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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Why is handwashing so important?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

“clean hands” by Arlington County is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

washing hands

According to MedlinePlus, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. You may be more familiar with that rule of thumb to sing the “Happy Birthday” song at least two times through before turning off that faucet.

But while we’re admonished to do so, it’s difficult to say what’s actually put into practice even while we know it helps stop the spread of germs. In fact, it can even help stop the spread of superbugs!

How else is it important? The Center for Disease Control has put together some fast facts (and citations) on the importance of handwashing:

  • It is estimated that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50%.
  • Researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented.
  • A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other infections.
  • Handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%.
  • The use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom provided an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8% among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students.

Read more and find additional resources on the Germs and Hygiene MedlinePlus topic page.

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SCR Regional Highlight: Two Louisiana Cities Rank Top Five for HIV Diagnoses

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Views of the I-10 Mississippi River Bridge by Billy Metcalf Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

patient

According to the 2016 America’s Health Rankings report conducted by the United Health Foundation, Louisiana is the second most unhealthy state in the nation, just behind Mississippi. The report uses a number of factors to create these rankings, but it has become increasingly clear over the years that the state’s high diagnoses of new HIV cases is one factor.

According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report leading up to World AIDS Day in 2016, Baton Rouge ranks number one for newly diagnosed HIV cases; New Orleans ranks number three. In Baton Rouge, 44.7 out of every 100,000 people is diagnosed with HIV; in New Orleans, it’s 36.9.

HIV is a virus that weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the cells that fight infection and disease. There is no cure for it. AIDS is a condition that is considered the final stage of HIV. It is most commonly transmitted sexually or through sharing syringes, but can also be spread from mother to child through pregnancy as well as several other less common ways.

To combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic prevalent in the state, the Louisiana Department of Health launched the STD/HIV Program, designed to prevent transmission, ensure the availability of medical services and track the impact.

Unfortunately one of the biggest barriers health officials face is the stigma around the disease and an unwillingness to seek out treatment and report it. Timothy Young, head of the HIV/AIDS Alliance in the Baton Rouge area told The Advocate in a 2015 articlefear of being associated with HIV is so pronounced that more than 25 percent of those who are newly diagnosed with the disease in Louisiana have already progressed to AIDS.”

It’s important for these people to know that HIV/AIDS treatment has only continued to get better and it’s no longer the death sentence it used to be, if you get tested.

To read more about the SHP program, please visit the Louisiana Department of Health’s website.

To read more general information about HIV/AIDS, please visit the CDC’s website.

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Arkansas Sees Flu Cases Rise

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Flu Vaccination Grippe by Daniel Paquet is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

marshall islands

In the midst of flu season, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has announced the flu has become “widespread” in the state, meaning the disease has been reported in all areas of the state. As of Feb. 17, 19 people had died from flu-related illnesses, 11 more than the 2015-2016 flu season.

ADH is urging those who have not already gotten this season’s flu vaccine to get it–it is not too late. The vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older, particularly those with higher risk for complications like young children or adults over the age of 65.

To find out where the closest location to get a flu vaccine is to you, please visit healthy.arkansas.gov.

To learn more about this season’s flu, including what the current vaccine protects against and symptoms of the illness, please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

To learn more about the flu in Arkansas, please visit “Flu Cases on the Rise.”

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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month; New Mexico Proclaims February is Children’s Oral Health Month

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Untitled by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC0.

red hands

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, raising awareness for parents and children about how to keep their smiles white and their teeth clean. Recognizing the importance of oral health, especially among children who need to create good habits, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez proclaimed February 2017 as Children’s Oral Health Month for the state.

New Mexico’s Office of Oral Health has been working with dental providers throughout the state to be able to ensure treatment for low-income and/or uninsured individuals.

