Arizona Community Profiles Dashboard (Part II of IV)

October 1st, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

reportingA couple weeks ago I wrote about our new Community Profiles Dashboards.   They’re a huge leap forward for public health professionals, city planners, non-profit organizations, medical providers and anyone interested in health data.  The data are arranged on the Dashboards - in state, county, and Primary Care Areas - to provide several options to compare and explore data.

This week we take a look at how the dashboard can help public health gather data it needs to address one of our winnable battles, reducing suicide.  More than 1,100 of those were in Arizona last year.  To develop effective public health prevention and intervention programs to prevent suicide, we have to understand our communities.  Looking at the raw numbers of suicides isn’t enough to develop new strategies.  Public health professionals need more information, including where we have higher numbers of suicides and the health and demographic indicators in that area.

In this Community Profiles Dashboards Video Tutorial we look at rural and metropolitan areas of the state to identify where suicide rates are higher than the overall Arizona rate to get a better understanding of the relationships between demographic information and the higher rates.  When we looked at the communities with higher suicide rates, we found that all of these communities either had an older population or a higher population of Native Americans, and that all of the communities had lower educations levels.  This isn’t a definitive answer to the question of why these areas have higher rates, but it gives us a starting point.  The Dashboards aren’t meant to solve public health problems; it’s a tool to help public health better target our resources and intervention strategies.

One of our key interventions has been training people across the state in Mental Health First Aid.  Since 2011, more than 7,000 people have learned the warning signs of suicide and what to do when there is a concern.  You can find out more about the free classes on our website.

National Latino Children’s Summit This Week in Phoenix

September 30th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

Father And Son In Park With FootballChild-serving organizations and community leaders will be meeting at the 2014 National Latino Children’s Summit on October 3rd in Phoenix.  It’s called The State of Latino Children: Our Future – and it’ll focus on health, child safety, education and more.

At the summit, Dyanne Herrera from our Office of Women and Children’s Health will provide a data overview and bring focus to the mobilization around children’s health. Dyanne will be joined by colleagues who will update the participants about connecting children to healthcare; Parent Ambassador Programs in the schools; public private partnerships and opportunities for building positive environments.  For more information about the summit community partners and agenda, visit the website.

Arizona Health Improvement Plan Broadcast Posted

September 29th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

Our most recent AzHIP  broadcast is posted to the Arizona State Health Assessment section (look under the Resources heading).  A big thank you to everyone involved for their hard work.  The next set of heavy lifting is putting together the working groups that will assemble gap analysis and the intervention ideas that will flesh out the Plan.

Case Dismissed: Arnold v. Sarn

September 28th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

gavel-214x300After more than 30 years of litigation, the Maricopa County Superior Court last week dismissed the Arnold v. Sarn lawsuit, retaining jurisdiction to enforce the on-going agreement that lead to this historic resolution. The dismissal is the result of a comprehensive joint stipulation – filed by the parties and approved by the court earlier this year – that ensures a successful and quality community-based behavioral health system.

The final agreement approved by the court specifically concerns care and services for people with a serious mental illness. That Settlement became the foundation to end the lawsuit and established a blueprint for a successful community-based behavioral health system in Arizona.

Last week the Judge accepted the terms agreed to by all the parties and dismissed the case- officially ending the 1981 Arnold v. Sarn lawsuit.  We’re still required to live up to the terms of the Settlement including increasing Assertive Community Treatment, Supported Employment, Supportive Housing and Peer and Family Services.  We’ll be using evidence-based tools to  evaluate the system’s performance, including ongoing Quality Service Reviews, Network Capacity Analyses and adherence with SAMHSA Fidelity Tools. Our Arnold v. Sarn website will continue to provide transparency on our performance under the Settlement Agreement.

This is an historic achievement, not because the case has been dismissed, but because we’ve been able to build a successful community-based behavioral health system that’s held accountable using evidence-based criteria, providing people living with a serious mental illness with the resources and help on their path to Recovery.

Trash Your Stash

September 26th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

got-drugs-buttonAbuse of prescription drugs is a public health epidemic, but you can do your part in helping to curb access to prescription drugs with one simple step: get rid of your old and unused medications.  This weekend is the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day held by the DEA and state and local partners.  Removing unused prescription drugs from your home is important because it can help reduce the number of accidental poisonings and can limit the access to drugs that people abuse.  Each year in Arizona more than 2,000 kids were sent to the emergency room from accidental poisonings.

The Prescription Drug Take Back Day will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The service is free and anonymous, with no questions asked. There are more than 100 drop-off sites across the state, and you can find a location near you by visiting the DEA website

If you can’t get to a site on Saturday, there are other ways to properly dispose of unused medications. There are several permanent drop boxes where you can dispose of medications that you can find by visiting the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative.  You can also mix your unused medications in a plastic bag with undesirable materials, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter and then throw it in the trash. If you throw the medication in the trash without destroying them, they can be retrieved and sold – if you flush them down the toilet, they can contaminate our water supply.  Take some time this weekend to go through your medicine cabinets and get rid of all your unused medications that can be a danger to our family, friends, and community.

What Zero Grams (0g) of Trans Fat Really Means

September 25th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

food label for blogEating foods with trans-fat (or trans fatty acids) raises low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol), lowers your high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol), and is linked to heart disease.  Trans fat provides no health benefit and there’s no safe level of eating trans-fat.  The FDA, American Heart Association, and the Institute of Medicine all agree that trans fatty acids have a stronger effect on the risk of heart disease than other unhealthy fat.

