Lifesaving test

February 23rd, 2012 by Will Humble No comments »

You’ve probably read or heard about my experience with my colonoscopy when I turned 50.  For years doctors have recommended getting a colonoscopy when you turn 50.  If doctors see something unusual like a polyp, they can remove it while they are there – which is what happened to me.  But they really didn’t have any research to prove that it was a life-saving choice.  This week the New England Journal of Medicine published a report that colonoscopies that find polyps can reduce the chance of dying from colon cancer by more than 50%.

So, when your time comes, bite the bullet and have the test.  Just ask for the good tasting prep!

Arizona’s EMPOWER Program Gets Even More National Recognition

February 22nd, 2012 by Will Humble No comments »

Last week the Altarum Institute released a report highlighting Arizona as one of only 10 states to successfully integrate physical activity and nutrition criteria into Quality Rating and Improvement Systems for child care facilities.   In Arizona, the quality rating system for child care is known as Quality First and is administered by First Things First.  To be eligible for Quality First, child care providers need to be licensed and participate in EMPOWER, which offers reduced licensing fees to child care providers who agree to adopt 10 healthy standards (related to nutrition, physical activity, screen time, and tobacco prevention).  More than 90% of Arizona’s 2,626 licensed child care sites participate in EMPOWER, meaning that more than 240,000 Arizona  kids are getting more physical activity than ever before.  

By the way, our team has also created loads of tools to support implementation of EMPOWER, including a short video series that highlighted actual centers and homes in Arizona with real staff showing and discussing how they incorporated things such as family style meals, physical activity, and breastfeeding support into their childcare centers which have been featured on the Let’s Move Child Care website.


Biomedical Roadmap

February 21st, 2012 by Will Humble No comments »

A decade ago, AZ launched a plan to create an internationally competitive bioscience sector.  This roadmap is the long-term plan to combine leaders in business, basic sciences & research, and political entities in order to create an infrastructure and climate that would be ideal to propel AZ forward in the biosciences. 

The Flinn Foundation invested in this mission and hired Battelle to create this plan or roadmap.  The report recommended specific areas of focus for short-term growth in 3-5 years (bioengineering, cancer research, neurosciences, and bio-imaging) that needed to be implemented.  They also identified other areas for long-term growth (agricultural biotech, asthma, diabetes, and infectious disease) over the next 5-10 years that would help strengthen AZ’s medical research base and create new jobs that would be safe from cyclical fluctuations in the economic market.  This implementation effort is being led by the steering committee. 

The core of the initiative: 1) builds research infrastructure; 2) develops a critical mass of firms and new cutting edge businesses;  3) enhances the business environment to generate funding; and 4) prepares the workforce with educational initiatives

The latest status report on the roadmap shows major progress (95%) on the goals in the last 10 years.  Bioscience employment in AZ increased 32%, the number of firms has grown 28%, wages in bioscience fields have increased 47%, NIH funding grew 65% faster than other states, and R&D expenditures by academic research institutions grew 52%.  Venture capital investment dropped 11%, however the entrepreneurial initiatives to license and patent intellectual property increased steadily.  Check out the full report, Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Performance Assessment 2002-11 and a calendar of upcoming events at  The list of organizations involved in bioscience can be found at

Opening Day for AZ Gardening

February 17th, 2012 by Will Humble 2 comments »

The President’s Day 3-day weekend is a great time to start your vegetable garden in the Sonoran Desert, so get out your shovels, mulch, and other garden materials this weekend. But if you want to grow healthy vegetables in the desert- you’ll need to prep your soil before the quickly upcoming planting season. Here are some pointers:

Raised beds

Raised bed gardening is a popular because it works so good in AZ. The beauty is that you can fill your raised bed with the perfect growing medium rather than trying to amend existing soil, it’s easy to provide deep watering, and you can build to a height that minimizes bending and kneeling. Weeds are easier to control, and you won’t compact your soil by walking on it. One of the keys to planting in a raised bed is planting close together, not following rows as in traditional gardening, so that the leaves of mature plants touch each other and form a canopy that helps suppress weeds and maintain a moist microclimate. Check out this link, this link, and this link for more info.

