Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’

Newborn Screening Turn-Around Times

December 13th, 2013

An investigative article published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a couple of weeks ago has triggered a state by state assessment of newborn screening programs across the country.  Arizona is no exception.   Our newborn screening and maternal and child health teams have been reviewing our procedures and looking for ways to improve Arizona’s performance. 

For example, several Arizona hospitals are under-performing when it comes to the timeliness of submitting newborn blood spot samples to our State Lab for testing. Last week, our Licensing team sent letters out to each of the birthing hospitals reminding them that they need to have solid policies and procedures in place to get their newborn screening samples to our lab promptly after they’re collected.  

Our laboratory team is in the process of planning some technical assistance visits to the hospitals.   We’ll also be setting up some training to make sure that all the hospitals know that our contract with FedEx for overnight priority pickup covers the entire state and won’t cost them anything to use.  I’ve set a goal for us to receive 95% of all samples in the lab within 3 days of collection- and we’ll be posting hospital turn-around times on our website quarterly- using transparency to drive better compliance.  We’re also developing a plan to run priority tests during 3-day weekends.  

Our Newborn Screening Advisory Committee also met this week.  We discussed our proposed newborn screening fee increase as well as whether we should add new tests to the panel in the future.  We haven’t made any decisions about whether to include new tests (and associated fees)…  but we’ll be reviewing the comments that we’ve been receiving as we prepare to make decisions in the coming weeks.

Border Car Seat Safety Program Moves Forward

October 9th, 2013

A cooperative partnership between Arizona and Sonora highlights the importance of a safe ride home for all children and their families. Car seat use in Arizona is about 90%, yet car seat use in Sonora is less than 20%.  A lot of this is because car seats cost more in Mexico than they do in the US- making them less affordable.   As part of an initiative that we launched with Sonora at this summer’s Arizona Mexico Commission, Arizonans will be able to conveniently donate new and gently used child safety seats for distribution to families in Mexico. All donated child safety seats will be inspected to insure they will provide the protection needed.  

We recently established a new website called A Safe Ride Home which promotes car seat safety in Arizona. We’re in the process of creating community collection points for the car seat donations. The collection sites will be posted to the website. People will also be able to find resources for getting low cost seats in Arizona, including the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety CAPP Program at the new website.  

Having a properly installed car seat is as important as having a car seat.  Next week, we’re sending staff to work with our partners from Mexico to provide best practices for how to implement programs to teach folks how to safely and properly install car seats.  More to come on this initiative this winter.

International Data Sharing

October 8th, 2013

Arizona and Sonora have a long history of collaborating on many projects over the years.  We long ago understood that disease doesn’t stop at the border.  Arizona and Sonora were the 1st states along the U.S.-Mexico Border to share information on cross border cases in an organized way.  Since 2008, we’ve been sharing this information electronically with Sonora Secretaria de Salud epidemiologists via our MEDSIS (Medical Electronic Disease Surveillance Intelligence System)- providing a secure, two-way communication of real-time information so Arizona and Sonora can take action to prevent further disease spread.  

In October of 2012, CDC brought all four border states together to pilot information sharing of bi-national case to include the federal level of both countries, CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine and Mexico’s Dirección General de Epidemiología. At this year’s Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists meeting, our experience provided support to successfully pass (by vote of all state and territorial epidemiologists) a policy to add a binational variable to the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS).   

Because of the long history of bi-national case sharing, Arizona and Sonora have provided an example of best practices in North America.  This regular sharing of information on bi-national cases helps to protect the health of residents on both sides of the border.  We just posted a report on bi-national tracking of infectious disease.

Local Suicide Prevention Day Event

September 4th, 2013

We and Magellan Health Services of Arizona will host a webinar-based panel discussion on suicide prevention and intervention entitled “Closing the Gap to Zero Suicides” on World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10).  The webinar will feature a panel of leaders from our team, Magellan, and the Veterans Administration.  The discussion will run from 10 – 11 a.m. AZ time… followed by audience questions. Each panelist will provide an overview of the most important aspects of this Winnable Battle and next steps to bring the behavioral health system closer to reaching our goal of zero suicides.  To register for this webinar click here.

Our Newest Decision-making Tool

June 24th, 2013

The core of our decision-making as an agency relies on evidence.  Evidence can be scientific like surveillance or research or it can be administrative or financial.  Whichever way you slice it- the key is to get good reliable information so that our teams can make effective decisions as we execute our mission.  

One of the tools that the statewide public health system relies upon is called the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey.  It’s conducted throughout the year in AZ and examines the self-reported habits of thousands of people from across the state. The report contains key data on lifestyle risk factors contributing to the leading causes of death and chronic diseases- and measures the public health system’s progress on smoking, overweight, high blood pressure, exercise, flu/pneumonia vaccination, cholesterol, seat belt use, fruit/vegetable consumption and other risk factors. 

These data give us some of the tools we need to set priorities and craft intervention strategies. Judy Bass was the point person for this year’s report.   Well done Judy!


Obesity Declared a Disease

June 21st, 2013

The American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease this week.  This is an important change… because the term “disease” in the managed care world means that that prevention and treatment is more medically necessary, justifying reimbursement for necessary interventions. 

