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New Rowan County health director takes reins

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — The new director of the Rowan County Department of Health started the job Monday and will attend her first board meeting tonight.
Before she was hired in Rowan, Barbara Ellis worked as the health director for Halifax County for about a year. Prior to that, she was the deputy director for another county health department in Michigan.
“I’m happy to be here in Rowan County,” Ellis said. “The people have been very welcoming, including the staff and the Board of Health. I look forward to working with everyone.”
In Ellis’ 20-year career in public health, she has worked for local, state and federal governments. She said she can use this experience as a county director to help the county make better grant requests. It also helps her make sense of top-down requirements and funding decisions, Ellis said.
“A lot of mandates are funneled from the federal government to the state to the locals,” she said. “Having worked at all three levels, I think it gives me a broader perspective and understanding of why some decisions are made at those levels.”
Working with the federal government, Ellis was a public health analyst. When funds were allocated to different programs, she said, she would be in charge of monitoring them to help the projects and make sure the money was being used correctly.
For the state of Michigan, she worked as a public health nurse consultant. She said she advised local health departments in the areas of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and health disparities.
Ellis, a graduate of California State University, Dominguez Hills, also has a 30-year background in nursing.
Chad Mitchell, a county commissioner who serves on the health board, said he thinks Ellis’ experience at different places and levels of government will be helpful.
“I think she’ll bring all that to run the Rowan County Health Department in a way that’s extremely beneficial for our county,” Mitchell said. “I think she’ll do a good job for Rowan County.”
Ellis said she hopes to address common health problems in Rowan, including obesity, inactivity, poor eating habits, teenage pregnancy and chronic illness. And she’s looking forward, she said, to working with staff, the Board of Health and commissioners “to move the health department forward.”
“Of course, there will be challenges, but I look forward to those challenges,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about — to try to see just how we can elevate and build on what my predecessor has done, and try to take us to higher heights.”
The Rowan County Board of health meets at 6:30 p.m. today at 1811 East Innes St. in Salisbury.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Twitter: twitter.com/postcopolitics
Facebook: facebook.com/ Karissa.SalisburyPost

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