Category Archives: Public Health

States pressed to increase efforts to reduce drownings

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life-jacket-float By Michael Ollove
Stateline

Accidental drowning is the second leading cause of death for U.S. children under age 5, after birth defects. For youngsters under 15, only traffic accidents are responsible for more deaths by injury. And while drowning rates have declined slightly since the turn of the century, African Americans continue to die from drowning at considerably higher rates than whites.

Faced with such stubborn figures, public health advocates and researchers complain that state and local governments aren’t doing enough to prevent drowning deaths. Critics say most states don’t have sufficient laws or don’t enforce laws that could lessen the chances of drowning, such as requirements for fencing around private pools and the presence of trained lifeguards. And, they say, too little is being done to make sure that children have swim lessons and water safety skills.

“There is so much that can and should be done,” said Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Injury Research and Policy. Continue reading

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Fairs and petting zoos are in season: tips to avoid animal-spread illnesses

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Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

Photo by dragonariaes

From the Washington State Department of Health

Millions of people go to agricultural fairs and petting zoos this time of year, and children of all ages love to be around the animals.

Taking a few safety precautions can help reduce the chance of getting sick after spending time with animals or their surroundings.

“We encourage people to enjoy their local fairs and petting zoos,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Just make sure your visit is a safe one. Washing your hands is the number one way to do just that.”

Handwashing is the most effective way to reduce chances of getting sick. The spread of illnesses from animals, such as those caused by E.coli and Salmonella, are commonly linked to hand-to-mouth contact. Continue reading

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States where pot is legal struggle with ‘drugged driving’

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Cannabis_leaf_marijuana_potBy Sarah Breitenbach
Stateline

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Crandall half-jokingly says he can tell a driver is under the influence of marijuana during a traffic stop when the motorist becomes overly familiar and is calling him “dude.”

The truth in the joke, Crandall says, is that attitude and speech patterns can be effective markers for drugged driving. Continue reading

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Lessons for the Puget Sound from Chicago’s deadly Heat Wave

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heat-wave1-e1438208691939By Ashley Kelmore
Public Health – Seattle & King County

Our hotter-than-usual summer in the Pacific Northwest likely won’t reach the extremes of the 1995 Chicago summer heat wave, which killed 733 people.

But some of the issues from that catastrophe are relevant to us here and now, and Dr. Eric Klinenberg describes them in his fascinating book Heat Wave.

Klinenberg proposes that the temperature and humidity are not solely to blame for illness and death from heat.

Instead, it is the heat combined with the systems society has set up (or not set up) that failed people in a complicated way.

Similar neighborhoods, deadly differences

Klinenberg focuses on comparing two neighborhoods that are similar in basic demographics, and even have the same microclimate, but had VERY different death rates.

To explain this disparity, he looks at how the different neighborhoods function. Are people too scared to leave their buildings to seek cooler locations (such as libraries or movie theaters)?

Are they too worried about their finances to turn on the life-saving window AC unit to cool themselves down?

Are they isolated from support systems that could have intervened to make sure they were doing okay? In many cases, the answers are “yes,” “yes,” and “yes.”

Chicago’s government and how they responded (or failed to respond) was also a factor, according to Klinenberg.

Front-line police officers were tasked with community policing but didn’t check in on the community.

Fire chiefs ignored warnings from their staff that they should have more ambulances available.

And sadly, the health commissioner didn’t really ‘get’ that something was amiss. Klinenberg also explores the role the media played in not treating the story with the gravity it deserved until late into the heat wave. Continue reading

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Doctors order fewer preventive services for Medicaid patients – study finds

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Blue doctorMichelle Andrews
KHN

Gynecologists ordered fewer preventive services for women who were insured by Medicaid than for those with private coverage, a recent study found.

The study by researchers at the Urban Institute examined how office-based primary care practices provided five recommended preventive services over a five-year period.

The services were clinical breast exams, pelvic exams, mammograms, Pap tests and depression screening.

The study used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a federal health database of services provided by physicians in office-based settings.

It looked at 12,444 visits to primary care practitioners by privately insured women and 1,519 visits by women who were covered by Medicaid between 2006 and 2010.

That difference reflects the fact that the share of women who are privately insured is seven times larger than those on Medicaid, the researchers said. Pregnancy-related visits and visits to clinics were excluded from the analysis.

Overall, 26 percent of the visits by women with Medicaid included at least one of the five services, compared with 31 percent of the visits by privately insured women. Continue reading

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Use extreme caution this Fourth of July

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FireworksFrom the Office of the Insurance Commissioner 

This year’s Fourth of July festivities in Washington are complicated by the statewide drought we are experiencing.

As a result, many local and state government officials are asking Washington citizens to forego fireworks, even where they are legal.

Many municipalities in Washington have banned the use of fireworks.