If obesity isn’t a disease then I don’t know what is.  Obesity has gone from being a public health nuisance to a public health disaster in the last 20 years.  In Arizona, the percentage of obese adults has nearly doubled in the last 15 years- from about 13% in 1995 to more than 25% in 2010.  It’s overwhelming the country both in health care costs and productivity. We spend about $150B annually on health care costs related to obesity… and it increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes leads to devastating health problems including blindness, the loss of limbs and an early death. 

As a public health system, we’ve got to start pulling folks out at the top of the waterfall rather than fishing them out at the bottom. While the change by the AMA is a positive step forward, some doctors might need the nudge of calling this a disease so that they’ll actually put together a treatment and prevention management plan together for their patients. This is where our work becomes even more important.  

Reducing obesity is a Winnable Battle both nationally and in Arizona.  We have lots of resources to help you and your family eat healthier meals and become more active. Check out the Arizona Nutrition Network’s Champions for Change for simple ways to eat better. Find more ideas for healthy eating and active living at, where you can sign up for healthy recipes that are emailed every week.

Surviving the Desert Summer

May 20th, 2013

Heat is the number one killer among all weather related causes of death across the country and in Arizona… more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires combined. It doesn’t get much attention because it’s hard to take a picture of heat- but it’s easy to take a picture of hurricanes and tropical storms.  The AZ heat is a lot more than a nuisance – it’s lethal. Our latest report shows that about 1,400 Arizonans get a heat related illness so serious each summer that they end up in a hospital emergency room – hundreds of them are admitted and dozens die every year. 

Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family. Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated, Stay Informed is the mantra – whenever you can, avoid the heat of the day. Go into an air conditioned place and cool off if you have to be outside. Drink lots of water – if you’re indoors all day, you should be drinking about 2 liters of water. When you’re outside, try to drink 1-2 liters every hour… and stay informed – a good place to do that is our extreme heat website

Our Extreme Weather and Public Health program focuses on heat related illnesses by enhancing surveillance and strengthening communication during Extreme Heat Advisory Days.  We’ve also developed innovative toolkits targeting identified vulnerable populations.  You can learn how to Protect yourself from heat with some resources on our website including our Heat Brochure and our School, Older Adult, and Outdoor Worker toolkits.  Also, here’s our Heat Emergency Response Plan.

National Spotlight on AZ’s High Risk Perinatal Program

May 1st, 2013

The March edition of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Program’s Issue Brief highlights the great strides Arizona has made in decreasing neonatal deaths since the inception of our High Risk Perinatal Program/Newborn Intensive Care Program. When the program started in the 1970s, 1.8% of neonates died within a month of being born.  As a result of a host of Maternal and Child Health interventions over the last 40 years, that percentage has dropped to about 0.4%.  

One key component includes using community health nurses to follow and support families as they transition from the hospital to home.  Community health nurses do developmental, physical and environmental assessments, provide education and guidance to families, and direct families to programs and services. While in the home, the community health nurses can also asses other children and screen mothers for postpartum wellness. This is a great example of how long-term public health programs can have a significant impact on the overall health of the people of Arizona. This national report highlights Arizona’s programs as well as programs in California, Colorado and Utah.

Programs that Advance Health Equity

April 25th, 2013

If you live in or have visited the rural towns and cities in Arizona, it’s not a surprise that many of these rural locations don’t have enough healthcare providers. Based on current provider shortage data from the federal HRSA, we need an additional 170 primary care providers and 54 mental health providers to adequately care for its underserved populations. 

April is Minority Health Month and a great time to highlight one of our programs that addresses provider shortages and improves health equity in rural and underserved areas. The First Things First Early Childhood Therapist Incentives Program provides stipends and loan repayment to Speech & Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, Child Psychologists, and Mental Health Specialists who provide early childhood development services in rural and underserved areas.  

The program currently has 30 providers participating and will be accepting applications until June 15 for providers in 9 rural counties.  Visit the First Things First Early Childhood Therapist Incentives Program for eligibility and application details.  This program is one of several incentives that can help bring more providers to undeserved areas of the state. Visit the workforce programs web site for information on other programs.

We’re #1 in Social Media

April 24th, 2013

MPH Programs List Top 45 Social Media Public Health Departments 2013It’s unusual to go through a day without reading, referencing, or interacting on social media. For many, it’s become the preferred source for news, visiting with friends and family both close and far away, and accessing services. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, G+, Flickr—the list is endless—offer online connectivity that was only imagined not long ago.  We’ve made using social media a key priority as a means to achieve many of the elements in our Strategic Map.

Wednesday we received a reminder that our efforts in promoting public health with social media is noticed nationally.  We’ve been recognized by “MPH Programs List as the #1 social-media-friendly state health department in the U.S due to our robust social media presence and content.  We’ve also been recognized as a leading user of social media in Arizona state government with an online companion case study to Social Media in Healthcare: Connect, Communicate, Collaborate by Christina Beach Theist… which highlights the various ways ADHS is interacting with Arizona citizens via blogs, live streaming events, online forums, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media environments.

As always…  our success with social media is a team effort, in this case led by Jennifer Tweedy.  Jennifer, her team and the rest of the department that continually refreshes our social media presence with interesting content are making a difference in AZ and nationwide.