When Ann Stehn heard there was going to be an opening for the director of Horizon Public Health, she couldn't pass up the opportunity to try for the position.

"This was high up on my list," she said.

Her effort paid off, and Stehn was hired to take over for longtime director Sandy Tubbs, who retired Jan. 31.

Stehn recently moved with her husband from Spicer to the area, which wasn't new to her. While growing up in rural Appleton, her family made frequent trips here, especially in the summer.

The program and the work being done by the agency that covers a five-county area was also very appealing to her.

"I am thrilled to be here," she said.

A career in health care

Stehn's career in the health care field began at the Stevens Community Memorial Hospital in Morris, where she was a registered nurse. After about a year, she transitioned into public health, working as a public health nurse and maternal child health coordinator and later as a nursing supervisor for the Stevens-Traverse Public Health Nursing Service.

In 1996 she began working for the Kandiyohi County Public Health office, first as a public health nurse, last as the community health administrator/public health nursing director. Stehn was appointed director of the county's family services in 2012, and when the family services and public health offices were combined, she was director of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services.

New opportunities

Stehn is looking forward to working with the five counties that make up Horizon Public Health - Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse.

"I am very impressed with the staff, the energy they bring and the prevention work they are all doing," she said.

One of the many items on her to-do list is for the agency to become nationally accredited. Having an accreditation is an indicator of the work and progress of a highly-functioning department.

One challenge faced by public health is funding, which she plans to aggressively work on. That includes going after grants.

Horizon Public Health was recently awarded a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health to offer new and expanded home visiting services. The grant is for an evidence-based home visiting program. The program Horizon Public Health will be implementing is called Healthy Families America, which serves children up to the age of 5.

Horizon Public Health will be receiving $2.1 million in this round of grant funding from the state.

Under one umbrella

Stehn said sometimes it is hard to understand the breadth of all a public health office does. She said it helps people from conception to end-of-life and everything in between.

Horizon Public Health services include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Licensing and consultation - food, beverage, pool, lodging, tobacco, special events and private/vacation home rentals.

• Children and young families - home visits, child and teen checkups, school and head start screening, child passenger safety checks, childbirth and breastfeeding classes and WIC, a program for women, infants and children.

• Disease prevention - immunizations, as well as a variety of infectious disease prevention programs. It closely works with the Minnesota Department of Health and local providers, including Alomere Health and Sanford Broadway Medical Center, to monitor diseases and promote a healthy community.

• Hospice - Hospice of Douglas County falls under the public health umbrella, and provides care for patients who are at the end of life, along with their caregivers.

• Healthy lifestyles - several programs fall under this category, including youth alcohol and drug prevention, tobacco prevention, traffic safety, air quality, water quality and the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership.

Stehn said public health basically acts like a convenor in that it finds the right program for what is needed and then facilitates the necessary resources.

"I feel incredibly blessed to work in public health and have the support to help support those in our community," Stehn said.