PENDLETON — The Umatilla County Public Health Department will start looking for applicants to fill a new health educator position.

The full-time health educator position was approved by county commissioners earlier this week.

The work will involve local health data analysis, communicable disease investigations and education on the prevention of communicable diseases, such as sexually transmitted infections and measles.

“We have a fair amount of communicable diseases in our community,” said Public Health Department Deputy Director Alisha Southwick. “We’ve had positions like this before, but it will be a little different. This is going to be a full-time person, whose focus is on education and epidemiology.”

She said that in the past, nurses and environmental health staff have been responsible for disease investigations in addition to regular duties, while it’s a primary focus for the health educator.

The educational component of the job will initially focus on educating and providing consultations to health care providers about diseases. But Southwick said that possibly, over time, the person might be involved with schools or other public facilities.

Southwick said the department will post the job in the next few weeks and hopes to hire someone as soon as possible.

The position will be funded using modernization grant money from the Oregon Health Authority, which became available this month.

“I think the most exciting thing about this is that it’s made possible through this modernization grant,” Southwick said.

The funds total $202,425 and are part of a $15 million OHA investment approved by the Oregon Legislature this year.

Of that money, $7 million was distributed among Oregon counties to help increase equity, leadership, epidemiology and communicable disease control for the biennium.

In 2017, the OHA used a $5 million legislative investment to implement regional health partnerships, resulting in the creation of the Eastern Oregon Modernization Collaborative with a budget of $495,000 for the biennium.