Know your Regulator: Texas Department of State and Health Services
Texas is the second-largest state in the United States, with a population of approximately 25 million individuals. The government of the United States carries out initiatives to facilitate its citizens by establishing various public organizations meant to aid its citizens.
For Texas, this department is known as the "Texas Department of State and Health Services". Headquartered in Austin, it operates various health care services such as hospitals, health agencies, and rehabilitation centers around the state.
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The Texas Department of State and Health Services was founded in 2003. It came into existence through the amalgamation of other state-operated agencies.
- Texas Department of Health
- Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
- Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation
- Texas Health Care Information Council
Through the consolidation of such key agencies into one large entity, the department is able to operate as a singular agency.
It provides healthcare services that are not just limited to dealing with orthopedic or cardiology cases, but also has mental health facilities and centers for alcohol and drug addicts, in order to assist people with substance abuse problems as well.
The following four points outline the strategic mission of DSHS:
- Work towards analyzing, identifying, and implementing methods to prevent diseases and various other health problems. Develop health strategies that will guide people towards a better lifestyle.
- Respond to disasters and disease outbreaks by providing emergency healthcare attention to affected people. Identify root cause of disease outbreaks, inform relevant authorities about the severity of the situation, and help to prevent the spread of the aforementioned outbreak.
- Reduce health problems by aiming to create the best health standards in accordance with public health consumer protection.
- Find new and effective ways to engage with the public with the purpose of educating the masses, and making health information widely accessible.
Responsibilities and Sub-Branches:
- The DSHS assists the federal government in issuing birth certificates, death certificates, marriage, and divorce verification letters.
- The Consumer Protection Division (CPD) is an active division within DSHS. Its purpose is to ensure public safety by overseeing health services and goods providers.
CPD operates to monitor four areas:
- Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Systems to provide medical care for cases of sudden injury or illness.
- Food and Drug Safety to oversee entities providing ingestible, medical, and topical products. Ensuring that processes such as pasteurization, sterile drug manufacturing, tattooing are carried out correctly, so as to prevent potential harm.
- Radiation Control to bear the responsibility of overseeing and controlling entities that are involved in or produce radiation or generate radioactive products.
- Environment Health to ensure that people are safe from illness that could occur from endangering environmentally hazardous materials
CPD also partners with other state agencies and organizations, including federal and local.
- Through Environmental Surveillance and Toxicology Branch, the division is tasked with the identification of populations which are at risk. By using principles of epidemiology, toxicology, and surveillance, the unit develops evidence-based actions.
- Tracking and researching birth defects that occur in Texas. The Texas Birth Defects Epidemiology and Surveillance (BSED) Branch is tasked with identifying causes leading to birth defects and developing preventive measures.
- Texas law requires the existence of a surveilling body that maintains a record of blood lead results, elevated and non-elevated. Blood Lead Surveillance Group maintains records of children who are under 15 years of age through the Texas Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, and people who are over 15 years of age are monitored through Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance Program
- The Immunization Unit works towards increasing vaccine coverage in Texas and raising awareness about vaccine-preventable diseases.
- To promote healthy lifestyles and educate the masses against chronic diseases and prepare them on how to prevent them. This area of expertise falls under the Division of Disease Control and Prevention of the Texas Department of State Health Sciences of DSHS.
- Texas Cancer Registry serves as a repository of information collected from cancer-stricken individuals in Texas. The registry aims to prove helpful in the research, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and control efforts for cancer. Without adequate and high-quality data to fuel research towards treatment, cancer will remain one of the deadliest diseases to fight against.
- DSHS houses a laboratory services section to facilitate the need for high-quality diagnosis reports.
Texas Department of State and Health Services is also involved in the propagation of health information through seminars and awareness camps. Through such voluntary work, the goal is the betterment and safeguarding of the people of Texas.
A simple example can be derived from the fact that DSHS requires an individual operating in a food establishment to be a Texas food handler. A food handler is a person who prepares or handles food in any capacity; such people are required to become a certified food handler in Texas by earning certification through accredited Texas Food Handler Training.