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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Healthy People 2020: A Systematic Approach to Health Improvement

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Image from “Healthy People 2020 brochure”
available via

Healthy People 2020Curious about the status of health in the U.S. and what’s being done to improve it? Check out Healthy People 2020, the latest national health promotion and disease prevention agenda released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The agenda includes a set of objectives to be reached by the year 2020, and was developed through a collaboration between HHS and other federal agencies, public stakeholders, and an advisory committee.

The Healthy People initiative began in 1979 with the surgeon general’s report on health promotion and disease prevention. Following the report, the first Healthy People was developed with a list of leading health indicators and set targets for those indicators to be reached by the end of the decade. Healthy People 2020 is the fourth such report, with its vision to achieve a society in which all people live long, healthy lives, and was announced on December 2, 2010.

Healthy People 2020 contains 42 topic areas with more than 1,200 objectives. Within these objectives, a small set of high-priority health issues have been identified that represent a significant threat to the public’s health. These 26 Leading Health Indicators (LHI) fall under 12 topic areas, and as of a March 2014 progress update over half (14) of the 26 indicators have either met their target or shown improvement.

The development of Healthy People involves an extensive stakeholder feedback process, incorporating periods of public comment throughout the planning process. The importance of the feedback process and public comments can be seen in the sample of new topics added to Healthy People 2020 based on feedback below.

Healthy People 2020 currently has a call for public comments regarding this year’s proposed new HIV objective. This will be the final public comment period for the 2020 project, and will be open October 6-27.

Sample of new topic areas added to Healthy People 2020:

  • Adolescent Health
  • Blood Disorders and Blood Safety
  • Dementias, including Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Early and Middle Childhood
  • Genomics
  • Global Health
  • Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being
  • Healthcare-Associated Infections
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health
  • Older Adults
  • Preparedness
  • Sleep Health
  • Social Determinants of Health

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Written by Sarah Miles, Health Professions Coordinator, NN/LM SCR

Three New Mexicans Diagnosed with West Nile Virus

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

“Photo” by FotoshopTofs is licensed under CC0.

MosquitoToday we’re talking mosquitoes and diseases again, but this time, not Zika-related. Instead we are focusing on West Nile virus.

Within the last month, three New Mexican men were diagnosed with the virus. All three developed neuroinvasive disease and were hospitalized. The three men were from Bernalillo, Doña Ana, McKinley Counties, and are the third, fourth, and fifth cases of West Nile virus contracted in New Mexico this year.

Only about 44,000 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the U.S. since 1999, and of those, only 1 in 5 people will develop symptoms. So far in 2016, only two states in the U.S. have not reported any cases of West Nile virus: North Carolina and Maine.

While there is a limited number of cases reported, know that West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes may still be circulating in your state. “West Nile virus may still be circulating in New Mexico until mosquito activity ceases after the first hard frost,” according to the New Mexico Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher.

We encourage everyone to take precautions against West Nile virus and mosquitos until the first hard frost in your areas.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to protect yourself from mosquitos:

• Use insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol
• Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks, weather permitting, to physically protect yourself
• Be aware of peak mosquito biting hours, which are at dawn and dusk

To read more about West Nile virus in New Mexico, please visit “Additional West Nile Virus Cases in New Mexico in 2016.”

To read more about West Nile virus from the CDC, please visit the CDC’s website.

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American Heart Association Recommends Zero Tolerance Approach to Kids’ Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

“Photo” by Andrew Pons
is licensed under CC0.

Cigarette Butt

For the most part, it is widely accepted to be true that smoking is unhealthy for you. There is research behind it that has shown it can cause at least 12 types of cancer and many other chronic diseases like stroke, pneumonia, periodontitis and more.

Even more recently, research has shown it’s not just smokers who are impacted by smoking, those who inhale secondhand smoke are just as at risk for negative consequences like middle ear disease and lower respiratory illness in children, and stroke and lung cancer in adults.

According to a graphic released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five states in our region make up the medium to high percentage of smokers:

  • New Mexico: 17.5% – 21.3% population smokes
  • Texas: 13.6% – 17.4% population smokes
  • Oklahoma: 17.5% – 21.3% population smokes
  • Arkansas: 21.4% – 25.2% population smokes
  • Louisiana: 21.4% – 25.2% population smokes

Recently, the American Heart Association announced its recommendation for children to avoid any and all types of secondhand smoke. “Parents should consider making their children’s environment smoke-free because cigarette smoke exposure is harmful to children’s long-term heart health and may shorten life expectancy,” statement panel chair Dr. Geetha Raghuveer, a pediatric cardiologist, said in an AHA news release.

