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Westfield Board of Health Debates Immunization at Childcare Centers, Drug Abuse Education and More at Meeting

Jill D'Ambrosio

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 • 10:55am

WESTFIELD, NJ – Members of the regional board of health discussed restaurant inspections, posting vaccination rates at childcare centers, information for parents regarding prescription drug abuse and a resolution to ban smoking in parks and recreation facilities at its monthly meeting Monday night.

The meeting began with an update by Ken Pincus, principal registered environmental health specialist for the Westfield Regional Health Department, on Hunan Wok III in Westfield, which was recently given a satisfactory rating, an improvement from conditionally satisfactory, after Pincus said he and health director Megan Avallone revisited the Chinese restaurant on Broad Street on March 21.

Hunan Wok III had been given the conditional rating during an inspection on Feb. 21 that uncovered insufficient handwashing stations, failure to protect food from contamination and improper physical facilities, according to the inspection report.

“They did a great job on the re-inspection,” Pincus told the board Monday.

Pincus noted that he will increase inspections of Hunan Wok III over the next year to make sure it stays in compliance.

In addition to the status update on Hunan Wok III, Pincus told the board that Casa di Pizza in Westfield and the Westlake School were both given conditionally satisfactory ratings in March and have yet to be re-inspected.

Board members brought up the idea of seeking out classes in safe food handling practices for restaurant workers in their native language, such as Spanish or Chinese.

While discussing the public health nursing report for March, board member Dr. David Weinman suggested looking into a way for parents seeking childcare to learn the number of children in a specific facility who have been fully vaccinated.

“That’s a great idea, if we could require daycare centers to post the percentage of children who were vaccinated,” said Dr. Lawrence Budnick, board president.

Avallone noted that some families opt out of immunizing their children, citing religious reasons, but she added that this can also be due to philosophical differences regarding vaccination. In recent years, there has been some fear among parents about a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism.

Avallone said her main concern is daycare centers who accept newborns too young to be immunized against certain diseases. She suggested an education campaign for parents and plans to report back to the group after further research.

The board of health also took up the subject of prescription drug abuse, which falls under its prescription drug abuse awareness subcommittee.

Board member and pharmacist Joshua Suri said that parents in the community should be educated on how to spot signs of dependence and misuse.

“How many parents in Westfield know this is an issue?” he asked the board. “How many parents know what to look for in their medicine cabinet?”

Suri volunteered to write up a fact sheet on prescription drug abuse to circulate to local pharmacies and to residents. Budnick also offered to pen a fact sheet on Lyme Disease for distribution.

The board will also look into holding a drive for residents to drop off expired medicines.

Lastly, board members discussed a resolution it passed a year ago to ban smoking in parks and recreational facilities. For the ban to be adopted, the recreation commission has to pass a similar resolution and has yet to do so.

In addition, the town plans to hold a helmet clinic to check the fit of children’s bike helmets on June 1 at the Westfield Memorial Pool complex. The time is to be determined.

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