visiting program provided 734 visits last year including 170 depression and anxiety screenings to new mothers. 137 referrals to mental health services were provided. They also did 84 screenings for intimate partner violence. 

The organization completed 302 traditional home visits and provided education and resources for child development, parenting, nutrition, safety and several screenings as well. 

Horizon Public Health leads the WIC program, helping provide women, infants and children with nutrition education and counseling, vouchers to purchase nutritious foods from grocery stores and referrals to health care and other services. On average, they served 1,287 participants per month in 2021. In Pope County, $56,353.98 of WIC benefits were redeemed. 

With the formula shortages parents in the United States are experiencing, Horizon Public Health has been able to help them get their hands on it. “Our registered dietitians have been spending most of their time helping families with the formula shortages including breastfeeding promotion and support, but for babies being formula fed, it’s created a huge problem. It’s been all hands-on deck to make sure families have access to formula, including those needing special formulas and prescribed foods,” said Stehn. HPH distributed over 150 radon test kits. They did 427 food, pool and lodging inspections. 

HPH strives to provide services to everyone through their home and community-based services program. The program helps connect clients to services including day supports, housing supports, skilled nursing visits, meals and emergency response systems for example. “Even with the pandemic and having to meet virtually in some cases, the success of the program was able to continue. We did case management for an average of 529 clients under age 65 and 894 for clients over age 65,” mentioned Stehn.

“Hotizon has a substantially lower tax levy than most of the state. Most public health organizations require around 30 percent of the tax levy and Horizon requires just five percent,” said Stehn. “We’re a success story when it comes to public work.”

The annual report in its entirety is available on the organization’s website including more financial, revenue and additional data at