This is a first. While it seems obvious to limit exposure to secondhand smoke as much as possible, there has never been a zero tolerance approach to this sort of issue. The AHA’s recommendation even comes with recommendations for healthcare providers—alert doctors if a child lives in a home with smokers so they can receive appropriate counseling and prevent harm.

For more information on the AHA’s recommendation, please visit: “Heart Docs: Never Expose Kids to Cigarette Smoke.”

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Zika is an STD

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

“Photo” by Alejandra Quiroz
is licensed under CC0.

Zika is an STDZika is a sexually transmitted disease…but have you ever heard it called that before? Likely not, but it is.

Yes, Zika is carried and transmitted by mosquitos, don’t think it’s not. But it’s not the only method of transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of the dangers of transmitting Zika through sex and provide prevention tips on its website.

But while the CDC provides this information, Zika as an STD is not at the forefront of this public health issue; health professionals and politicians are most concerned with the mosquito factor since the insect has made its way to Florida, and there is also a high concern they could make their way to Louisiana and Texas (two states in our region).

The Oklahoman explains the situation well: “…while mosquitos are a key menace when it comes to Zika, the media and public officials are too focused on them. They also need to pay attention to sex: If we are going to stop the spread of this disease, we are going to need better access to Zika testing for anyone who is sexually active.”

Doctors and nurses, are you warning your patients about this risk?

To read more on the subject, please visit “Zika is an STD: Why are we not calling it one?

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NN/LM South Central Region States Rank in Bottom 10 for Health Care Quality

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

“AHRQ State Snapshots”
from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

AHRQ State SnapshotsThe Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released the AHRQ State Snapshots graphic, coinciding with new reports, comparing the quality of health care among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The snapshot is broken up into three sections: Top 10, Middle 31, and Bottom 10. All of the states in the South Central Region (New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) fell in the Bottom 10.

AHRQ looked at more than 200 measures to make their ranking. And aside from just simply stating whether a state reached every benchmark or not, AHRQ provides several graphics that are useful for showing visually how health care looks in each state.

Because the amount of information available from the AHRQ is so vast and detailed, it would not be adequate to list the statistics in a blog post. Instead, you can find the links to data for each state below if you’re interested in learning more.

New Mexico

To find out more about the health care quality in your state, please visit

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Vaping More for Flavor Than Nicotine in Teen Use

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

“No Vaping” by Mike Mozart
is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

No Vaping SignIn 2014, The Oxford Dictionaries gave the word “vape” the Word of the Year title. The use of e-cigarettes, also known as “vapes,” have been on the rise and were often wrongly recognized as a safer alternative to smoking. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently put several regulations into effect regarding e-cigarettes and are warning users that this is not a safer smoking alternative.

A recent study conducted by a team at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found that out of the 15,000 students they surveyed, 3,800 of them had used an e-cigarette at some time. However, researchers also discovered something else: two thirds of the student users used an e-cigarette when a non-nicotine flavored ingredient was used. Using nicotine-flavored vapes came in a distant second.

“The findings suggest that efforts to reduce e-cigarette use among young people may fail if they focus on the dangers of nicotine because most teen users do not believe they are using nicotine, according to the researchers,” MedlinePlus reported.

To read more about the study, please visit “Many Teens ‘Vaping’ for Flavor, Not Nicotine.”

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Zip Code Plays a Large Factor in Life Expectancy

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

“Photo” by Redd Angelo is licensed under CC0.

Woman WalkingRecently, many news outlets (The New York Times, NPR, Albuquerque Journal, and others) have reported on the importance where you live plays in how long you live. Research has found it can play an even bigger role than genetics. Last week, the American Medical Association Wire shared the experience of Dr. Anthony Iton, senior vice president of healthy communities at the Community Endowment, when he moved to Baltimore for medical school at Johns Hopkins University years ago.

He was appalled at how run-down parts of the city were. He compared East Baltimore to Beirut, asking the upperclassman who was giving him a tour when the war happened there.