Continue reading

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Washington state kindergarten vaccination rate below target goal

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Boy gets shot vaccine injectionOnly 83% of kindergarten students in Washington state arrive in the fall up-to-date on their immunizations, the Washington State Department of Health report.

This is well below the target goal of 95%, the level that is usually sufficient to halt the spread of infectious diseases such as measles through a community. None of the individual vaccines required for school meet this goal.

The low vaccination rate is of particular concern in light of recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, diseases which can be prevented with timely vaccination, health officials said.

About one in twenty, 4.5%, Washington state kindergarten students opted out of vaccinations due to medical, personal, or religious reasons. Washington has historically had high exemption rates for kindergarteners. Although exemption rates have come down since they peaked in 2008, but the improvement has leveled-off for the past few years.

In Washington, all recommended vaccines are available at no cost for kids through age 18 from health care providers across the state.

Although providers may charge an office visit fee and an administration fee for the vaccine, a family that can’t afford to pay can ask their regular provider to waive the administration fee.

For help finding a health care provider or an immunization clinic, call your local health agency, visit the ParentHelp123 resource finder, or call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

 

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Fast currents, frigid temps make local water dangerous this time of year

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From the Washington State Department of Health

Mountain Stream

Cold and fast waters can be a recipe for drowning and state health officials remind folks that even though air temperatures are in the 80s, water temperatures remain frigid and river flows are swift.

Springtime river flow is high and swift from rain and snow melt and can easily overwhelm the strongest swimmer.

Many Washingtonians wait for hot weather to dip their toes into lakes, rivers, and the ocean surf, but other people brave the frosty waters and hop into boats, inner tubes, and other floating equipment in search of a early summer water adventure.

Being unprepared for the freezing water temperatures or the swift flow of the waters can lead to tragedy. Continue reading

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Nudging students to make healthier choices

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applesBy Tara Bostock
Public Health – Seattle and King County

It turns out that encouraging students to make healthier choices in the lunchroom can be accomplished affordably and without a major overhaul of the cafeteria.

Research shows that small changes like making the salad bar the highlight of the lunchroom, displaying fruit in attractive baskets, or placing healthy foods by the cash register can influence what students select to eat.

In Washington State, the Kent School District is leading the way by changing their cafeterias to

How the Kent School District is bringing behavioral economics principles to their lunchrooms.

encourage students to pick healthier foods. With the help of funding from the Community Transformation Grant, the District partnered with the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs to run a pilot program reaching over 6,000 students in six secondary school cafeterias.

The goal: to increase the number of students choosing healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, white milk, or healthy entrées. And the District saw positive changes.

How does behavioral economics work in the lunchroom?

Continue reading

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Planning on going on a cruise? Check in here first.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.20.45 AMThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has set up a webpage where you can search a database of over 300 cruise ships that make port in the U.S., where you are able to see their health and safety records going back as far as 2010, as well as their current position and deck plans.

To search the database, go here.

 

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What preventive services must be provided for free under the Affordable Care Act?

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Preventive Services Covered Under the Affordable Care A

stethoscope doctor's bag chest x-rayIf you have a new health insurance plan or insurance policy beginning on or after September 23, 2010, the following preventive services must be covered without your having to pay a copayment or co-insurance or meet your deductible. This applies only when these services are delivered by a network provider.

  • Covered Preventive Services for Adults
  • Covered Preventive Services for Women, Including Pregnant Women
  • Covered Preventive Services for Children

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Washington state ranked most bicycle-friendly state

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Road BikeWashington has again been ranked the most bicycle-friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists. But the we better not get complacent, the league warns:

Although Washington State has been #1 for the past 8 years, the gap between #1 and #2 (Minnesota) has steadily decreased since 2013. The Washington

State Department of Transportation should build upon its past successes by increasing staff capacity for planning, engineering, and implementation of solutions that make bicycling and walking safer and more convenient.

To learn more go here.

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‘Free’ contraception means ‘free,’ Obama administration tells insurers

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Birth control patch - Photo by John Heilman, MD under creative commons licesnse

Birth control patch – Photo by John Heilman, MD (CC)

By Phil  Galewitz
KHN

Free means free.

The Obama administration said Monday that health plans must offer for free at least one of every type of prescription birth control — clarifying regulations that left some insurers misinterpreting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

“Today’s guidance seeks to eliminate any ambiguity,” the Health and Human Services Department said. “Insurers must cover without cost-sharing at least one form of contraception in each of the methods that the Food and Drug Administration has identified … including the ring, the patch and intrauterine devices.”

The ruling comes after reports by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group, found many insurers were not providing no-cost birth control for all prescription methods. (KHN is an editorially independent project of the Kaiser Family Foundation.) Continue reading

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