The New Mexico Department of Health does have several recommendations to help keep your teeth clean:

  • Help kids develop good brushing and flossing habits
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Limit consumption of sugary beverages (the American Dental Association recommends only consuming these beverages with meals)
  • Limit snacks
  • Schedule regular dental visits

To read more about New Mexico’s Children’s Oral Health Month, please visit “The Importance of Good Dental Health.”

To read more about National Children’s Dental Health Month, please visit the American Dental Association’s website.

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Drinking and Painkillers Can Be a Dangerous Combo, Especially Among Seniors

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Untitled by nosheep is licensed under CC0.

red hands

You may often see a warning not to drink on a painkiller’s prescription label—but what exactly can happen if you do drink alcohol while taking painkillers? Well when strong opioid painkillers are mixed with alcohol, it can cause a serious, potentially deadly respiratory response.

One common side effect, that can be fatal, of opioids is respiratory depression, which is when a person’s breathing becomes shallow and can even temporarily stop. A new study findsthat alcohol can exacerbate this effect.

The study looked at 24 volunteers, half in their 20s, and half over the age of 65 who had not taken opioids previously. They mixed oxycodone (a common prescription drug used to treat chronic pain) and alcohol, and the results showed that older adults were more likely to have repeated episodes of temporarily stopped breathing than the younger participants.

“We hope to increase awareness regarding the dangers of prescription opioids, the increased danger of the simultaneous use of opioids and alcohol, and that elderly people are at an even greater increased risk of this potentially life-threatening side effect,” said Dr. Albert Dahan, study author, in a journal news release.

For more information, please visit “Opioids and Alcohol a Dangerous Cocktail.”

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Don’t Fat Shame: You’re Doing More Harm Than Good

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

“Scale” by mojzagrebinfo is licensed under CC0.

measuring tape and a scale

Making fun of a person’s weight, often called “fat shaming,” is probably not going to motivate a person to lose weight. In fact, it will most likely raise their risk of heart disease and other health problems.

Rebecca Pearl, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and study leader, said that the more self-blame and devaluation a person feels when stigmatized, the more likely they are to have health issues.

Previous research has linked weight stigmatization with weight gain and emotional stress but this study found weight stigmatization can go much deeper.

The study looked at 159 obese adults and found out how much they blamed and devalued themselves for their weight. They also looked at how many of them had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that are linked with higher risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more health problems.

The study found that those who felt the most devaluation and self-blame were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than the those with the lowest.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director at the University of Connecticut Center for Food Policy & Obesity who co-wrote a commentary that accompanied the study, said to try to avoid self-blame as well as try to avoid blaming friends and family for struggling with weight.

To read more about the study, please visit “The Shame of ‘Fat Shaming.’

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New Research Shows Breast Cancer Precursor Treatment Causes Women to Live Longer

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

“Breast Cancer Awareness” by ~Pawsitive~Candie_N is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

pink ballonsDuctal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer and is non-life-threatening. However, DCIS can actually be a precursor to worse breast cancer later on. It can increase the risk of developing invasive breast cancer; patients are at a higher risk of developing a new breast cancer than a patient who has never had any breast cancer before.

The study, conducted in the Netherland on more than 10,000 women for an average of 10 years, found that those who were treated for DCIS had a 10 percent less chance of dying from any cause than the general population. That may sound confusing—if you were treated for DCIS, you are 10 percent more likely to live a longer life than someone who never had DCIS, and therefore never received treatment for DCIS.

Specifically, researchers found that women who were treated were much less likely to die from digestive, respiratory, and circulatory diseases, and other types of cancer. This study is particularly important because DCIS treatment includes radiotherapy, which can cause damage to nearby organs

More and more people are becoming aware they have DCIS because it is something that shows up in breast cancer screenings—so more women are able to get treated if they have this form of cancer.

For more information on the study, please visit “Women treated for precursor of breast cancer can expect to live as long as other women.”

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January is Birth Defects Prevention Month

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Untitled by Tim Bish is licensed under CC0.

yawning babyJanuary is Birth Defects Prevention Month and several states in our region want to inform residents about what can be done. In the U.S., birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies and cause 1 in 5 infant deaths every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN).

