By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

County Board of Health discusses adding some data to county website

After hearing presentations from an attorney, a physician, two naturopaths and an Oregon State University professor, the Yamhill County Board of Health debated the relative merits of adding information to the county’s Public Health webpages about COVID-19, about vitamins, exercise, hydration and pulse oximeters.

The website currently suggests that people should eat a nutritious diet, exercise, get enough sleep and talk with their health care providers about vitamins and about home care for people with COVID-19. It also provides warning symptoms about when to call a doctor or go to the hospital and includes links to the Mayo Clinic and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about home care.

The debate over whether to provide more guidelines isn’t necessarily a simple one, some members said, noting that, even among the presenters the suggestions for doses of Vitamin D varied wildly.

“What is the proper way to hydrate, I have to work on that quite often, because we have people on Lasix, who can’t drink that much, so what could be good for one person might be life-threatening for another,” one board member said.

Some other board members argued that providing generally-accepted recommendations for common vitamin dosages and exercise amounts, along with disclaimers for people with health conditions, could be beneficial. Adding more information about symptoms of dehydration might also be helpful, they said.

Members also raised questions about equity issues, noting that not everyone has ready access to a doctor, and that some pulse oximeters, often recommended for use in monitoring oxygen levels for people with COVID-19, may not work as well for people with darker skin.

One member asked if any of the presenters could provide peer-reviewed studies to back up their arguments, however, no one except Professor Adrian Gombart responded.

Gombart, who works for the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU, told the board that “It’s clear that Vitamin D is important in regulating a number of genes in the immune response. It’s also clear that having adequate levels of Vitamin D allows our imune systems to function properly and regulating immune response,” and noted that many people in the Pacific Northwest in particular are often deficient in Vitamin D, something many of the board members said they agreed with.

Gombart said he was citing from peer-reviewed studies on Vitamin D and COVID-19, and said the overall study results have been mixed.

“Overall, you see that there are benefits from Vitamin D in some of these and others not necessarily. Some of it has to do with not enough data,” he told the board. “It’s not so clear-cut, necessarily. There’s definitely reasons to think there’s benefits, but I’d say some statements I heard (from other presenters) were stronger than what the evidence states at this time.”

In addition, the board received a number of written comments. Several local physicians wrote in to say they are happy with the current recommendations; some offered a few suggestions for tweaking, similar to those suggested by Board of Health members.

McMinnville Chiropractor Richard Page wrote a detailed analysis that several board members said they found particularly helpful. Overall, Page, said, the website is doing exactly what it should, but he offered some suggestions for improvement, including doing more to explain to the public why recommendations change over time, as researchers learn more.

In addition, Page wrote, “Can we promote greater responsibility to those who will not get vaccinated? Promotion of N-95 mask use for those who won’t be vaccinated, an increase in universal precautions, etc. … I am seeing more and more folks at the grocery store not wearing masks.”

However, he wrote, “But the question is: Does the county website adequately address the needs of the county regarding COVID in a responsible and evidence-informed way pertaining to the charge (of) public health? And my answer is simply yes.”

A number of
people who cited no medical expertise, several of them from outside the county, also wrote to argue against currently recommended practices, including vaccines and masks.

County Health and Human Services Director Lindsey Manfrin told the News-Register, “I was very happy with the openness and professionalism of our Board of Health members who are volunteers who have dedicated time and energy, pre and post COVID, in helping create a healthier Yamhill County. There was an array of information that was shared at the meeting. Some of the information was grounded in science and other elements were not. The Board of Health generated good ideas on areas that we can further clarify and help people understand guidance and public health recommendations and I am grateful for that.”

Manfrin noted that “A huge component of Yamhill County Public Health’s work over many years has aimed to create healthier communities largely through our Health Promotion and Prevention team.”

The team works on a variety of topics, Manfrin said, including a new project involving nutrition.

“This work stemmed from a desire of the Board of Health to build capacity in this critical area. We are now partnering with OHSU to identify community needs. This has been done through a series of interviews with community members as well as community stakeholder organizations. We will soon be launching a community wide survey,” she said.

She said the information will be used to create new initiatives.

“We anticipate it will span a number of areas including access to nutritious food, support for individual healthy behavior change and recommendations for policy that helps make healthy choices easy choices,” she said.


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