Halloween Safety

October 30th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

TAs we make our way home from work and school tomorrow, neighborhoods will be filled with goblins, ghosts and superheroes.  It’s a night kids look forward to all year, so we need to do our part to make sure Arizona kids have a safe Halloween.

The most important thing you can do to keep kids safe is to slow down.  The combination of unsafe driving, the setting sun and excited kids in dark costumes can turn a fun night of trick or treating into a tragedy in a heartbeat.  According to Safe Kids Worldwide, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year.  It may take you a few more minutes to get home, but the safety of our children is worth it.

Parents can do their part by decorating costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers to make kids are visible to drivers.  Kids can also carry a small flashlight or glow sticks.  It’s a good idea for adults to go trick or treating with kids.  When it comes to costumes, make sure it fits correctly and won’t cause falls.  And if the costume has a mask, the mask shouldn’t interfere with your child’s vision or hearing.

When it comes to treats, encourage moderation.  No one needs to binge eat an entire bag of candy in one night.  The candy and treats they collect on Halloween can last them throughout the holiday season.  Finally, for kids with food allergies, take a look at the Teal Pumpkin Project that gives kids with food allergies the chance to still have a fun night of trick or treating.

Federal Program Helps Recruit Doctors in Underserved Areas

October 30th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

docsArizona needs more doctors to help take care of our residents’ various health issues but we are challenged with recruiting enough especially in the rural communities.  The National Health Service Corps has a program called the  Student to Service Loan Repayment Program which is designed to attract newly trained physicians to work in rural, underserved areas.  The program allows 4th year medical students pursuing a primary care residency to get annual loan repayment while still in medical school or residency if they commit to serve in underserved communities.

In exchange for service in a high need Health Professional Shortage Area a medical student may receive tax-free loan repayment of up to $30,000 annually or up to $120,000 for three years of full-time service or for six years of part-time service.  Medical students can benefit by reducing their medical student loan debt by more than half.

This 2015 “Students to Service” application cycle is open until November 13, 2014.  If you know an interested medical student, encourage them to review the Students to Service Application and Program Guidance for additional instructions.  Click here to start an application.  For more information contact Ana Roscetti, Workforce Programs Section Manager.

City Health Commissioners Raise Awareness of Prescription Drug Overdose

October 29th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

prescriptiondrugThe National Association of City and County Health Officers Big Cities Health Coalition recently held a standing-room-only Congressional briefing on prescription drug abuse and overdose. The briefing focused on local policy successes, challenges, and solutions to help save lives.  Click here to learn more about the Big Cities Health Coalition, projects they are currently engaged in, and to watch a video of the briefing.

Melanoma Reporting

October 28th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

melanomaMelanoma skin cancer is the deadliest form of skin cancer.  Many believe that Arizona has similar age adjusted incidence rates to Australia, the world’s highest rate.  But during the middle of the last decade, the Arizona Cancer Registry data showed a puzzling decline in cancer rates.

The AZ Melanoma Task Force to look at the cause.  The task force consists of the Arizona Cancer Registry, the Skin Cancer Institute, University of Arizona Cancer Center, community dermatologist in both Maricopa and Pima Counties and the SunWise Skin Cancer Prevention Program.  They discovered that there was substantial under-reporting of melanoma cases (72% of cases missed) by reviewing case reports of 15 dermatology practices.  Physicians weren’t reporting their cases because they thought the pathology laboratory was reporting or they just didn’t know they were supposed to report.

The task force really stepped up to develop strategies to improve melanoma reporting by physicians.  The latest report shows that within one year of implementation of melanoma reporting strategies there was a 36% increase in reporting.  This is the first big step in really identifying the burden of melanoma. Although it now appears that melanoma rates are dramatically rising in Arizona, it’s more the “true” burden of melanoma coming to light and showing the importance of prevention strategies called for in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.

Vital Records & Same Gender Marriage

October 27th, 2014 by Will Humble 1 comment »

vitalrecordsBy now I’m sure you’ve heard that Arizona began recognizing same gender marriages (as an outcome of a recent federal court case).  The court decision will influence some of the things that we do in our Vital Records shop – mostly as we process of death certificates.  Arizona law specifies the people that can get a certified copy of a death certificate.  One of those categories is the decedents’ spouse.  Now that Arizona recognizes the marriage of people of the same gender, we’ve begun processing death certificates of all marriages – whether the people are the same gender or not.

We don’t expect to make major changes for the issuance of birth certificates, but we’re still looking into the nuances of the maternity and paternity statutes to determine how to register a birth when a birth mother has a same gender spouse and wants to name her spouse on the birth certificate as the other parent.

Our Vital Records shop also records adoptions…and this area may be affected by the ruling – but we’re not 100% sure yet.  Arizona law doesn’t prohibit people of the same gender from adopting children, but state law gives preference to a married man and woman over others.  We still don’t know if those criteria in law will eventually be affected.  Since our team simply registers adoptions approved by the courts (ours is more of an administrative function), we’ll simply continue to record adoptions as they arrive.

