Child Care Readiness

October 12th, 2011 by admin No comments »

Ever since 911, there’s been an increased understanding that a strong disaster emergency and evacuation plan is required for any line of business.  Child care is no exception.  Over the last few months, our Child Care Licensing shop took the lead to develop and provide information and training to Arizona child care providers in effective short- and long-term emergency and disaster preparation related to individual facilities within the overall community.  They began their effort by researching and assessing recommendations and best practices nationally.  The areas being targeted as standards include:   

  • A plan for evacuating children in child care:  Developing and maintaining a written emergency plan (policies & procedures that prepare, train and require practice) that ensures health, safety and welfare (shelter in place, lock down and shelter outhost facility), including maintaining (specific) information which will protect children and staff during emergencies.
  • A plan reunifying children and their families after a disaster:  Developing and implementing plans, procedures and back-up plans that includes ways to globally communicate with children and staff’s families and community agencies before, during and after an emergency. 
  • A plan with a focus on children and staff that may have special needs or chronic medical issues and requirements such as transportation, food, etc. before, during and after an emergency.
  • A plan of action for recovery; protection of information and assets to allow for a continuum of care for children and families. 

Our Division of Licensing’s “Emergency Preparedness” web page includes links to existing statewide emergency communication sites, existing pages containing guidance and information for basic emergency preparedness, and to a new web page containing documents, resources and links to disaster and emergency preparation and training specific to the types of facilities licensed by the Department.

Arizona’s Food Safety Network

October 11th, 2011 by admin 6 comments »

The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak has captured the public’s attention these days- so I thought I’d do a piece on Arizona’s food safety network. Let’s start at the farm & ranch.  The Arizona Department of Agriculture is responsible for ensuring that the base of the food safety pyramid is solid in Arizona.  They have several divisions that are responsible for everything from Arizona farm-grown fruits and vegetables to livestock and poultry.  They also work with the USDA & the FDA to ensure that imported foods are safe and from an approved source.  So, basically, the AZ Dept. of Agriculture is responsible for food safety from the farm or ranch until the food hits the wholesaler or “jobber’s” warehouse. 

Once foods hit the middleman- it’s our job to ensure that food is safely handled until it makes it to your plate at a restaurant or leaves the grocery store in your cart. While our environmental health shop has the overall responsibility for ensuring that your food is safe from the warehouse to you- it’s our partnerships with the local health departments and departments of environmental services that make the system work.  We use the framework outlined in state law and our food safety rules to help guide the counties to make effective decisions in the field.  You can see a more detailed summary of the statewide activities in our latest annual food safety report (the new report is due out in a month or so). 

We delegate our food safety authority to the local health departments who use our authority do the actual inspections for restaurants and food retailers.  But, some of the counties actually act on their own- using authority granted from their board of supervisors.  For example, Maricopa County Environmental Services acts under their county authority rather than using our statewide authority.  All the inspections are done by people called Registered Sanitarians, who are required to have at least 30 hours of college credits in the natural sciences and pass a registration test

Of course, no food safety network would be complete without a robust foodborne illness surveillance system including the laboratory capacity to identify and track foodborne illnesses.  This part of the network also includes collaboration with the local health departments.  Physicians and private labs that identify or diagnose foodborne illness infections report that info to their local health department.  By pulling together the statewide data- we’re able to identify trends and sources- and along with the CDC’s resources, the public health system provides the feedback loop to the food safety network- allowing the system to track down and stop sources.

Free CME program for behavioral health providers on tobacco cessation

October 10th, 2011 by admin 6 comments »

Arizona Smokers’ Helpline, the University of Arizona, Mel and Enid Zuckerman, and the College of Public Health will present a free CME conference “Evidence-based Interventions for Tobacco Cessation in Populations with Mental Illness Challenges,” Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. to behavioral health providers. The conference will take place at the Fiesta Resort Conference Center (2100 S. Priest Dr., Tempe, AZ 85282) and teleconference will take place in Tucson at Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (2502 N. Dodge Blvd., Ste. 130, Tucson, AZ 85716).

The purpose of this CME activity is to increase awareness of the effectiveness and benefits of using a quitline for individuals who want to quit tobacco use, and to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to assess and treat tobacco dependence in smokers with co-occurring psychiatric and addictive disorders.

