Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Working with minority communities to prepare for disasters

Nicole Lurie, M.D., M.S.P.H.
Photo: U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response was created shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The office, which is part of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, leads the nation in preventing, preparing for and responding to the health effects of public health emergencies. Among its charges is to make sure underserved communities are ready for disasters.

In our new Get Ready Report podcast, we spoke with Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, about why emergency preparedness is important for racial and ethnic minority populations. A report to Congress showed that Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had its greatest impact on communities where low-income minorities lived. People who are less educated, have low incomes and live in substandard housing often suffer more in disasters, “and those populations are, more often than not, likely to be racial and ethnic minority populations,” Lurie told the Get Ready campaign. Sometimes there are language or cultural barriers in a community, which can hinder preparedness and response.

“By the same token, minority populations are often more resilient than other populations,” Lurie said. “There are often very close social connections and ties in a community and those social connections are one of the most important things to promote community resilience and personal resilience.” Preparing and responding quickly to disasters can save lives and make the U.S. a healthier nation. Disasters such as the Joplin, Missouri, tornado of 2011 or Hurricane Sandy in 2012 showed the need to make sure communities are resilient, she said. That includes constructing buildings that won’t fall down and people can exercise in, giving people access to fresh food and making sure people can walk around their neighborhoods safely.

Listen to Get Ready’s podcast with Lurie to hear more about emergency preparedness or read the transcript.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It’s National Infant Immunization Week: Protecting against disease starts when we’re young

The recent measles outbreak is a good reminder of the importance of vaccinations. More than 160 Americans have gotten sick this year from a preventable disease that can cause serious illness or even death — and most were not vaccinated.

While protecting ourselves from contagious disease is a lifelong practice, it starts when we’re young. That’s why people across the country are celebrating National Infant Immunization Week April 18-25.

The observance promotes immunizations for children ages 2 or younger. It also recognizes the important role of vaccines and the workers at state and local health departments and other health professionals who give vaccinations to help safeguard our communities from disease.

Their contributions are remarkable. In the United States, we protect children and infants under age 2 from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization, including chickenpox, mumps and polio. Vaccines have dramatically decreased infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases.

Vaccines not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help to protect entire communities. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths during their lifetimes.

While we celebrate this week in the United States, people across the globe are recognizing World Immunization Week, organized by the World Health Organization. Despite many successes in improving health, one in five children globally still misses out on life-saving vaccines.

Vaccines are safe and effective, and have saved countless lives. They are one of the greatest public health accomplishments. But we need to make sure we have an adequate supply to reach everyone. And, most important, you have to get immunized for them to work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ready, Pet, Go! Enter APHA's 2015 Get Ready Photo Contest

Do you have a unique pet, or just a really cute one? Do you enjoy going to the zoo? Snap a photo of an animal in a preparedness pose and enter Ready, Pet, Go! APHA’s Get Ready Photo Contest. The contest is using animals — of any kind — to promote emergency preparedness.

Cats, dogs, fish, birds, hamsters, lizards, pigs, cows, snakes, horses, llamas, squirrels and all other animals welcome. Whether they have two legs, four legs or none, we want to see them all!
Take a look at the topics covered by the Get Ready campaign — such as preparing for evacuation, stockpiling, how to prepare for severe weather — and find a way to illustrate them with an animal.

We will add witty captions and share your message about emergency preparedness with the world. The winning photos will go into our Get Ready calendar.
See our animals photo gallery for ideas! Need more inspiration? Take a look at photos from past rounds of the Get Ready Photo Contest, featuring cats, dogs, and babies.

Read our FAQs and official rules and regulations for complete info. Entries will be accepted via email and Instagram. Contest entries are being accepted now through June 1, so get snapping!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In the (flood) zone with climate change

In 2014, there were eight weather-related disasters, with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the U.S. Go ahead, have a look at the list. How many of those disasters were storms and floods? Too many! The bad news is that we all live in a flood zone. According to the National Flood Insurance program “in the past five years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.”

But before we get too far into floods, let’s talk for a minute about greenhouses. Certain gases in the atmosphere — we call them greenhouse gases — help to keep Earth warm by trapping heat from the sun, just like a greenhouse does. Without greenhouse gases, Earth would be too cold to support life as we know it.

However, scientists are measuring higher-than-normal levels of greenhouse gases, which are being trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. Our greenhouse, our planet, is becoming too warm because of the increasing level of greenhouse gases. We’re not cooling off enough. As the North Pole warms up, it’s easier for high-pressure systems from the ocean to move in on cold air in the North Pole and push it south.