2014 AIDS Walk

October 24th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »
AIDS walk ribbonHIV/AIDS affects or infects over 15,000 people in the state of Arizona.  HIV has become a chronic disease, one that can be managed, which means most people are not dying of AIDS.  However, there are still a lot of difficulties associated with being HIV positive.  The prescriptions alone can be expensive and the side effects can be very hard on the body, making simple daily tasks more difficult. 
What can our community do to help?  The 2014 AIDS Walk Arizona Walk & 5K Run is just around the corner and is a great way to show your support.  All the money raised locally is spent locally; it’s distributed equally to 17 valley-wide member agencies that provide programs to prevent HIV/AIDS or that assist those living with the disease.  Programs include education, safe-sex practices, testing, medical, food, housing, legal, and youth empowerment.  Some of these programs depend on the funds raised to survive.
The fundraising goal for the 2014 event is $500,000.  You can help by registering here as a part of the ADHS team or donating to our team. This year the Phoenix AIDS Walk Arizona & 5K Run on Sunday, October 26th, 2014 at 9am.  Whether you run, walk, donate, or simply support the ADHS team, thank you for all you do.
MONDAY UPDATE: As of October 27th, the Phoenix AIDS Walk raised $308,780.92.  Our  ADHS team goal was $500.00 and we exceeded our goal raising a total of $580.00.  Our top team member who raised the most money was our mascot “Chewy” raising a total of $160.00.

Vaccines- Calling the Shots

October 23rd, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

Syringe and VaccinationEvery time a different disease surfaces in the news like MERS, Ebola or Enterovirus D 68, one of the first questions people ask is, “Is there a vaccine for it?”  A new documentary created for NOVA on PBS – Vaccines – Calling the Shots recently outlined the history of vaccines and the possibility of vaccine-preventable diseases returning to the U.S.  It’ll take an hour to watch, but it’s excellent – especially for us public health enthusiasts.

The Governor’s Council on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response

October 22nd, 2014 by Will Humble 4 comments »

Rendered Arizona FlagThis week the Governor signed an Executive Order establishing the Governor’s Council on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.  The Council consists of 20 public health, health-care, and other multi-sectorial partners, with the ADHS Director as the Chair.  Our task will be to ensure that Arizona is prepared to rapidly and effectively respond to various infectious diseases.

We’ll be developing a plan that will: 1) Include methods for rapidly identifying and assessing cases, protocols for providing healthcare treatment and infection control to prevent healthcare worker infections, and case contact investigations to prevent secondary infections in the community; 2) Identify ways to strengthen collaboration among healthcare organizations, medical communities, government agencies, law enforcement, non-profit organizations, and the community-at-large in order to effectively address infectious disease transmission and treatment; and 3) Serve as a reliable and transparent source of information and education for Arizona leadership and citizens.

We’ll provide a preliminary report to the Governor by December 1, 2014 and continue to report to the Governor on a regular basis as the situation requires.

You can be part of the solution too.  You can reduce your chances of getting sick and spreading illness by immunizing your family against influenza right now.

How infectious is Ebola?

October 21st, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

SONY DSCEpidemiologists (aka disease investigators) use a number of tools to estimate the contagiousness and spread of a disease.  One such tool is the R0 (R nought), which represents the average number of people one sick person will infect.  It’s calculated by estimating the chances of exposure, number of susceptible persons, length of contagious period, how the disease spreads, and how much time passes between exposure and becoming contagious.

For example:  the HIV virus has an R0  of 4.  One person with HIV, on average, infects 4 others.  Remember, SARS, the respiratory scare in 2003?  That also has an R0  of 4.  Measles, on the other hand, has an R0 of 18.  You can see why public health responds so quickly to a single positive measles case.

For Ebola, the R0 has been estimated at 2.  So on average, one person infects two others.  It doesn’t mean that Ebola is less serious than SARS, measles or influenza – it just means it doesn’t spread as easily as they do.

The goal of public health in an outbreak is to bring the R < 1.  When that happens, spread of a disease stops and sick patients don’t infect others.  In the case of Measles, this can be done by vaccinating exposed persons and reducing the sick person’s exposure to others.

In the case of Ebola, the focus is on quick identification of cases, isolation (literally using barrier and containment methods to keep patients from infecting anyone else), and identification of case contacts, monitoring them, and isolating any that are a suspect case.  ADHS is providing guidance to hospitals on this strict infection control policy, and will continue to update them as the recommendations change.

Ebola Toolkits

October 20th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

ebolaOne of the roles we play in any outbreak is making sure that our partners in the state have all the information they need to respond to a situation and be safe in that response. I’ve posted about our continuing education of those partners, but now we’ve created a one-page stop for partner.

Our Ebola Preparedness website contains all the information we’ve sent out through our Health Alert Network. There are toolkits for hospitals, outpatient clinics, EMS providers and laboratories.

We will continue to push information to our partners, especially as things change. We anticipate new information today about personal protective gear . So stay tuned