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April 20, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or


DHHS Presents Exceptional Merit Award to Betty Cernech

Lincoln – Betty Cernech of the Omaha Visiting Nurse Association was recently presented the Individual Exceptional Merit Award at the Nebraska Public Health Conference in Lincoln.

The Exceptional Merit Award honors an individual, organization or business making a significant positive impact on public health, particularly among underserved populations. The work is high quality, science-based and outcome-oriented. The positive impact on public health is documentable and likely to be long-lasting.

“For more than 25 years, Ms. Cernech has been dedicated to serving the most vulnerable in her community,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Nebraska Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health. “Her spirit, enthusiasm, and tireless efforts have left a significant mark on the wellbeing of women, infants, the elderly, and the homeless.”

Cernech’s many accomplishments are:

  • Advocating at the state and federal levels for funding for home visitation to reduce child abuse and neglect and reduce out-of-home placement.
  • Funding for development of a home visitation state pilot for at-risk families, a pregnant and parenting teen program, and Project WIN (Welcoming Infants into the Neighborhood). No incidents of abuse or neglect or out-of-home placement occurred in the families served.
  • Working with other non-profits to improve and increase health care services to the homeless. In 2008, almost 4,000 persons were served.
  • Development of the VNA Bridge Program to help frail or disabled elderly to maintain quality of life and independence in their own homes.
  • Collaboration with other nonprofits for better nutrition and childhood obesity programs. Operation Frontline curriculums in community sites provided nutrition education to low-income families.
  • Participating in the Building Bright Futures Task Force to increase intensive home visitation to an estimated 3500 newborns in 2009.
  • Increasing funding for public health nursing to vulnerable populations to reach over 9,000 men, women, and children.


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