YOUR CHOICE ’22: Health Board candidates discuss future challenges

Each week, the Abington News is asking the three candidates for the Board of Health a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 30. These three candidates are running for two 3-year seats on the board.

Candidate responses are published as submitted, in the order they were received, and were not edited. 

This week’s question is: “Over the next three years, what are going to be the most important public health challenges and opportunities facing Abington?”


AARON CHRISTIAN

If we have learned anything over the past two years, it’s that our expectations can be turned upside down at a moment’s notice. With that in mind, I believe at this point we have two challenges for the next three years: continued pandemic response and trash tonnage.

While we have begun to see cases in general trend downwards over the last few months the reality is that the pandemic is still here and still packing a big punch. In fact, we noted at our last Board of Health meeting that Abington COVID-19 infections are slowly climbing, and Massachusetts Wastewater Resources Authority data has suggested a slight increase in COVID-19 infection indicators. The board has used data analysis and peer reviewed studies to determine what kind of response is needed for Abington. While we continue to navigate the pandemic, we are going to be tasked with determining appropriate response based on the current COVID situation in town. One of the ways we can best navigate and respond to this pandemic is through community Public Health nursing. We have an incredible Health Department staff, and the Board must support the Health Department in their efforts to mitigate COVID-19 infections. Furthermore, the board and Health Department should continue to look for opportunities to engage the community proactively and appropriately with public health concerns. I’ll take this opportunity to remind residents wear a mask in large crowds, socially distance when possible, wash your hands, and most importantly stay home if you’re feeling sick.

Another challenge that we will face is rising amount of trash tonnage that is in turn increasing our solid waste collection costs. While it has been well established that the procurement and administration of the solid waste collection contract is the responsibility of Town Manager and the procurement officer; the Board of Health does get involved in waste related nuisances. Working with the health department to provide resources to decrease tonnage will not only decrease collection costs but also reduce the frequency of waste related nuisances the board and Health Department must respond to. Initiatives to decrease these costs will take the form of added programs at our compost site to take prohibited and bulky items out of the waste streams, educational programs on proper trash and recycling habits, and supporting the Health Department in hiring a dedicated Recycling Enforcement and Compliance Officer. 

It’s important to note that the Board of Health is a regulatory body tasked with protecting, preserving, and promoting the health and well-being of all Abington residents through the enforcement of health codes and regulations. We are limited in scope in the actions we can take but through the skills and passion that all members bring to the board, we can be an integral part of a healthy community. 


KATIE VANNEST

I foresee dedicating my time to:

  1. Opioid crisis/ Addiction – Opioid abuse and addiction are two things I have been working closely with as a nurse for many years. Addiction effects many families and Abington is no exception. Ensuring that people in my town have access to supports is critical. The Board of Health has an important role in fostering connections and getting people the resources they need to be successful in recovery. 
  2. Trash and recycle planning – We are rolling into the second year of our three year trash and recycling contract. Strategizing what the future of trash and recycle in Abington looks like is also a key issue. In past years, working with contractors has been challenging. I’d like to research all the possible solutions and work with the community to find the best option for Abington. 
  3. Water quality solutions – Access to clean and safe water for the community is a priority. We need to support and work with the Water Department to identify long term solutions for the elevated chemicals-polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in our water. I think treatment as well as identifying the source and cause of the elevated PFAS is important. Any measures that can be taken to prevent increased risk of cancer and adverse health effects is high on my list! Although water treatment is managed by the water department I think this is a public health concern where the Board of Health can assist in whatever capacity needed. 

I’m excited for the opportunity to dive in and work with other people who want to be involved in making Abington a healthy and resourceful community. I have already met so many intelligent and passionate people in our town. I’m ready to grow among them. 

JAIMI PINOLA

I am unaware of what the upcoming health challenges/opportunities may be but my goal as a potential member of the board is to make sure all parties are heard.  This includes board members as well as public comment.  I feel that any questions/concerns should be publicly addressed.  If the board doesn’t have the direct answer or solution at that time, it should be put on the agenda for the following meeting rather than emailed individually to the person(s) who initially had the question/concern.

We have learned a lot over the last two years, in particular how important leading a healthy and active lifestyle is for one’s health.  Abington has the opportunity to now make being healthy, and the steps to take to be healthy, the spotlight rather than being sick.

 

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