The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) hosted a ceremony marking a new public health laboratory in Baton Rouge this morning. The public health laboratory serves as the primary daily testing center for many purposes from ensuring safe drinking water for our residents to screening for genetic and metabolic disorders in newborns. It also is a central part of Louisiana's response during public health events, including food borne illness, Ebola and radiation events, to name a few. A tour of the lab was provided following the ceremony.
"Our ability to respond to public health threats is directly affected by the ability of our staff to test samples quickly and efficiently," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "The new public health lab site allows us to better identify food outbreaks, test infectious disease samples and any number of other public health concerns. I am so grateful for the work of our public health team and am proud to celebrate their work today."
The goal of the Office of Public Health (OPH) Laboratory is to protect the health and safety of Louisiana residents by providing accurate and timely laboratory data to state officials, public health programs and the general public. There are over 30 statewide public health programs, and state and federal law enforcement agencies which use OPH Laboratory data. These programs encompass preventative and environmental health, infectious disease and environmental epidemiology, emergency preparedness and disaster response, and forensic testing for biological and chemical threats.
"I am so excited for the completion of this new facility and for the state continuing to keep our children and families safe from all health threats. Our public health lab scientists are committed and provide public services to our residents and visitors to keep them safe and healthy, and that has always been a critical priority of mine," said State Representative Regina Barrow, who attended the news conference and tour.
"The Public Health Laboratory staff is delighted to have moved into their new state-of-the-art facility in Baton Rouge," says Louisiana Office of Public Health Laboratories Director Dr. Stephen J. Martin. "In addition to the new facility we are also fortunate to be able to upgrade much of our analytical instrumentation. This will allow us to improve our accuracy and efficiency and reduce the time needed to generate test data. We have also added new technologies to our laboratories that will increase the capabilities of what we can provide".
During its 124-year history, the State Public Health Laboratory has undergone continuous changes in its organization and technologies to adapt to new and emerging public health issues such as HIV, bioterrorism, food and water borne disease, pandemic influenza and Ebola. The Public Health Laboratory currently is organized into four subject matter areas: Biochemistry and Newborn Screening, Chemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology and Virology. Sections for Administration, Emergency Preparedness, Laboratory Safety and Quality Control provide support to all laboratory sections.
"In a single day, drinking water system samples, seafood samples, various human specimens or even unidentified substances could arrive in our state public health lab for analysis. The knowledge our experts produce is critical in both government officials and health care providers in making protective and life-saving decisions for the public. Along with our environmental health experts, infectious disease investigators and clinical experts, our lab scientists help us solve complex public health concerns from new disease outbreaks to the causes of food contamination," says J.T. Lane, Assistant Secretary for Public Health.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.