The USDA released a new final rule that will set new nutrition standards for the federal child nutrition programs that serve millions of children across the country every day. The new rule fleshes out the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It’ll increase how many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are in school lunches (under the program) and reduce saturated fat, trans fats and sodium, and set more appropriate calorie levels based on the age of the kids that get the lunch. You can check out some new before and after menu examples here.
Maybe you’ve heard the words “The Farm Bill” in the news over the years. The Farm Bill is a very large bill that guides the mission of the USDA- including the “food stamps” program- now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. The USDA law undergoes review and reauthorization about every 5 years- and the next reauthorization of the law comes up next year. Since so much food goes through the SNAP program- it provides an interesting leverage point in the national fight to reduce obesity.
I’d like to see SNAP hard-wire better nutrition into the program by beginning to include nutritious food inventory criteria for SNAP vendors. A recently published white paper by a group of researchers from ASU’s School of Nutrition & Health Promotion will help us leverage our position to advocate this policy change. Requiring SNAP vendors to meet nutritious food criteria will also help bring us closer to realizing our vision to be recognized as the leader in obesity prevention in Arizona.
The ASU report, Policy Considerations for Improving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Making a Case for Decreasing the Burden of Obesity documents four key strategies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of SNAP that are: improving access to healthy foods to provide better choices; incentivizing purchase of healthy foods; restricting access to unhealthy foods; and maximizing education to more effectively reach a larger population of SNAP participants. Take a look at the full report, it’s worth the time.
I thought it would be fun to give some perspective on public health and the Department’s activities 100 years ago as we approach our Centennial in a few weeks.
Our AZ Public Health Laboratory is celebrating its 100th birthday shortly- just like the State. Our Lab was one of the first parts of state government- it created by the first State Legislature in 1912… and was called the “Pure Food and Drug Laboratory”. It was at U of A’s in Old Main. The earliest work of the laboratory was focused on food safety. For example, they discovered that some canned peas had been artificially colored with copper sulfate and the presence of absinthe in saloons. They also discovered that some dairies were adding formaldehyde to milk to prevent spoilage.
Steve Baker in the Lab has been working late over the last couple of weeks to put together a photo collage of early Lab work and some short stories. The full collage isn’t ready yet- but you can check out their starter Lab history web-page which has a picture of the 1912 Lab.
The U of A’s College of Public Health has a new (HRSA) grant that’s offering up to 10 scholarships to enroll in their Graduate Certificate program in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. In addition to getting the certificate- the credits are transferable to graduate programs in public health. The deadline for 2012 intake is March 1. Details and the application are located at http://www.mch-epitraining.arizona.edu/.
Maricopa County Department of Public Health’s Office of Preparedness and Response is conducting a full-scale emergency preparedness exercise that will test the strength and completeness of County and City plans during a simulated Anthrax attack. Pre-registered volunteers will drive their cars through the site as simulated medications are dispensed. We anticipate each driver will make several trips through the dispensing lines in order to simulate the crowds that would be anticipated in a real event. Volunteers will be offered lunch and a gas gift card.
The exercise will be held at North Canyon High School (1700 East Union Hills Drive) in Phoenix from 8am – 2pm. There will be an orientation before the exercise, and a debriefing at the end of the exercise. Driving will only occur from 10am – 12pm. Attached are three documents about the April 14th 2012 Point of Dispensing (POD) Exercise. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Tricia Wadleigh at TriciaWadleigh@mail.maricopa.gov
Right now, it looks like a qualified “yes”. As you know from earlier blog posts a the judge has ruled in a state case that had challenged our dispensary applicant selection criteria. We’ve been reviewing our options- and decided yesterday not to appeal the case- which puts us back on track to licensing dispensaries under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
Our teams are busy dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s right now on an express rule package that would remove the dispensary selection criteria that was struck down last week (AZ residency, child support, previous bankruptcies etc.) and to set new dates to accept dispensary applications. Our goal is to accept applications this April. We’d then have 45 days to review and award dispensary licenses- so we could potentially have awarded up to 125 dispensary licenses by mid-June. If someone is pretty much ready to go at that point, we could see medical marijuana dispensaries operating in July or August.
It’s been awhile since we talked about dispensaries and the certificate process. The place to start your refresher course is by reading our 53 Frequently Asked Questions summary sheet and our dispensary webpage. In the meantime, there are several things that won’t change and are still outlined in rule. Folks will need to have a business plan, security information, staff information, medical director and a plan to distribute information to patients, plus a letter from the locality saying the address is in compliance with local zoning rules. So while we’re busy tying up loose ends with the rules and the FAQs, I imagine prospective dispensary owners will be busy too.
One of the key provisions we settled on was to use zones to spread the dispensaries throughout the state. There were a few reasons for this – one to keep them from clustering in urban areas, another was to make sure that qualifying patients in the more rural areas of the state had access to a dispensary. Since we started issuing cards to qualifying patients and designated caregivers, we’ve been mapping where they live by zone. That information is available in a monthly report on our website.
Dr. Nelson wrote a great blog this week that discusses the behavioral health aspects of the Governor’s
2012 State of the State Address which was followed by the release of her policy agenda called The Four Cornerstones of Reform: Centennial Edition. Please visit Dr. Nelson’s blog for the details of the Governor’s remarks about behavioral health including information about the FY2013 Executive Budget which proposes almost $39M in additional funding be set aside for certain community-based services for folks struggling with a serious mental illness (who don’t qualify for Medicaid)… for things like peer and family support, supported employment, supported housing, health promotion, and living skills training. This is great (and welcome) news.
There are a number of other elements related to our Agency budget proposal in the budget report- including a provision that would allow us to set appropriate fees for our newborn screening program, which has been running in the red for the last couple of years despite aggressive cost-cutting measures.
Various state laws direct our agency to put together a series of reports every year. Some of the reports are annual, some every 2 years, and some don’t exactly say how often we’re supposed to publish. We list each of the reports on our Agency Reports web page. Curious about what some of them are? Here are a few links to some of them:
You don’t see the Medical Marijuana annual report on the list yet- because the program isn’t a year old yet… but you’ll see that one posted sometime next Summer.
The American Heart Association published a scientific advisory statement this week which underscores the crucial importance 9-1-1 dispatchers can play in the “Chain of Survival” for cardiac arrest. As is often the case- we were ahead of the curve. Long before this new policy statement came out, we began implementing a bold, statewide program aimed at both training dispatchers in the latest Guidelines and measuring the effectiveness of their CPR coaching. The goal is to ensure that each time a 9-1-1 caller in Arizona needs help, they will receive clear, simple telephone CPR instructions.
Our Health Systems Development shop just got a new workforce recruitment and retention grant from the National Health Service Corps to improve the number of healthcare providers that practice where we have shortages (technically called underserved areas). The Corps offers medical, dental, and behavioral health providers the opportunity to repay their student loan debts in exchange for serving Arizona’s underserved communities for a period of time. Up to $60K in loan repayment is available for providers who commit to serve for two years- or up to $170K if they sign up for 5 years. There’s also a scholarship program. Visit http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/ for more information on the National Health Service Corp Loan Repayment Programs or contact Ana Roscetti, Workforce Program Manager at Ana.Lyn.Roscetti@azdhs.gov.