Newborn Screening Turn-Around Times

December 13th, 2013 by Will Humble 1 comment »

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.

Arizona “Mission of Mercy” Starts Tomorrow

December 12th, 2013 by Will Humble 1 comment »

Seems like anytime you hear a 100+ year old person being interviewed about the secret to long life they say “take care of your teeth and feet and drink cod liver oil”.  For good reason.  Good oral health is critical to a person’s overall health. Tooth decay and gum disease are linked with heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and premature births. Many people in our community can’t afford dental care, so they suffer from poor oral health that affects their ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch and eat. That’s why the Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy is such an important event for Arizona.  

The event provides free dental services to people in need. Last year about 2,000 people were able to get services. This year’s Mission of Mercy takes place December 13 and 14 at the Arizona Fairgrounds. There’ll be about 100 portable dental units and 1,500 volunteers that will provide more than $1M in free care to children and adults. 

We’re supporting the event through Title V funds and several of our staff volunteered to provide health information about our programs and services to the patients. Thanks to Sheila Sjolander, Wayne Tormala, Jennifer Botsford, Tiana Galindo, Mary Luc, Cristina Ochoa, Margaret Lindsay, Anita Betancourt, Kimberly O’Neill, Mohammed Khan, Sharon Jaycox, Karen Sell, America Coles, Mary Ellen Cunningham, Belen Herner, Matthew Roach, Brandy McMahon, Blanca Caballero, Michael Abbott, Julia Wacloff, and Chris Minnick for volunteering for the event. 

Also, thanks to Maricopa County Public Health for providing flu vaccinations to participants- and a huge thanks to Kevin Earle, the Executive Director of the Arizona Dental Association for his leadership in setting up this year’s Mission.

Behavioral Health Contract Update

December 11th, 2013 by Will Humble No comments »

Our Behavioral Health team is working hard this month keeping up with all the changes and the transition.  Check out the Behavioral Health blog for an update.

Interested in Developing a “Family Health Portrait”?

December 11th, 2013 by Will Humble No comments »

We’ve known for a long time that your family health history can have a profound impact on your risks for certain inheritable diseases and illnesses.  Until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to track your family health history. 

The Surgeon General’s Office has developed an internet-based tool called “My Family Health Portrait” which makes it easy for you to record your family health history.  I’ve been told that the tool is easy to access on the web and simple to fill out- although I haven’t done it myself.  It assembles your information and makes a “pedigree” family tree that you can download. It’s a “private” tool in the sense that it doesn’t store or keep the information that you input.  

Using My Family Portrait allows you to: 1) enter your family health history; 2) print your family health history to share with family or your health care provider; and 3) save your family health history so you can update it over time.   Here’s where to learn more about the new tool.

Feet Slowing You Down?

December 10th, 2013 by Will Humble 18 comments »

The health of your feet is probably one of the most underappreciated yet important keys to your overall health. Each foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and associated tendons – all taking tremendous pounding over the years. It’s estimated that 75% of Americans will experience foot problems in their lifetime. While both men and women suffer from foot problems, it’s commonly cited by experts that women are more likely than men to have foot problems. 

According to the American Osteopathic Association, high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to 1/3 suffering permanent problems because of constant wearing of high heels. A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that high heels can permanently change the way you walk (even without heels) and put you at greater risk for strain injuries. Chronic heel use can also result in ingrown toenails, nerve damage, bunions and irreversible leg tendon damage. The increased weight on your toes makes your body to move forward making you lean backwards and overarch your back, straining your knees, hips, and lower back possibly resulting in sciatica. 

Don’t let yourself get sidelined from physical activity because of preventable foot problems. For example, a bunion surgery can take 6 weeks to 6 months of recovery time. The National Foot Health Assessment survey showed that the percent of adults participating in physical activity is reduced almost in half if their foot health is rated fair/poor. 

Here are some helpful hints I found from the American Osteopathic Association to minimize the health risks from chronic heel-use: 

  • Choose shorter heels or flats more often. If you wear heels, pick ones that are less than 1.5 inches with a wide heel base;
  • Use insoles to reduce the impact on your knees;
  • Make sure your shoes are the right size so your foot doesn’t slide forward- which will put even more pressure on your toes. Pick a shoe with a wide enough toe box to let your toes wiggle;
  • Limit wearing heels on days when your schedule will include lots of walking or standing;
  • Alternate your shoe. Avoid wearing high heels all day by wearing flats during commute times; and
  • Take time every day to stretch your calf muscles and feet. 

Check out this slideshow on the worst shoes for your feet.

Request for Information (RFI) for the Greater Arizona “RFP”

December 9th, 2013 by Will Humble No comments »

Now that we’re on the road to transitioning to a new system of behavioral health care in Maricopa County, it’s time to move our sights toward taking our reform initiative to the rest of the State.  Our first objective is to get input from the public and other Stakeholders. 