And that’s where climate effects such as storms and floods come in. For example:

  • Oceans are warmer: Water takes up more space as it heats and it has to go somewhere. And it’s rising up on shorelines. 
  • Global air and wind currents are warmer: When air currents of high and low energy collide, they produce storms. Warmer air means more frequent and violent storms. Warm oceans also add to overheating air and wind currents. 
  • The North Pole is warmer: Glaciers are melting into the ocean, adding to the amount of water. 

Now for some fast facts about floods:

  • Floods can come on rapidly, such as a flash flood, or slowly build up, such as a rising creek during a slow, steady rainfall.
  • Flooding can spread over large areas or occur over a small area. 
  • Floods have many causes, including rainfall, snow melt, a rising body of water or a broken dam. 
  • During a flood, shallow creeks streams or dry beds can become very deep. Roads can become torrential rivers washing away vehicles and people. Don’t get in, don’t take that chance!
  • You may see an increase of unwanted “guests” after a flood, such as mosquitoes. Mosquito bites aren’t only annoying, they can spread dengue, West Nile virus or chikungunya, among other diseases.

For tips on preparing for floods and cleaning up after, check out these tips from APHA’s Get Ready campaign.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Guest blog: World Health Day 2015: Food safety

Today’s guest blog, from the Pan American Health Organization, is in recognition of World Health Day.  This year’s event focuses on food safety, with a theme of “From Farm to Plate, Make Food Safe.”  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million people in the United States get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die because of foodborne diseases each year.

Food safety is important to all countries because diseases and infections that come from the food we eat are a major cause of suffering and death throughout the world. Foodborne diseases can be defined as those conditions that are commonly transmitted through the food we eat and include a broad group of illnesses caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and chemicals.

The 2015 World Health Day on food safety, April 7, aims to encourage governments to improve food safety through public awareness campaigns and highlights their ongoing actions. In addition, consumers will be encouraged to make sure the food on their plate is safe, such as knowing questions to ask, labels to look for and hygiene tips.

Foodborne diseases can keep people from working, be a burden on our health care system and decrease countries’ abilities to grow and prosper because of loss in confidence in tourism, food production and the marketing system. As an example, approximately one in eight Canadians experiences a case of foodborne illness each year in their own country. This means that each year there are about 4 million episodes of foodborne illness in Canada.

Visit our website to learn more about food safety!

For more information, email Enrique Perez Gutierrez, DVM, MSc, MPVM, PhD,
PAHO's senior advisor for foodborne diseases and zoonosis.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Get ready for National Public Health Week

The beginning of April marks an exciting time for advocates of healthier communities. APHA is hosting National Public Health Week, April 6-12. The event is a time to celebrate, learn and tell others about public health. Supporters join together each year to talk about important health topics such as nutrition, health care and even emergency preparedness.

This year’s theme is “Healthiest Nation 2030,” which ties into APHA’s work to make the U.S. the healthiest nation in one generation.  People in the U.S. live shorter lives than residents of many other high-income countries, face more chronic diseases and struggle with obesity. The theme encourages communities to think of ways to improve our nation’s health.

Learn about the many ways to get involved in the week of events:

Or plan an event in your community to share simple ways to be prepared in emergencies. The Get Ready campaign offers a wealth of free preparedness fact sheets to share at your health fair, pass out on campus or hang in your office.

Each day of NPHW has something to offer. Take a look at the weekday themes for inspiration:

  • Monday, April 6: Raising the grade: The U.S. trails many other high-income countries in life expectancy and other measures of good health, and this holds true across all ages and socio-economic groups.
  • Tuesday, April 7: Starting from ZIP: Today, your ZIP code says too much about your health. Within the United States, there are unacceptable disparities in health by race and ethnic group, state by state and even county by county.
  • Wednesday, April 8: Building momentum: Influential leaders, companies and organizations are taking important steps in line with creating the healthiest nation.
  • Thursday, April 9: Building broader connections: In the work to become the healthiest nation, we can’t do it all on our own. We have to expand our partnerships to everyone that has an impact on our health.
  • Friday, April 10: Building on 20 years of success: 2015 is APHA’s 20th anniversary for coordinating National Public Health Week, and the accomplishments of the public health community over the last two decades are significant.

Get tips and tools for your NPHW events online now and share your activities via social media with the #NPHW hashtag.