Public health director earns national award

Carol Moehrle

Public health issues affect people throughout their lives, and Carol Moehrle has been there to help from the cradle to the grave.

For those efforts, the National Association of County and City Health Officials recently gave the director of the Public Health — Idaho North Central District its Maurice “Mo” Mullet Lifetime of Service Award at its annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

“It truly was an honor, unexpected and very humbling,” Moehrle said of receiving the same distinction that she handed to Mullet in 2011, the award’s inaugural year. “It wasn’t even in my wildest dreams that I thought I would ever receive this award as well.”

The award recognizes local health officials for “noteworthy service that reflects Mullet’s commitment, vigor and leadership,” according to a news release from the association. Mullet was a longtime leader in the organization and is known for his accomplishments in the public health field.

Association Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman said she couldn’t think of any local health official more deserving than Moehrle.

“Her energetic volunteerism with NACHHO is long-standing, her thoughtful leadership in the field is evident in the many roles and positions she serves on national boards and expert advisory groups, and her passion and commitment to local governmental public health is unmatched,” Freeman said in the news release.

Moehlre credited her long involvement with the association for the award, including serving as its president in 2010 and 2011.

“It’s always been a good fit for me and the role I play with local public health here in our five counties,” she said, noting that she first joined in the early 1990s. “We’ve kind of grown up together and continue to look at advancements in public health and how we at the little, local level play a big role in some of these national initiatives.”

An example is the work she did on promoting accreditation for public health districts. Moehrle’s district and the Panhandle Public Health District in Hayden are the only accredited districts in the state.

Moehrle said she and her staff continue to work on a multitude of public health issues that impact all of Idaho’s residents. Pushing for more widespread immunizations is always a hot topic, she said, since prevention is paramount in the public health world. Prevention extends into other areas like diabetes and obesity, which frequently lead to heart attacks and strokes.

The district also works to contain disease outbreaks when they happen, whether they come from contaminated food or dirty water, she said.

“A lot of times you don’t know what public health does because we’re in the background of doing all these things that keep people from getting sick,” Moehrle said. “And it’s not until we get an outbreak that they realize public health is involved.”

The district is continuing to work in the behavioral health field, including suicide prevention, she said. And it is helping seniors stay in their homes longer by sponsoring exercise programs with its partner agencies in all the north central Idaho counties to keep them from falling and breaking bones. Statewide expanded efforts on the cognitive health front are in the pipeline as well.

The district also runs a large home visitation program in which volunteers teach things like nursing and other skills to new or struggling parents.

“We’re trying to make sure parents know how to just grow healthy babies,” Moehrle said, noting the program puts an emphasis on reading by delivering books on each visit. “Read to them and play with them, those kinds of interaction skills. It’s an evidence-based program that’s shown it can keep kids out of juvenile corrections and keep kids off of alcohol and substance use.”

Moehrle has been the director of the district for the last 27 years. The district’s counties include Nez Perce, Clearwater, Lewis, Idaho and Latah with a total population of about 110,000. She has been active in the national health association since 1992.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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