Please register online by Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, by clicking on the following link: REGISTER NOW. For additional information or questions, please contact: Shannon Vaffis, MPH, assistant director, community relations & referral, Arizona Smokers’ Helpline at (520) 320-6818 or Click here for conference information, including agenda and learning objectives.

Cottage Industry Foods Taking Off

October 7th, 2011 by admin 13 comments »

A few weeks ago, I wrote about our new Home Baked and Confectionary Goods Program. Since then, the program has really taken off.  About 700 people have registered with the program since we turned the key a few weeks ago, baking a variety of snacks, ranging from cookies and cupcakes to healthy goodies.  Bakers who want to sell their products from their home can register for their certificate on our website. All they need is a food handlers’ card (if required by their county) a product they want to sell, and some elbow grease. Once they’re registered and have their certificate, they can sell their goods in a variety of shops and markets. 

Here’s a brand-new dynamite 6 minute video that our team put together that walks folks through the basics of the new program including showing home-based bakers at work. The video was a collaborative project across the agency including our offices of children with special health care needs and environmental health and our bureau of nutrition and physical activity.  The team was led by Marta Urbina, Rita Aitken, Diane Eckles, Dallas Teat, and Adrienne Udarbe.  Check it out when you have a few minutes. 

P.S. Our admin council team put together a package of rules to flesh out the provisions for the new cottage industry program.  The close of public comment was last week- and our folks are working on final rules- which will be ready shortly.

Pancreatic Cancer Prevention

October 6th, 2011 by admin 2 comments »

You probably heard that Steve Jobs- the former head of Apple died this week of pancreatic cancer.  While pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common kind of cancer in the US, it’s the 4th most common cause of cancer death.  It often has a poor prognosis partly because people often don’t have any symptoms until it’s pretty advanced- meaning that folks get diagnosed late in the disease.  Family history is the biggest risk factor for getting pancreatic cancer, but people that smoke cigarettes or are obese have a higher risk of getting pancreatic cancer.  Moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t appear to pose an additional risk- but some studies show that heavy drinking can increase your risk.

You can reduce your risk by quitting smoking, eating a diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables, avoiding excessive sugary drinks, and getting plenty of exercise.  Sound familiar?

Strategic Planning and Public Health Accreditation News

October 6th, 2011 by admin No comments »

As a follow up to my email earlier this month introducing you to the agency-wide efforts around accreditation and presentations of the draft strategic map, I’m happy to formally announce our new mission and vision: To improve the health and wellness of people and communities in Arizona (our Mission) and Health and Wellness for all Arizonans (our Vision).  These two small sentences say so much about who we are & where we’re going.  

During our presentation to the Division of Licensing Services last week, a great question was asked about the difference between the words health and wellness.  I addressed the group but wanted to share with the entire agency how I view the two and the distinction between them.  Health is the measure of optimal physical, mental and social conditions, with particular emphasis on the absence or successful management of disease and pain.  Wellness means the overall well-being of a person that includes the active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward greater satisfaction of one’s life in the areas of physical, emotional, social and spiritual life. 

So health is an outcome that can be fixed and measurable (e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.), and wellness incorporates mind, body and spirit, and relies more on self-assessment and self-report.  For instance, many people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, etc. report high levels of well-being, while others who are in “good health” may report low levels of well-being.  If you get questions from stakeholders I am hoping this helps explain the difference.  I also want us to remember, that when we are talking about public health we are talking about all areas of our agency – prevention, preparedness, behavioral health, licensing, operations and the state hospital. 

As an update on the strategic map presentations, we completed our third strategic map presentation and have four more.  Next up is Public Health Prevention on October 17th.  If you have any questions please contact Managing for Excellence Program.

Turning the Key on New Child Care Home Rules

October 5th, 2011 by admin 1 comment »

We turned the key last week on our new rules for child care homes (child care homes provide “pay” child care between 5 and 10 kids).  The new rules officially went into effect on September 30.  We crafted the new rules to go hand in hand with SB 1315, which outlines the standards for child care homes. The new rules eliminate our former obsolete, unnecessary, and duplicative requirements.  We simplified the application process and also reduced insurance requirements.  We also updated training needs for staff to prepare food, formula, and breast milk.  The new rules allow operators to use prescription meds to treat life-threatening conditions (like asthma).  The new rules are simpler for everyone to use, easier for providers to comply with, while improving the health and safety of kids cared for in certified child care homes.  Here’s a newly developed checklist on our revamped child care licensing website to help folks figure out the newly streamlined rules.  We’ll also be conducting training events to help operators.

