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CDC Fellow In Sioux Falls

November 14, 2012, 6:14 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

CDC Fellow In Sioux Falls

When you see someone's rundown property or their yard is full of "junk," do you ever stop to think of the potential effect on your health?

That's one of the things a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fellow is looking into over the next two years in Sioux Falls.

South Dakotans are known to be nice and neighborly, but there are those cases where a neighbor doesn't always maintain their property as they should.

"It's not very often someone says,' I chose to be a bad neighbor,'" Sioux Falls Public Health Director Jill Franken said.

Franken says usually there's some reason why.

"It's more than the weeds or long grass. That's just a symptom of other things that are going on with this individual," Franken said.

In fact, Franken has noticed an overlap between those who seek help at the Public Health Department and neighborhood complaints.

"They weren't necessarily the same people, but they could have just as well been because some of their background, issues and concerns about what was causing them problems in managing their lives was very similar," Franken said.

That's where Vanessa Sweeney comes into play. She's a fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who will look into the link between code enforcement complaints and public health in Sioux Falls.

"The health of the community matters so much because how individuals relate to each other and how your well-being really affects your neighbor's well-being can help strengthen a community," Sweeney said.

First, Sweeney is looking at the different needs and resources available, but she ultimately hopes to identify how code enforcement officers could also be used to improve public health.

"Start identifying how do our code enforcement officers bulk up their information and understanding of the psychosocial complexities that lead someone to having a code enforcement issue and what leads them to their neighbor not thinking they're a good neighbor anymore," Franken said.

Franken and Sweeney also say having too much garbage and other health hazards on property can also be dangerous to people's health.

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