Watertown’s new director of health comes to town with more than 40 years of experience in public health. After arriving two months ago, he said he believes Watertown has a commitment to public health, and hopes the department can move from one that is reactive to a proactive one.
Larry Ramdin comes to Watertown after 11 years as the Health Agent in the Salem. Before that the Arlington resident worked in Reading and Newton. He was drawn to the position in Watertown.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” Ramdin said. “It is a great community, close to home. It is a community that is extremely supportive of public health.”
He likes the fact that Watertown has created the position of Community Wellness Program Manager — filled by Stephanie Venizelos — to try to improve the health of residents. This is in line with the fact that the biggest health concerns are not infections diseases, he said, but chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.
“Many communities have similar program, Salem did a lot with it, but we didn’t have a point person who I could work with to guide this,” Ramdin said.
Among current concerns Ramdin has is the growth in the rodent population. They can spread disease that impact humans as well as their pets, Ramdin said, noting that cases of leptospirosis in pets have been seen in Boston. The disease is often spread by urine getting into water, where dogs and cats can get it, and then transmit it to humans, which can lead to serious conditions, and event death, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Rats have become a problem has been seen around the Boston area, and there have been instances of major infestations in Watertown. Ramdin said, however, there are steps that people can take to control them.
“We as a community need to be aware that we are all in this together,” Ramdin said. “We need to ensure we are not providing food and harborage for them.”
For instance, in buildings with dumpsters, the trash must all be placed into the dumpster, and the doors must be shut.
“They can jump as high as six feet,” Ramdin said.
Pet food should not be left outside, even on a second floor landing, because rodents will find it. With bird feeders, Ramdin recommends having a solid block of food, because the loose seed can fall to the ground and become food for vermin.
Ramdin also urges people to make sure there are no entryways into their homes for rodents to find. More information about controlling rodents can be found by clicking here.
As Watertown grows more dense, and also taller, there will be new concerns.
“The area of the Arsenal Mall has been a shopping center, and now it is being converted into a place where people live and work,” Ramdin said.
The tall buildings will bring some challenges.
“When you live high there are concerns of noise and dust,” Ramdin said. “The Pike isn’t that far — there is dust coming off the Pike — and there are major roadways around Watertown and along the Charles River.”
He said there may be other health concerns coming down the road, and Ramdin said he wants his department to be ready.
“We have to be ahead of the game and understand the new challenges,” Ramdin said. “We have to understand to improve and respond to it.”
As for himself, Ramdin said he is still getting to know Watertown.
“I need to learn about and understand the community,” Ramdin said. “I have to build the connections. People don’t know me.”