Site Selection

Vegetables need direct sun to grow and produce. You’ll want to select a site that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day. Within every climate, there exist various microclimates, and even in your own back yard you will find that there are different microclimates. Temperature, sunlight and even humidity can vary from one place in your yard to another. A general rule of thumb is that vegetable gardens do very well with southern exposure. Since the sun’s path varies with the seasons, pay attention to where the shaded areas are during different times of day. A winter garden will do fine, even thrive, with afternoon sun. A summer garden, on the other hand, will do best will morning sun and shade in the afternoon.

What’s Good Now?

This planting calendar was designed specifically for the Lower Sonoran Desert. Now is a great time for planting spinach, turnips, swiss chard, egg plant, onion, mizuna, mustard greens, tomatoes, peppers, arugula, cilantro, beets, basil, broccoli raab, collards and more. You can also check out the USDA’s brand new Hardiness Map for the whole US.

100 Years (actually more) of the AZ State Hospital

February 16th, 2012 by Will Humble No comments »

Check our excellent new web page about the history of the AZ State hospital. The stuff on the new hospital history page is fascinating. One of the things that struck me is that the issues of concern to the Superintendent of the Hospital 100 years ago were remarkable similar to today. The 100 year old documents we have talk about things like staff shortages, salaries, budget shortfalls and building maintenance and renovation. All of these are still relevant today! Of course, we’ve made huge strides in treatment, patient therapy techniques and implementation, overcrowding, patient quality of life and community reintegration- so in those respects today’s hospital is nothing like it was 100 years ago. The hospital continues to be innovative leaders in mental health for the state of Arizona. We anticipate the next 100 years to be filled with hope and promise.

19 Kids to Miss a Month of School

February 15th, 2012 by Will Humble 2 comments »

A 4th grader in Gilbert was diagnosed with the mumps last week. Had all the staff and faculty in the school been previously vaccinated for the mumps at the school- it really would’ve been no big deal. But, it turns out that 19 kids at the school hadn’t been vaccinated for the mumps (mainly because their parents chose to sign exemptions from our vaccination requirements).

As a result, the 19 previously unvaccinated kids can’t go to class for about a month. Of course- the public health system doesn’t want to exclude the unvaccinated kids from school, but there’s really no other choice at this point- because it’s the only tool left to stop a potential cascade of new cases. Mumps can be pretty serious and spreads easily. It’s a virus that causes swelling in the salivary glands, high fever, loss of appetite and fatigue. There can be a lot of serious complications including meningitis, spontaneous abortions in pregnant women, and sterility in males. It’s spread by sneezing, coughing, contact with mucus membrane secretions, etc. My mom says it almost killed me in 1962.

Our official rules for this kind of situation say: “When a mumps case has been at a school or child care establishment, the administrator of the school or child care establishment, either personally or through a representative shall: a) Consult with the local health agency to determine who shall be excluded and how long each individual shall be excluded from the school or child care establishment, and b) Comply with the local health agency’s recommendations for exclusion.” The 26 day exclusion period ordered by Maricopa County represents a full “incubation period” after exposure- the minimum needed to ensure that mumps won’t spread to additional people in the school.

Dr. Bob England from Maricopa County Public Health said it best in the paper this week; “It matters whether people around you have been vaccinated. It matters at least as much as it matters whether you’ve been vaccinated. No vaccine is perfect. Even people who have been vaccinated can contract diseases if they’re exposed to them. The key is to never be exposed. That’s how we’ve made all those previously common childhood diseases so rare. It’s not that the vaccine is so perfect. It’s that you get enough people vaccinated that when one person comes in with a disease that germ has a hard time finding another person to jump to. It’s called the herd effect.

Overall, 95% of Maricopa County elementary school kids are up to speed on the mumps vaccine, but it’s not evenly distributed. Some schools are at 100%, but one Maricopa County school is only at about 50%! Our team does a detailed annual analysis of immunization rates by school and gives that info to each of the county health departments every year- so they can do some intervention work.

Enjoy AZ’s 100th B-day

February 13th, 2012 by admin No comments »

Please take some time to enjoy Arizona’s 100th birthday celebration this  week.  The Arizona Centennial Commission   held Arizona Best Fest this past Saturday and Sunday.  There’ll also be a host of events going on tomorro (AZ’s actual 100th Birthday) in the Capitol mall area- especially the area between the House and Senate buildings just across the street from us.

