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Robertson starts health educator career here

Already decided on a career in the health field, Sonja Robertson liked the idea of working with prevention and promotion.

"This is on the front line of health care," the Pierce County Public Health Department's new health educator said Wednesday.

As educator, she's responsible for designing, implementing and evaluating public programs for the department, she said. Since assuming her part-time duties last month, she's focused on two such programs: the Pierce-St. Croix Tobacco-Free Coalition's compliance checks effort and public health's emergency preparedness plans.

The coalition is participating in the Wisconsin Wins campaign, she said, dedicated to reducing kids' use of tobacco by making sure people aren't selling tobacco to them. A recognition and reminder component rewards those who don't sell to kids and reminds those who would to do the right thing.

"We're helped by students involved with FACT (Fight Against Corporate Tobacco) from Ellsworth and Prescott," she said.

They make quarterly visits to retailers, including restaurants, bars and gas stations, trying to buy tobacco products, Robertson said. If asked by a clerk, the youths are required to tell the truth about their age and that the products are for them. State law specifies customers must be age 18 or older to buy tobacco and must present an acceptable form of ID.

The next round of compliance checks in the county is scheduled for later this summer, she said.

Planning for emergency preparedness is done to assure the public that officials are ready to deal with widespread health-related incidents, she said. She agreed bird flu would be an example of a pandemic the preparations might address. The department helps organize mock trials in this regard, involving the entire public health staff, fire and police departments, schools, hospitals and physicians.

"These plans have been worked on for at least a couple of years and can be updated as necessary," she said.

The Stillwater, Minn., native said she graduated from high school there in 2002. While in school, she enjoyed playing basketball, later entering intramural competition. She considered history a favorite school subject and especially science, which she called a factor in her career decision.

She graduated from Winona (Minn.) State University this May with a bachelor of science degree in community health education.

Robertson's father, Jeff, is chief executive officer of Lakeview Health Systems in Stillwater.

"I got to know people in the field through my dad," she said. The family also includes her mother, Nancy, brother, John, and sister, Kristina.

The health educator is to be married to Chris, a Chetek native going into elementary education, in August. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, water skiing and the outdoors in general.

Robertson is in the local public health office Mondays through Thursdays and can be contacted by calling 273-6577.