New Tobacco Prevention Public Service Campaigns Launched

March 31st, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »

WThis month we launched two new tobacco prevention public service awareness campaigns that show the final consequences of long term tobacco use, and the effect of secondhand smoke on children. The public service announcements for the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline (ASHLine) focus on smokers and encourages people to call the ASHLine for help quitting.  Since the PSA’s were launched in early March calls to the ASHLine have nearly doubled.

There will be a series of three new ASHLine PSA’s, and you can watch the first one here.  The secondhand smoke awareness campaign shows the damaging health effects that smoking can have on children.  We have partnered with the American Lung Association for the campaign.  You can watch the public service announcement here and get more information about the effects of secondhand smoke at the Arizona Smoke Free Living website.

Newborn Screening Rulemaking Moves Forward

March 26th, 2015 by Cory Nelson 1 comment »

baby - native americanThe Arizona Newborn Screening Program screens more than 80,000 babies for a panel of 29 disorders annually.  Although babies born with these disorders may appear to be normal at birth, with time the disorder may have a devastating or lethal effect on the infant’s health and development.  Early screening, detection, and quick treatment of these disorders can, in many cases, help kids avoid illness, developmental delays, and even death.

In 2014 House Bill 2491 required the Department to revise our Newborn Screening rules to include hearing tests on all newborns, add screening for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) and consider adding a screening for severe combined immunodeficiency.  On March 23, 2015, the Department received approval from the Governor’s office to move forward with the rulemaking to implement these requirements.

The screening test for CCHD uses pulse-oximetry, a test that happens in the hospital.  It’s a device that is placed on the foot of a newborn and measures the baby’s oxygen levels.  A low oxygen reading can be a sign that the baby might have a heart problem.  Congenital heart disease occurs in approximately eight in every 1,000 live births, and if left undetected, children are at risk for the development of serious complications within the first few days or weeks of life.  Most hospitals already do this screening, but our new rules will make the screening a requirement.

The law also requires us to take a look at adding severe combined immunodeficiency disorder (SCID) disease to our screening panel.  In October 2014, our Newborn Screening Advisory Committee met and recommended that we include the screening test for SCID as part of our panel.  This test would require some new equipment and increased costs, so we’d need to get the authority to increase our testing fee by $10 to pay for the testing costs before we could add it to our panel of tests.  The good news is because the screening test for SCID is so reliable, we’d only need to test the first sample (taken at the hospital).

We expect to publish the draft rules for comment later this spring and then implement the updated rules July 1st.







World TB Day Highlights Efforts to Control the Spread of the Disease

March 24th, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »

WorldTBDay_2015LogoMarch 24 is World TB Day, which is an opportunity for us to reflect not only on our progress towards tuberculosis (TB) elimination in Arizona, but on the history of what World TB Day stands for globally. World TB Day was established as a reminder that TB is still a public health threat.  TB is an eradicable disease that continues to be the second leading infectious disease killer of adults in the world.

TB programs in Arizona continue to make strides in the global effort to eliminate TB.  In 2014, Arizona saw a slight increase to 193 cases from 184 cases in 2013.  The national picture shows an overall decrease of only 155 TB cases to 9,412 in 2014.  That represents the smallest decline in more than a decade.  However, over the last five years, we’ve seen a downward trend in Arizona and nationally.  There were 283 cases reported in Arizona in 2010.

TB control is a global effort and there is a need for progression of innovative tools to identify new TB cases and new TB latent infections arriving in the U.S.  Provisional 2014 numbers show that nearly 67 percent of the U.S. TB cases were born in another country.  Immigrants and refugees first started to undergo TB screening in the early 1900’s as part of a medical exam to come to the U.S.  Recent updates to these screening guidelines have proven to be a successful intervention and will lead to fewer cases in the near future.  We look forward to announcing continued progress in TB reduction over the next several years.

Obesity Rates Drop in Arizona WIC Program

March 20th, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »

you do a lotFewer Arizona children are overweight or obese because of strides in nutrition and physical activity programs sponsored by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the work of partners and programs around the state.  The percentage of children two- to five- years old who were overweight or obese in the Arizona WIC Program has fallen by more than five percent since 2008.

Childhood obesity can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which in turn can lead to heart disease.  Obese children also are more likely to develop breathing problems, asthma, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, and poor self-esteem.

Our Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity has introduced a new WIC Food Package with fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole-grain breads, pastas and tortillas.  We also expanded our breastfeeding peer counseling programs, made changes in our nutrition education and clinic services in WIC, and created the Empower Program with incentives to licensed early-education centers for more than 200,000 children.

We also completed the two-year program, Arizona Champions for Change: Communities Putting Prevention to Work. And, we developed the Empower Plus project, funded by Nemours and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 75 child care programs with enhanced obesity prevention activities.

