Fl- – An Inexpensive Public Health Intervention

January 11th, 2012 by admin No comments »

When I was a kid growing up in Tucson- it seemed like we lived at the dentist- and getting cavities filled was routine.  It’s way better these days because of a host of public health and dental product interventions…  but 75% of Arizona kids still have tooth decay by the time they’re in 3rd grade.

Around 1900 scientists speculated that fluoride might protect against tooth decay based on observations that different communities had different trends in tooth decay.  They didn’t exactly know that it was fluoride, but noted that fewer cavities were present in communities where folks had mottled teeth (now called dental fluorosis) which we now know is caused by high levels of fluoride.  Researchers in the 30s and 40s found the direct relationship between fluoride concentrations and tooth decay, and determined that moderate levels of fluoride prevent cavities.  Water fluoridation as a public health intervention began shortly thereafter.

Water fluoridation today reduces cavities by up to 40% relative to communities with low levels of fluoride.  It costs about 95 ¢ per person per year, saves $38 in unnecessary dental costs per person per year… and fluoridating a person’s water for a lifetime costs less than filling 1 cavity!

Some fluoride is naturally present in water and food. Because of our reliance on groundwater for drinking water In Arizona, many communities have naturally occurring fluoride- so all Arizonans get some.  When you hear the word “fluoridation” it basically means that the community adds enough fluoride to the water to bring the natural level up to the amount needed to prevent tooth decay.  Currently, 10 Arizona communities (Bisbee, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Guadalupe, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Tempe, and Yuma) fluoridate their water supply to the right level.  Many other communities in Arizona have naturally occurring optimal levels of fluoride in their drinking water.  Arizonans can check the fluoride levels in their water systems on the My Water’s Fluoride website.  Folks can also learn more about community water fluoridation on the CDC’s fluoride website and on EPA’s fluoride website

We also recommend everybody brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste—when getting up in the morning and before going to bed.  For little kids, we recommend monitoring the amount of fluoride during tooth brushing by supervising and discouraging kids from swallowing toothpaste- and teaching them to only place a pea-size amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush.

Dogs and Residents

January 10th, 2012 by admin 1 comment »

The father of a person living in one of our licensed behavioral health residential facilities phoned in an after-hours complaint to our behavioral health licensing team on the Friday before Christmas Eve. Little did our team leader Bill McCarroll know when he answered the phone that he would hear graphic details of a brutal pit-bull attack- and he moved swiftly into action.

The father relayed a horrible account to Bill. His son was repeatedly bitten by one of two pit-bulls being kept in the facility. The parent recounted that the attack was so vicious that his son required a trip to the local hospital as well as countless stitches. To make matters worse, the father explained that the attack happened on Tuesday and the dog was still at the facility 3 days later!  Bill responded empathetically and immediately went into action Friday night- arriving on site within the hour.

Bill sought help from local law enforcement (as Maricopa County Animal Control was closed). The police assisted Bill to get a hold of animal control, and (as a result of Bill’s persistence), the dog that had attacked the client was removed. Bill remained on site and continued to observe the situation realizing quickly that the remaining dog was also at a high propensity for harming clients. Bill then called the owner of the facility, who was vacationing in Sedona to have the other dog removed from the facility that night.  Because of Bill’s dedication and quick action the vulnerable adults were kept safe over the Christmas holiday. The following week our team met with the facility owner, who implemented new pet policies to protect the health and safety of clients and staff.

Folic Acid Awareness Week

January 9th, 2012 by admin 1 comment »

This week is National Folic Acid Awareness Week and a great time to start taking a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.   So, whether or not you’re planning to have a baby this year, you can start the New Year with healthy habits that will help give a baby a healthy start in life.

 Folic acid is a B vitamin.  Our bodies use it to make new cells. Taking folic acid is an important way to reduce the risk of major birth defects of the brain and spine called, neural tube defects.  Folic acid can reduce neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly by up to 70%.  Data from our Birth Defects Monitoring Program shows that about 50 babies are born with neural tube defects in Arizona each year… and Hispanic women are more likely to give birth to a baby affected by spina bifida than women of all races and ethnicities. 