Our parking garage was open all weekend (to anybody).  On Tuesday, we’ll put down the arm in our parking garage so we’ll still have a place to park when we come to work.  Some of the streets around us were blocked off for the events.

The celebration continues on Wednesday for ADHS staff – we’ve compiled an excellent presentation of Arizona Health Services through the Century.  A timeline set up in the Igloo will help you learn interesting facts from the Board of Health in 1912 – all the way through the centennial of the lab, which is May 23, 2012.  Leadership is also going to serve you a good old-fashioned meal that would have been right at home in territorial Arizona – chili!  So c’mon over, pardner, and recollect a bit with us as we stroll down memory lane in and around the Capitol.

Arizona Mexico Commission Progress

February 10th, 2012 by admin No comments »

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Rocky Point- after a long day (and night) of the inter Plenary Session.  The 2 day conference started Thursday and goes through tonight.  We meet twice a year- it’s basically an opportunity for us to form partnerships across the border and to develop regional approaches to things like valley fever surveillance, burn patient infrastructure, substance abuse, TB, border first aid, farmworker health, and Sonora’s efforts to provide licensing and quality assurance services for assisted living in Sonora (and how we can partner with them as they set up their program). 

During last summer’s Session we signed a bi-national Declaration to develop regional surveillance for valley fever.  We’ve made a lot of progress in the last 6 months, and tomorrow we’ll be following up on that initiative at Sonora’s public health laboratory, checking out the lab instruments and equipment that we were able buy (with federal funds) and indefinitely post in Hermosillo in their lab. We’ll also be setting up some joint training sessions. There are lots of other examples of what we do through the Commission on health- this is just an example. 

The Arizona Mexico Commission was started by then Arizona Governor Paul Fannin in 1959 to improve partnering between Arizona and Sonora in a wide range of areas.  It’s evolved over the years to become a premiere and unique cross-border nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the well-being and quality of life for residents of Arizona by promoting a strong, cooperative relationship with Mexico and Latin America through advocacy, trade, networking and information.  The Commission has 14 bi-national committees that act as industry and community advocates in partnership with the Commission Sonora-Arizona (from Sonora, Mexico) to facilitate cross-border trade, business and community networking and bi-national information sharing.  Our link is through the Health Services Committee.

Click here to see some of the public health facilities and an ambulance they use on the beach.

Recovery Through Whole Health RFI

February 9th, 2012 by admin No comments »

We’ll be having a “Request For Information” session regarding our “ Recovery Through Whole Health, the Regional Behavioral Health Authority with Health Homes” project (a.k.a. the upcoming Request for Proposal for behavioral health services in Maricopa County) on March 21 from 1- 5 pm at the Radisson City Center at 3600 N. 2nd Ave. in Phoenix.

We’ll have more details about the event in March through an official notice from ADHS via the State of Arizona e‐procurement system, ProcureAZ and on our Integration Website.   Folks can also register at under commodity code 952‐08 to receive the “official” notice of the RFI.

This will be a relatively informal event where we’ll provide some information about the project and our expectations…  and it’ll provide an opportunity for potential bidders, other behavioral health providers and consumers, peers and family members to ask questions about the project.  We don’t expect to be asking for written responses – again, this will be a relatively informal affair.

Neglected Global Tropical Disease Initiative

February 8th, 2012 by admin No comments »

Last week marked an important milestone toward better controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases by 2020. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, 13 pharmaceutical companies, the U.S., U.K. and U.A.E. governments and other global health organizations announced a new, coordinated push to defeat diseases like Dengue, rabies, blinding trachoma, Buruli ulcer, endemic treponematoses (yaws), leprosy (Hansen disease), Chagas disease, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, cysticercosis dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease),echinococcosis, foodborne trematode infections, lymphaticfilariasis, onchocerciasisriverblindness), schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), soiltransmitted helminthiases (intestinal worms).  Believe it or not- 1.4 billion people worldwide affected by the diseases above- most of whom are among the world’s poorest. 

An event at the Royal College of Physicians this week kicked off the new collaboration, which will focus on prevention efforts expanding existing drug donation programs to meet demand through 2020; share expertise and compounds to accelerate research and development of new drugs; and provide more than $785M to support research efforts and strengthen drug distribution and implementation programs. 

You can see an introductory video and the this week’s event in London on the website.  The Executive Summary of the initiative is called Accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases- A roadmap for implementation.