To the Editor:

The Westfield Board of Health meeting scheduled for Dec. 2 was canceled due to the snowstorm.

Therefore, the Board’s plan to regulate electronic smoking devices will be delayed, since the proposed ordinance must be reintroduced when the new Board convenes in January. However, we will move on an accelerated track. The recommended plan would regulate the sale of these devices in town, primarily to eliminate their use by children.

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The use of these nicotine-addicting products among children is exploding, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. In a recent survey, over half of high school students and almost one-fourth of middle school students in the United States reported ever using any tobacco product. E-cigarettes were the most commonly ever used tobacco product among these students overall.

Influenza is spreading in New Jersey and the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign is underway. A simple vaccination can help prevent the flu. Good health habits, like covering your cough, washing your hands and staying home from school or work when sick, can also help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. Residents can find information on influenza and local vaccination sites at the Westfield Regional Health Department’s website, https://www.westfieldnj.gov/health in the Seasonal Information tab.

Residents should also prepare now for the next severe weather emergency. Make or restock your disaster supply kit with at least a 3 days supply of the following:

  1. water, 1 gallon per person per day
  2. nonperishable food
  3. medications
  4. flashlight and radio, with batteries.

Also, develop a plan to aid family members, take care of pets, and safely shut off utilities.

If you will use a portable generator, locate it in a well-ventilated space AWAY from your house. Have your heating system checked and have a functioning battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm in your home. Carbon monoxide from a generator or heater can initially cause headache, nausea and dizziness and can be deadly.

The Health Department was awarded a $95,000 “Strengthening Local Public Health Capacity” competitive grant by the New Jersey Department of Health. The funds will be used to implement an enhanced communicable disease control program with dedicated staff to focus on preventing and controlling infectious diseases in children in our community.

Information about all of the Health Department’s activities, including helpful health-related advice and recommendations, such as concerning e-cigarettes and screening programs, and free education programs, is available at https://www.westfieldnj.gov/health.

Recent topics in the department’s monthly newsletter, Your Health Matters, include having a safe holiday, gun safety and emergency preparedness. It is available on the department’s website in the December Newsletter tab. You can sign up to receive Health Department information through https://www.westfieldnj.gov/townupdates.

At this time of year, we want to thank the staff and senior staff of the Westfield Regional Health Department for their dedication, commitment and work all year on behalf of public health in Westfield and our neighboring communities. The senior staff includes Megan Avallone, RN, MS, the Health Officer and Director, Laura Scanlon, RN, the Public Health Nursing Supervisor, and Helen Mendez, the Principal Registered Environmental Health Specialist.

In addition, I thank the volunteer members of the Board of Health for their time and assistance and for sharing their wisdom and insights this past year. They are Elizabeth Talmont, MSN, APN-BC, Vice President, Sharon Dorry, RN, Dr. Vasilios Diamantopoulos, Dr. Steve Gorelick, Dr. Andrea Marcus, Thomas K. O’Neill, Dr. Denise Rizzolo and Dr. David Weinman, and JoAnn Neylan, our Council Liaison.

I also thank Mayor Shelley Brindle and Jim Gildea, Town Administrator, for their strong support.

The complete minutes of the Nov. 4 meeting will be posted after review and approval at our Jan. 13, 2020, reorganization meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. in the Municipal Building. The public is invited to attend.

Lawrence D. Budnick, MD, MPH
President, Westfield Board of Health