Reducing obesity is a Winnable Battle both nationally and in Arizona. We have resources to help you eat healthy and get more active.  Go to Arizona Nutrition Network’s Champions for Change website to sign up to receive healthy recipes and tips for you and your family.  Find more ideas for healthy eating and active living at

Mass Fatality Workshop and Tabletop Exercise

March 19th, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »

exercise 2Fatality Management is one of our Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant capabilities.  On Wednesday, March 11th, ADHS hosted a Mass Fatality Workshop and Tabletop Exercise.  The key strategic outcomes for mass fatality planning at ADHS are to Prepare Public and Healthcare Systems for All Hazards Responses, Improve Community Resiliency, Maximize Public Health and Health Care System Preparedness and Integrate Information Sharing Systems and Protocols.  Bringing partners together in events such as the Mass Fatality Workshop and Tabletop Exercise allows for the dissemination of timely and important information, defining of roles during a response, and for the presentation of functions that support a mass fatality response.  A couple of examples of support functions are vital records (death certificates) and behavioral health services.


Crisis hotline for those impacted by today’s shootings

March 18th, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »


MMIC only  webMercy Maricopa Integrated Care established a special hotline 1-800-203-CARE (2273) for the public after two unconnected shootings in the Valley.  People can also visit for resources. The Crisis Response System in Maricopa County is built to provide care to anyone whether they are in the public behavioral health system.  People who are emotionally affected and need help are encouraged to reach out.

Additionally, two mobile crisis teams were sent to the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) where one of the shootings happened to meet with students. Crisis staff will continue to work with leaders at EVIT to meet the trauma needs of students and faculty.  Behavioral health providers will also be receiving a detailed crisis response plan for members.

Mercy Maricopa took over the behavioral health system in Maricopa County almost one year ago.  Since then it has worked to ensure clients have both mental health and acute care health care when they need it.

Arizona Public Health Laboratory Selected to Assist in Developing New Technology

March 18th, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »

DSC_1415In 1999 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the  Laboratory Response Network (LRN).  The LRN’s purpose is to run a network of labs that can respond to biological and chemical threats, and other public health emergencies.  The LRN has grown since its inception.  It now includes state and local public health, veterinary, military, and international labs.  Prospective reference labs must have the equipment, trained personnel, properly designed facilities, and must demonstrate testing accuracy.  Our Arizona Public Health Laboratory is part of the Network, qualified to work on both biological and chemical agents.

As part of the LRN, our Public Health Lab has been involved in the testing of Anthrax, Avian Influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.  Our Public Health Lab has been selected to work with the CDC and Association of Public Health Laboratories to collaboratively develop an enhanced testing capability for  toxins, which are the organism that causes botulism.  As an Advanced Level Biological LRN, our Public Health Lab will work to develop new technologies for the quicker and more accurate detection of this deadly bacterium.

Selection of the 2015-2016 Flu Vaccine Strains

March 17th, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »

flusurveillanceThis month, the FDA endorsed the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) recommendations for the 2015-2016 Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine.  It may seem early to think about next year’s flu season when this season is just winding down; however, flu vaccine development and production takes about 6 months.  So it is important to start now in order to make the hundreds of millions of doses needed when flu seasons hits again this fall.

Two vaccine strains will be changing compared to the 2014-2015 vaccine strains.  This includes replacing the H3N2 strain with the one currently circulating in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. H3N2 was the virus that was unexpectedly mismatched during vaccine virus selection last year and blamed for low vaccine effectiveness during the 2014-2015 season.

Immunity to flu viruses declines over time, so getting vaccinated against the flu every year is important – it is the best way to protect yourself and those around you.

ADHS Participating in National 80% by 2018 Cancer Screening Initiative

March 16th, 2015 by Cory Nelson No comments »

UntitledColorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among both men and women in Arizona.   Cancer can be detected early through a screening test, like a colonoscopy or an at-home test, when patient outcomes can be most impacted.  The Arizona Department of Health Services, along with organizations throughout the U.S., has taken the challenge to increase screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.  The “80% by 2018” initiative aims to screen 80 percent of adults 50 years of age and older for colorectal cancer by the year 2018.

On Monday, March 9, the American Cancer Society hosted a live national broadcast event for a look at the first year of the 80% by 2018 effort.  The broadcast featured Virginia Warren, our Cancer Prevention and Control Office Chief.  The Cancer Prevention and Control Office operates the Fit at Fifty HealthCheck Program which provides resources for uninsured and underinsured folks to get screened for colorectal cancer.

The broadcast featured national leaders including Dr. Richard Wender, Chair of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, and Chief Cancer Control Officer of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Lisa C. Richardson, Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  If you’re interested in learning more about “80% by 2018,” check out the re-play of the national broadcast, “80% by 2018 – Moving Forward Together.”

Suicide Prevention Mobile App Launches Today

March 11th, 2015 by Cory Nelson 1 comment »

Suicide Safe newThe Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a mobile app this morning to help primary care and behavioral health providers identify suicide risk among patients. Suicide Safe is available for Apple and Android phones and tablets.

A webinar explaining the technology will happen at 12:30 today. The event is full at this point, but a video will be available on SAMHSA’s YouTube channel.

Suicide Safe was created using the best practice Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) card. The five steps include: identify risk factors, identify protective factors, conduct suicide inquiry, determine risk level/intervention, document. This pocket card for clinicians has long been used; the app allows clinicians to simply pull out their phones or tablets rather than trying to find the printed card when concerned about suicidal ideations.