So, take your multivitamin, and remind the women in your life to take a multivitamin with folic acid daily.  For more information, check out our Bureau of Nutrition & Physical Activity website.

Being Prepared is No Accident

January 8th, 2012 by admin No comments »

Last January 8th, the world was horrified by the events in Tucson Arizona.  A mass shooting in a supermarket parking lot on a Saturday morning – 19 people shot, 6 died.  As tragic as this event was, it could have been worse had the emergency medical care providers and trauma team not been prepared.

It is no accident that the system performed well that day.  Emergency workers spend hours every year planning and training to ensure that the emergency care system is prepared.  In fact, the trauma and EMS system form the backbone of Arizona’s preparedness capability. Each and every day, without fanfare, members of this team do their ordinary jobs that have extraordinary impacts on their patients.

Normally, these events are not seen on TV or published in a newspaper, but as we now know, they are vitally important to the patient, the patient’s family, their community and to our State.

The events also prompted the state’s behavioral health system into full response.  Dr. Laura Nelson talks about her feelings on that day and the response on her blog.

Up & Away & Out of Sight

January 6th, 2012 by admin No comments »

More than  2,000 kids ended up in AZ emergency rooms from accidental poisoning last year. Kids 5 and younger had the highest rates of non-fatal ER visits from accidental poisoning.  Nationally, more than 60,000 young children end up in emergency rooms because they got into medicines while their parent or caregiver wasn’t looking.  The new Up and Away and Out of Sight educational program was created to remind families of the importance of safe medicine storage. 

Up and Away and Out of Sight outlines six simple things parents and caregivers can do to help keep kids safe through proper medicine storage.  For more information about what you can do to prevent accidental poisoning, please visit www.poisonhelp.hrsa.gov and check out winter prevention tips.   Arizona has two Poison Control Centers that can be accessed through the national Poison Help number: 800-222-1222.  Add this number into your cell phone so it’s easy to find if and when you need it (I used it once when I found one of my kids licking a chlorine pool tablet).

Prevention and County Health

January 5th, 2012 by admin 1 comment »

Our prevention and county health folks will be spending more time working to help counties, schools, and communities to adopt policies that will reduce obesity, chronic disease and disparities.  One area of focus will be Border Health where the objectives include reducing motor vehicle accidents and substance abuse.  There will also be more going on around employee worksite wellness.

Do Yourself A Favor in 2012

January 4th, 2012 by admin 1 comment »

Life is a precious gift.  None of us knows long our gift will last, so it’s important to make the most of every day.  That means doing everything you can to stay healthy by eating well and exercising regularly.  A lot of folks will say – I’m stuck with my health because of my genes, or my doctor can’t do anything to help me.   The truth is, half your health depends upon your choices.  Only 20 percent of health is hereditary, 20 percent comes from your environment, and 10 percent is dependent on your doctor.  The bottom line – your health is largely in your own hands. 

Meet Matt Gainey. Matt works at the Department of Health Services.  About 3 years ago, he was tired of how he felt and looked.  He started walking at lunch, added more fruits and vegetables to his diet.  He didn’t notice a change immediately, but he kept going.  He wanted to feel better. 

As his energy increased, Matt added more to his routine – sit ups at night. He cut out soda and reduced the processed food he ate, like cookies and chips.  He started paying attention to what he ate, what he did and what he weighed – things he’d never really noticed before, even though diabetes and heart disease run in his family. 

Pretty soon Matt was taking longer walks – he changed from walking to running. He added push-ups and free weights to his evening activities.  Even when it’s hot, I see Matt running wind sprints on top of the parking garage. 

The changes paid off; Matt lost 160 pounds.  He has more energy and sleeps better.  Of course, he did have to buy new pants – the old ones were 9 sizes too big! 