“In an ideal world … where you live shouldn’t predict how long you live,” Iton said, “but we do not live in an ideal world. What drives health is beyond just health behaviors and access to the doctor…. There’s a whole host of environmental and social determinants that are actually much more influential on our health trajectories, and we have no organized practice for dealing with them.”

Health Happens Here also released a video in April visually describing just how two zip codes can impact the life expectancy of two individuals. While focused on California, the video’s message rings true to many other areas within the U.S.

To learn more about how where you live determines how long you live, please visit “Death by ZIP code: When address matters more than genetics.”

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Mosquitoes in Miami Beach Carrying Zika

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

“South Beach, Miami, Florida” by wadester16
is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

 South Beach, Miami, Florida Officials have announced another area in Miami-Dade County, Fla. has mosquitoes which are spreading Zika locally—this time in the popular tourist destination of South Beach, an area of Miami Beach, Fla.

Health officials recently warned visitors and residents to avoid the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami-Dade County, as it was the first area they linked to local transmission of Zika through mosquitoes. This outbreak prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do something it had never done before—advise pregnant woman to avoid the area, marking the first time the CDC had ever advised people to avoid an area in the continental U.S. because of an infectious disease.

With the South Beach outbreak, CDC officials are cautioning the same thing, and advising South Beach visitors to wait at least eight weeks to get pregnant.

Health officials recently got the Wynwood outbreak under control and have cleared 17 blocks so far. And while health officials believe the Zika-carrying mosquitoes are only occupying a 1.5-mile strip of beach, they are worried they won’t be as easy to get rid of in South Beach. For one thing, the area’s high-rises pose a problem for aerial spraying, a method which they used in Wynwood. “In addition, it will be more difficult to convince people to wear long sleeves and pants in a part of the city where people go to spend time on the beach,” NPR reported.

To learn more about the new Zika outbreak, please visit: “New Zika Outbreak Hits Popular Tourist Destination of Miami Beach.”

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Zika Virus and Blood Transfusions: What Can We Do?

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

“Blood Drive” by Homecoming at Illinois State
is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Blood DriveFlorida health officials recently confirmed that some mosquitos within the continental United States are carrying Zika virus, therefore making local transmission possible. If someone contracts Zika virus, their symptoms are mild and may not even warrant a visit to the doctor’s office; many times people won’t experience any symptoms at all.

Because the symptoms are so mild, it makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose a person with Zika virus without test results. So now consider this—if a person heads to their local blood drive or blood bank, how can the volunteers who draw the blood ensure a person isn’t infected? When there was a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013, 2.8 percent of blood donors tested positive for the virus.

In order to prevent the risk of donating contaminated blood, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has requested that all blood banks in Miami-Dade County stop collecting blood immediately, as this is where local Zika transmission has occurred so far. The FDA has also released a set of recommendations for other blood banks to follow to decrease the risk of collecting Zika-infected blood. And finally, while not FDA-licensed, two tests have become available in April and June that allow blood to be tested for Zika.

However, the most effective and simple way to prevent the donation of contaminated blood is for those who have traveled to Zika-infected areas to wait to donate blood until they have been cleared by a doctor.

If you’d like to read more on what the CDC is doing to prevent blood donors with Zika from accidentally donating infected blood, please visit

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Health Officials Investigating Possible First Local Zika Transmissions

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

“Stripe on stripe” by coniferconifer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

MosquitoZika Virus has been on the minds of health officials for months, but until recently the main concern to average citizens regarding the virus was simply protecting themselves from transmission while traveling to infected countries, which include much of Central and South America, and many Caribbean islands. Florida health officials are now investigating two cases of Zika in Miami-Dade County and Broward County, which they believe may have been acquired locally, although they have not ruled out sexual transmission. If confirmed, this would be the first case of Zika transmitted by mosquito within the U.S.

In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted small local outbreaks may occur, specifically in the south of Florida and Texas because mosquitoes in those areas have also carried dengue and chikungunya in the past.

So far, more than 1,400 people have tested positive for Zika in the U.S., with all cases having been related to travel to an infected area.

To read more about local Zika transmissions, please see “Florida Investigating 2 Possible Local Zika Virus Infections.”

To learn more about how to protect yourself from Zika, please visit

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