Lana Sanstrom retires from county health department

Lana Sanstrom

By Doris Elmore
The health of Douglas County residents has been of the utmost importance to Lana Sanstrom for 23 years. Lana recently retired from her position as a Licensed Environmental Health Practitioner (LEPH) Director of Environmental Health for the Douglas County Health Department.

Part of her job included food safety, septic (bathrooms) and water safety program, assuring that people have safe water to drink. 

Lana has been in charge of inspecting restaurants for food safety practices. In 1996 she was a health educator part time with 90 food establishments in Douglas County at that time. Today Douglas County has 149 food establishments. 

She was instrumental in starting the Silver & Gold Spoon Awards about 10 years ago in Douglas County. She said it has worked really well and has encouraged better food safety practices with recognizing businesses who qualify for the awards. She says they have a well-trained staff to check out food establishments. 

An important project for Lana is to help monitor for West Nile Virus. In fact, she wrote a paper on it in May of this year to help inform residents on the virus and what to do to try and prevent it. She said that West Nile Virus (WNV) has not gone away nor the mosquitoes that carry it. The citizens of Douglas County are requested to report the discovery of dead crows, blue jays, robins and other dead perching type birds to the health department; viable specimens will be tested for West Nile Virus. Lana says that when a bird is observed to have died recently, notify the health department to receive further instructions as to how to submit or have a bird collected. The Douglas County Health Department will deliver the bird to the state lab for testing.

Due to the amount of rain and standing water this year, mosquito activity could be high even later in the summer during hot, dry weather. The Culex mosquitoes that carry West Nile disease breed in stagnant water, like street catch basins and ditches, discarded tire covers and multiply rapidly, so as the rains lessen, check for and empty vessels that may contain left over rain water.

Lana is very concerned about the West Nile Virus and says the vector program will continue after she is gone. Lana says May 1 to October 15 is the height of the mosquito breeding season. Her staff knows the importance in keeping the word out on controlling WNV. For further information, please call the health department at 253-4137 or visit the website at www.dchealthdept.org/environmental-health/.

The changes that have taken place over the years have been numerous. Lana says everything has modernized and the electronic age has been the biggest help. It has made services so much easier and quicker. Communication with agencies and clients is so much better than before. She is excited about the many services the Douglas County Health Department offers Douglas County residents. The health department has grown so much since 1996. There were seven employees (3 part-time) and now they average 20 employees. She says it is unusual to have two LEHP professionals for a county our size.

Aaron Patrick of Mattoon will replace Lana at the Douglas County Health Department. Aaron is an Environmental Health Practitioner-In-Training. He will also be working under Amanda Minor, Administrator of the Douglas County Health Department. She is also an LEHP.

A 1971 graduate of Newman High School, Lana is also a 1975 graduate of Valparaiso University with a major in Social Work, a second major in Theology with a minor in Psychology; Parkland Community College, 15 hours Sciences and from 2006-present a Licensed Environmental Health Professional.

Lana will never stop being interested in helping others to make their lives better, but she will enjoy spending more time with her family. Lana and her husband Jim are farmers in rural Newman. They have two sons, Scott Sanstrom and Patrick Sanstrom and wife Jaye and enjoy their two grandchildren, Layke, 7, and Anchor, 4.

While Lana may be retiring from her full-time job, I am sure you will see her helping out from time to time. Her dedication to the residents of Douglas County and their health will never be far from her mind. Thank you, Lana, for sharing your health knowledge for all these years.

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