As you can see with Matt’s story – you can change your bad habits.  It doesn’t take a miracle or a fortune – and you don’t have to do it alone. 

If you want to change your diet and activities, eatwellbewell.org can help you choose healthier foods. For example, switching to whole grain foods and adding fruits and vegetables will increase your fiber, give you more vitamins and let you eat less to feel full.  

For ideas to helping you increase activity and for healthy recipes on the website go to eatwellbewell.org. You can even have them emailed to you each week.  Myplate.gov helps you decide the right balance of foods to eat. 

There’s a worksite wellness website (azhealthyworksites.com), if you want to corral your coworkers into getting healthy in 2012. 

The Arizona Smokers’ Helpline will help you stop smoking.  Online (ashline.org) or by phone (800-55-66-222), ASHLine provides medication, tips and coaching to help you get through the urges – all for free.  There’s also an iPhone and Facebook app. 

So when you wake up tomorrow in the New Year – know that you have the power to make a change.  You have the power to choose how healthy you will be for the rest of your life.  Go for it!

Looking Forward, 2012

January 3rd, 2012 by admin 1 comment »

Looking forward, 2012 is going to be another busy year for all of us.  During the last Deputy/Assistant Director meeting, managers shared the biggest priorities for the next six months and I will share a few of the highlights throughout this week in our blog.    

One key focus that echoed throughout everyone’s summary was an emphasis on working together across agency programs, with our partners and through our strategic plan.  From the importance of integrating behavioral and physical health to supporting our workforce with cross training, and planning for continuity of operations as staff members retire, ADHS is truly working together. 

The work on merging rules for behavioral health and medical facilities got off to a great start with a series of public meetings.  Six months from now, we expect to have a workable set of draft rules put together.  Operations, behavioral health and licensing are all contributing to this project.  There are also many 5-year Rule reviews getting underway as we speak.

Global Polio Eradication- The Ongoing Push

December 30th, 2011 by admin 1 comment »

Public health efforts eradicated smallpox from the globe in the late 1970s.  The last naturally occurring case was in Somalia in 1977 (followed by a couple of lab accident cases in 1978).  Public health’s sites have been set on Polio eradication for the last couple of decades.  We got close a couple of times, but a series of naturally occurring and man-made setbacks slowed progress.  

A couple of billion kids around the globe have been vaccinated against polio in the last decades – resulting in a 99% decrease in global polio cases.  The world was on the verge of eliminating polio in the 2000’s, but political strife and other issues in West Africa turned the tide and set the eradication clock back.  The good news is that the world is making progress again.  The list of countries where polio cases is shrinking, as are the number of cases.  Parts of Nigeria, India, Tajikistan, and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan account for more than 75% of global cases.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been adding support to the new push to eradicate by working with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.  The goal is to eradicate polio by 2015. 

Polio is more challenging to eradicate than smallpox was because it’s spread through what public health calls the “fecal-oral” route (i.e. sewage) rather than person to person, which means that public health needs to use mass vaccination efforts in areas with cases rather than the more focused (and less labor intensive)  “ring vaccination”  approach used to eradicate smallpox.

Annual Statewide Environmental Health Report

December 29th, 2011 by admin No comments »

I started my career in public health inspecting restaurants, motels and the like in the mid- 1980s.  My area was right around here down toward South Mountain-  and I inspected the cafeteria in the basement of the Executive Tower and the cafeteria that used to be on the 4th floor of the 1740 building.  It doesn’t seem like that was 25 years ago- but life is funny that way. 

Our department’s core environmental health responsibilities include administering the statewide public health sanitation program for food safety, bottled water, hotels and motels, children’s camps, public schools, and public and semi-public swimming pools.  We delegate the actual inspection work to the county health departments.  Statewide, there are about 170 Sanitarians employed by the counties to inspect the restaurants and food stores in AZ. We finished our statewide FY ’11 Annual Report last week.  Last fiscal year the system completed about 75,000 food safety inspections among the 34,000 food establishments in AZ.