The most commonly eaten form of trans fat is in processed food.  Manufacturers have voluntarily reduced or removed trans-fat from their products; however, trans fat can still be found in foods that label the amount of trans fat as “0 grams.” Manufacturers are allowed to label products containing between 0 to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving as “0 grams.”  This labeling is a problem because people that see the 0 g trans-fat on the nutrition facts label probably don’t know that they’re  still eating consuming trans-fat.  Trans-fat can still be found in foods like crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods snack foods (likes microwave popcorn), frozen pizza, and coffee creamers.

A strategic priority for the Arizona Department of Health Services is to promote healthy eating and physical activity to reduce obesity. Find out how at or read a recent article in Preventing Chronic Disease for a deeper dive.

We Can Prevent Suicide

September 24th, 2014 by Will Humble 1 comment »

This is national suicide prevention month. What can you do to prevent suicide?  Look for the warning signs:

  • Those talking about wanting to die
  • Those giving away their possessionsS
  • Those feeling hopeless, or intensely lonely
  • Those experiencing mental or physical pain
  • Those increasing their use of substances
  • Those discussing revenge
  • Those demonstrating extreme mood swings
  • Those sleeping in excess
  • Those isolating themselves from others
  • Those showing rage

We can stop suicides. We must continue discussing mental health, reducing stigma. If you or someone you know is need of help, please reach out. There are health care workers who are available 24-7 via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.  For more information, email:

The Ebola Intervention Roadmap

September 23rd, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

ebolaThe pace of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has quickened over the last few weeks.  There have now been over 4,900 cases and 2,400 deaths (half in the last month).  The WHO has warned that by October, we may see the number of Ebola cases doubling every three weeks.  For several months now, the caseload has overwhelmed the capacity of the response teams.  The virus has gotten ahead of them.

Last Tuesday (at CDC Headquarters) the President announced the American deployment of medicine, equipment and 3,000 military personnel to accelerate the response to the Ebola outbreak.  The WHO has released its Ebola response roadmap, which strives to stop transmission in affected countries and prevent international spread.  Through worldwide coordination of support, education, resources, and trained staff, this map would lead West Africa to outbreak control within the next 6-9 months.  If everything goes according to plan, this might work.

Arizona is doing its part.  We’re maintaining Ebola experts here at the department, and passing on new knowledge and guidelines to hospitals and clinicians.  We’re notifying the public of any new developments and supporting our CDC assignees who await deployment to CDC’s Emergency Operations Center.  We’re a small part of the Ebola response roadmap, but we’ll continue to respond as needed.


Influenza Preparedness

September 22nd, 2014 by Will Humble 1 comment »

fluIt’s coming up on the harvest season for infectious diseases, and many of our ADHS teams are gearing up. We’re monitoring the number of flu cases reported across the state (we’ve only had 1 in the last couple weeks), supporting distribution of flu vaccines, encouraging healthcare workers and the public to get vaccinated, and testing influenza specimens to identify circulating strains and detect potential drug resistance.

National and international partners are also on task.  CDC is maintaining influenza surveillance and laboratory capacity, promoting influenza education, partnering with the WHO for global pandemic preparation, and making vaccination recommendations.  The WHO, in addition to ensuring global preparedness, is monitoring flu viruses circulating worldwide.  In the Southern hemisphere, most infections this season have caused by influenza A(H3N2), influenza B (Yamagata lineage), and influenza A(H1N1)pdm09.  These are the same strains that we saw here in Arizona last season, and are all covered in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine.

The Arizona State Hospital has set a goal of vaccinating at least 80% of staff, residents, and patients this season.  We’re having a contest for patients with an award of a special dinner for the first unit that’s fully vaccinated.  Our first ASH staff clinic was September 10th, with 112 employees choosing to get vaccinated.  Our next ASH flu clinic is October 15th…and we’ll also be having RN’s provide influenza vaccine on the unit to staff.  For our downtown campus, we’ll be having a free influenza vaccine clinic on Wednesday, October 15 from 7:30 am to 10:30 am in the 4th floor training room of the 150 Building.

Last year over 12,000 Arizonans were sickened or hospitalized with the flu…and that’s just the number who got confirmatory testing. The flu season in Arizona usually begins around October…so now is the time to protect yourself, your family, and your community by getting vaccinated.

Bringing Down AZ’s Teen Pregnancy Rate

September 19th, 2014 by Will Humble 1 comment »

ArizonaWe’re showing success in reducing our teen age pregnancies.  It’s one of our winnable battles because babies born to teen moms are more likely to have bad birth outcomes; teen moms are likely to drop out of school and live in poverty.  Since 2002, our teen pregnancy rate has declined almost 40%.  We continue to work with our partners across the state to provide evidence-based and evidence-informed programs to make sure our teens hear information in a way that makes a difference to them.  Television shows like “16 and Pregnant” on MTV may also be playing a role by bringing the reality of the challenges expectant and parenting teens face into our homes and encourage serious discussions among youth and parents.

The strides we’ve made reducing teen childbearing saved taxpayers an estimated $287 million in 2010 alone compared to the costs they would have incurred had the rates not fallen.  Many thanks to our partners and the team in our Bureau of Women and Children’s Health for doing a great job.