Jean A. Bilow has done a spectacular job in her tenure as director of the Jefferson County Public Health Service. Ms. Bilow will end her 38-year career with the agency when she retires Feb. 28.
Ms. Bilow joined Public Health Service as a nurse in 1975, when it was known as Public Health Nursing Services, and served in several supervisory and administrative posts before being name its director in 1987.
During that time, the department has grown tremendously to meet changing state demands and public needs, going from about 41 employees in the late 1980s to more than 200 now.
She also oversaw the relocation of public health services from its outdated and cramped quarters on outer Coffeen Street to the more spacious, former Meade Street school. It is better suited to serving the public and has allowed Public Health to streamline services.
Ms. Bilow has guided the expansion of home health care since the late 1980s to adapt to changing approaches to health care to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations or enable elderly to stay out of nursing homes by allowing people to receive personal care, therapy, housekeeping assistance and other services in their homes.
Ms. Bilow has aggressively responded to public health threats and epidemics such as the meningitis scare, whooping cough outbreaks and the West Nile virus by organizing clinics and educating the public on how to protect themselves.
The agency also provides more routine services such as childhood immunizations and a sexually transmitted disease clinic for prevention and control.
In recent years, a health promotion unit was created to encourage improved nutrition, physical activity and other wellness and prevention activities to improve the health of county residents.
As she prepares to depart, Ms. Bilow sees accreditation as the next goal for Public Health. That will be up to her successor, who will assume responsibility for a department well prepared by Ms. Bilow to meet that and other future challenges.