That’s why we, in coordination with AHCCCS, released a Request for Information (RFI) this week.  We’re exploring the feasibility of contracting with more than one at-risk managed care organization to act as a Regional Behavioral Health Authority to create an integrated health care service delivery system to provide physical and behavioral health care services, and to maximize care coordination statewide (we’ve already started the transition in Maricopa County).  

The purpose of RFI is to seek input on the design of the service delivery system to be implemented in Greater Arizona and be fully operational by October 1, 2015.  The Request for Information asks a series of 15 key questions that will impact on how we formulate our next procurement solicitation for behavioral health services.  Folks can submit comments to Elena Beeman in our Procurement shop through January 22, 2014 to weigh in.


Teen Stress

December 9th, 2013 by Will Humble No comments »

Is the teen in your life stressed out? You’re not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and National Public Radio, almost 40% of parents say their high-schooler is having stress from the demands of achieving good grades in honors and advanced placement courses. There can be considerable pressure, some self-imposed, to get 4.0 and higher grade point averages in order to increase their chances of getting into highly ranked colleges and getting scholarships. A number of high school students discuss spending 12 hours or more a day on school work.  A survey by the American Psychological Association also found that doing well in school was the most common source of stress for teens (43%), followed by family financial difficulties (31%). 

Signs that a student is stressed or stressed out may include suffering from headaches, stomachaches and tiredness from lack of sleep. It’s important that students have balance in their lives. Parents can help them achieve this by: 1) watching for signs of school-related stress; 2) teaching their children time management and organizational skills; 3) looking at whether your child is overscheduled; 4) promoting getting adequate sleep, physical activity and family time; and 5) making sure that parental pressure isn’t contributing to student stress. 

Check out our Power Me A2Z website for tips for young women, and a fact sheet developed by the John Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health on teen stress.  If you’d like to find out more about helping teens who may be experiencing extreme stress or other related mental health challenges, check out our Mental Health First Aid program.

Introducing Health-e-Arizona Plus

December 6th, 2013 by Will Humble 2 comments »

AHCCCS and ADES have rolled out a new website that makes it easier than ever to enroll for Medicaid and other benefits.  It’s called Health-e-Arizona Plus… and it’s Arizona’s one-stop-shop for easy Medicaid enrollment.  Health-e-Arizona Plus provides an easy pathway to apply for a full range of AHCCCS and ADES benefits and local health access programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and Cash Assistance benefits.  This easy-to-use new website has modules for connecting individuals and families to coverage, benefits, and services as well as tools for state workers and community assistors.

Arizonans Continue to Kick the Habit

December 6th, 2013 by Will Humble No comments »

We continue to make strides to get Arizonans to Kick the Habit.  We got the good news this week that Arizona’s adult smoking rate dropped 2 more percentage points in the last year…  going from 19% 2011 to 17% today.  The data come from this year’s CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System…  and it translates into 72,000 fewer AZ smokers and $432M less in total lifetime health-care costs. 

Even more dramatic is the youth rate, which fell from 17% to 14%. We’ve had a 30% drop in our AZ youth smoking rate over the last 4 years meaning that there are 110,000 fewer kids smokers today than four years ago.  A 2009 U of A report on the value of prevention found that preventing one kid from starting to smoke saves the state on average $6,000 over that smoker’s lifetime.  

It’s no coincidence that the historic drop began in 2009.  After years of stagnant youth prevention rates our Tobacco & Chronic Disease prevention team rebooted their tobacco control efforts in 2008. On the adult side, we developed a new strategic plan to improve the effectiveness of our smoking cessation resources via the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline.  A simple cost-effective campaign was created in 2010 that utilized ADHS staff as extras in their “Call Center” campaign, and it  has been very successful. The ASHLine also launched Project Quit…  which is our initiative designed to showcase the quit process. 

On the kids side, we launched our anti-tobacco youth coalition effort, Students Taking a New Direction. Better known as STAND, it empowers teens to make positive changes in their community. With assistance from Tucson based Pima Prevention Partnership, STAND has grown into over twenty collations spread throughout Arizona working on initiatives such as ordinances for smoke-free parks, smoke-free multi-unit housing and expanding smoke-free zones.

Flu Near You

December 5th, 2013 by Will Humble No comments »

Flu Near You is a free tool that’s been made to help in the fight against flu. The way it works is that people like you and I anonymously report each week on whether we had symptoms or flu shots. The information is used to place a dot on a map of the community so flu-like activity to be tracked for the area. 

It’s really easy and anyone 13 years and older can register on their computer or mobile device. This site gives a lot of good stuff to look at including maps of flu activity in your area, places where you can get your flu shot, links to local public health sites, and Google Flu Trends graphs. Sign up today to be a flu fighter, and remember with flu season around the corner it’s a great time to go out and get vaccinated.