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), in partnership with NBDPN, hopes to raise awareness for infections like cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can cause birth defects.

CMV is a common infection which affects more than half of U.S. adults by age 40 and which often doesn’t make those who are infected ill. However, if a pregnant women gets the infection, it can spread to the unborn child, called congenital CMV. Only about 1 in 150 babies is born with congenital CMV; however, 1 in 5 of these babies will experience long-term health problems, such as hearing loss, vision loss or cerebral palsy, among others.

Pregnant women will often contract CMV from young children, which is passed through saliva or urine. Regular hand washing, as well as not sharing utensils or cups is a good way to prevent spreading CMV.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (TSDHS) on the other hand promotes a more general approach to Birth Defects Awareness Month, sharing information related to the 2017 theme: “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection.” Tips include properly preparing food, seeing a doctor regularly, protecting oneself from Zika-carrying mosquitoes and maintaining good hygiene.

To read more information about National Birth Defects Month, please visit NBDPN’s website.

To read more information from OSDH, please visit “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection.”

To read more information from TDSHS, please visit “January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month.”

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New Mexico Sees Four Cases of Whooping Cough

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Untitled by Mindy Olson P is licensed under CC0.

close up of eye

New Mexico is seeing its largest cluster of whooping cough cases in infants since 2013. So far, four infants from Eddy, Curry, Rio Arriba and San Juan have a confirmed case. The cases have all been reported in infants under six months old.

“Whooping cough is very contagious and can cause serious cough illness―especially in infants too young to be fully vaccinated,” said Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher in a New Mexico Department of Health news release. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent your child from getting it.”

Whooping cough, scientifically known as pertussis, is highly contagious. It is characterized by uncontrollable, violent coughing, which often makes it hard to breathe, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. After a bout of coughing, the person often has to take large, deep breaths, creating the “whooping” sound. Anyone can get whooping cough, but it is extremely dangerous and can be fatal to those less than a year old.

Whooping cough is spread by coughing or sneezing, and those who are infected can be contagious for up to two weeks after the cough starts.

Whooping cough is best prevented by getting the vaccine. Infected persons can be treated through antibiotics—early diagnosis and treatment is very important.

To read more about whooping cough in New Mexico and how to prevent it, please visit the New Mexico Department of Health’s website.

To read more general information about whooping cough, please visit the CDC’s website.

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SCR Regional Highlight: Texas Colonias See Increased Health Problems

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Colonias. If you’re from a border state, you may be quite familiar with this word, as it is generally used to describe unsanitary or unsafe housing located along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

In Texas, colonias date back to at least the 1950s; developed as unincorporated subdivisions because the land was agriculturally worthless, they were sold at very low prices to low-income individuals. According to the Texas Secretary of State, colonias are defined as a residential area along the Mexico-Texas border which lacks basic necessities, like potable water, sewer systems, electricity, paved roads and simply safe and sanitary housing.

As one may assume by this definition, the health of many of the nearly 500,000 colonia residents is poor.

According to a New York Times article, in the highest health risk colonias water- and mosquito-borne illnesses are rampant due to no sewer system or wastewater disposal. There are high rates of asthma, rashes and lice infestations because of the burning garbage, mold and large amount of cockroaches and rodents. But still, there are more health ailments.

Because they have poor diets, as many people in poverty do, they have poor dental hygiene, diabetes, and other diseases. But what’s worse is most of these residents have no means to help themselves. There is no easy solution of going to the doctor. With many without health insurance and little access to healthcare clinics, they have no way to receive treatment.

Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. More rural healthcare clinics are opening to fulfill this need that is so desperately needed for colonias. Like the University of Texas recently opened a new campus—University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, which currently has its inaugural class. This new medical school will not only bring in medical students from around the country but will also allow students to serve the population they grew up in.

To read more about Texas colonias, please visit the following resources:

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