This final rulemaking rounds out our yearlong effort to streamline our rules for all child care facilities.  Last year we updated the regulations for child care centers (places that care for 11 or more kids).  These rule revisions were a true collaborative effort among folks from all over the agency- and folks from the community and regulated facilities.  Nice work!

New Public Health Prevention Grant Award

October 4th, 2011 by admin No comments »

Great news!  The CDC gave us a heads up this week that AZ will be receiving a new $842,000 Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion grant.  While all states were guaranteed $300,000 on a non-competitive basis, we successfully competed for a supplemental award.  We’ll be able to be able to address the leading causes of chronic disease death in Arizona by focusing on enhancing infrastructure needs, policy development, and environmental change.  This grant will allow us to sharpen our focus on Healthy Community Design, School Health Policies, Integration of Clinical and Community Systems, and Implementation of Evidence-based Worksite Wellness in Arizona and our important work with behavioral health.  Visit our Healthy Worksites Website for a forecast of what will be happening with worksite wellness through the grant.

Our Biggest Exercise Ever

October 3rd, 2011 by admin No comments »

We’re partnering with the AZ Division of Emergency Management to conduct the biggest preparedness exercise ever to be held in Arizona.  It’s called the 2011 Arizona ”Vigilant Guard” Exercise.  It’ll involve around 5,000 folks from various backgrounds including emergency management, public health, health care, law enforcement, fire, military, and the private sector.  The exercise will be based on a flooding event and an improvised nuclear device.  As you can imagine, this scenario will truly test our ability to respond to a catastrophic event.  The exercise will take place on Nov. 3–6.  Hospitals, clinics, and most public health will just be participating on Nov. 4. 

Because this is an operational exercise, our Health Emergency Operation Center will be fully activated here at ADHS.  Hospitals, clinics, local health departments, and other response agencies will also activate their emergency operation centers.  Key areas for us to test will be medical surge management, shelter-in-place guidelines, communications, and the creation of registries for exposed persons.  I’ll be posting more information over the coming weeks to keep y’all up to speed on what to expect and how to prepare.

Run with the Herd

September 30th, 2011 by admin No comments »

Pretty much everybody knows that getting an annual influenza vaccine protects them from getting influenza- but fewer people realize that getting vaccinated saves other people’s lives as well.  That’s because if a large percentage of the population takes advantage of the vaccine (called herd immunity) we can reduce the overall spread of the disease- and save the lives of vulnerable folks that don’t benefit as much from getting the vaccine (because their immune system isn’t as robust). 

This year we have a unique opportunity to pull off very high vaccination rates.  That’s because there will be gobs of vaccine available this season (166,000,000 doses nationally) and the logistics have never been easier.  This is the first flu season that certified AZ pharmacists can give shots to everybody over 6 years old (even without a prescription)- meaning that everybody in the family over 6 can get vaccinated at local pharmacies this year- avoiding inconvenient doctor’s appointments for families. 

There’s also a wider variety of vaccines to choose from this season.  Of course, there’s the classic influenza vaccine with the needles which is approved for everyone 6 months and above.  There’s also a nasal spray for healthy non-pregnant people aged 2-49, and a new “micro-needle array” vaccine (that looks kind of like a band-aid) for people 18-64.  Plus, this is the first year we’ve had a new “high dose” influenza vaccine for seniors (65 and up) that provides for a better immune response and protection.  This year’s vaccine is a perfect match for the circulating strains in the Southern Hemisphere (at least so far), meaning that it should provide good protection.

In years past- we spent a lot of time helping folks find flu shot locations- but that’s not as necessary these days because so many pharmacies are providing vaccine now.  Check out location information and other public health stuff about the flu at

State employees can get a free flu shot through the Benefit Options vaccine program again this fall.  Influenza vaccination clinics will be held throughout October and November- and you can find times and locations on the new ADOA influenza vaccine website.  For flu clinic schedules or information regarding the status of the 2011 flu vaccine program throughout the flu season visit: