Category Archives: Community Health

DHEC Raises Awareness During Pride Month

June is Pride Month, and June 27 is Pride Day. These are opportunities to celebrate achievements by members of the LGBTQIA+ community and acknowledge challenges these individuals may face when it comes to public health and environmental justice.  

“Pride month, and Pride celebrations in general, are a vital part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Billy Wiggins, Director of Clinical Services for the DHEC Public Health Bureau of Community Health Services, and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Celebrations, such as Pride, provide important moments of visibility and understanding. In honor of Pride Month, people are encouraged to take some time to learn more about the challenges, accomplishments, and diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

LGBTQIA+ community stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.   

Pride celebrations started as protests dating back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969 New York City (NYC). In 2016 the Stonewall site in NYC was declared a national monument.

To recognize the meaningful impact that our LGBTQIA+ community has had in the fields of environmental protection and public health, we’ve spotlighted several notable public figures who have and/or are making a difference in our communities.

“For almost 15 years DHEC’s STD/HIV and viral hepatitis division has partnered with SC Pride to offer outreach and testing services during the annual Pride festival,” said Tony Price, Prevention Program Manager of that Division. “DHEC has provided free testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C. At some of the events, DHEC has also provided vaccines for hepatitis A/B and influenza. The division has enjoyed a strong partnership with SC Pride, its leadership, and participants in the past. We look forward to continuing our efforts to support the LGBTQIA+ community with our health promotion and outreach programs.” 

Public Health 

Two notable public health figures who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community are Michael J. Kaplan and Dr. Rachel Levine.

Kaplan is currently the President and CEO of Melanoma Research Alliance, and before that he was President and CEO of Washington, DC-based AIDS United. During his 25 years of executive non-profit and public health leadership experience, Kaplan has proven to be a supporter of health research and policy, mainly in the area of serving people living with HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Levine became the first openly transgender federal official in a Senate-confirmed role earlier this year when she was named Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. She has served as: Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health; Pennsylvania’s Physician General; Vice-Chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics; and Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. In addition to her recent posts in medicine and government, Dr. Levine is an accomplished speaker and author of numerous publications on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. 

As for public health challenges, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are five times as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide, and 40 percent of transgender adults report having attempted suicide. According to a 2017 study from the University of Chicago, “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America.” LGBT youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness compared to their heterosexual counterparts, according to the CDC. More information on LGBTQIA+ health is available on the CDC’s website.

Environmental Affairs

DHEC uses the definition created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to define Environmental Justice (EJ) “as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Our agency’s five EJ principles are: 

  1. Ensure that Environmental Justice Communities are Routinely Considered Throughout Decision-Making Processes. 
  2. Proactively Build and Strengthen Relationships with Communities by Sharing Information, Providing Technical Assistance, and Identifying Resources. 
  3. Proactively Promote Partnerships Between Communities and Other Stakeholders. 
  4. Encourage and Facilitate Capacity Building and Collaborative Problem Solving Within Environmental Justice Communities. 
  5. Strengthen Our Agency’s Leadership with the Goal of Sustaining Environmental Justice within SC DHEC. 

You can learn more about EJ by clicking here.  A few members of LGBTQIA+ community that are notable for their contributions to the environment are: 

Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose influential book “Silent Spring” and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. “Silent Spring” was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. 

Mahri Monson, an Environmental Protection Specialist for the EPA, describes her work as “enforcing U.S. environmental laws, addressing serious pollution problems to protect communities and the environment.” A proponent of green infrastructure, Monson’s work strategizes storm management and mitigates sewer overflows, providing environmental and social benefits for communities throughout the country. Monson also worked alongside co-workers to create a policy concerning transgender and gender nonconforming EPA employees, including a guide to transitioning at the EPA and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. 

 

Understanding Ground-level Ozone Forecasts

South Carolina has had two forecasted Code Orange Ozone Action Days since Ground-level Ozone forecasting season began on April 1st of this year. A Code Orange Ozone Action Day means that atmospheric conditions will likely produce concentrations of ground level ozone air pollution that may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, which includes people with lung disease, older adults, and children.   

Ozone typically forms with highest concentrations on warm, hot, sunny days with light wind speeds, which allows more of the pollutant to form and accumulate. Forecasting ground-level ozone concentrations is an educated prediction based on certain weather conditions and emissions. DHEC has a team of experienced meteorologists on staff that review weather and air quality information daily to produce a next-day ozone forecast, which is posted on DHEC’s own ozone website and U.S. EPA’s AIRNow website. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecast ahead of time allows you to make plans and adjust your schedule and activities for the next day. Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion, take more breaks, and do less intense activities, especially during afternoon and early evening hours when ozone concentrations are typically highest. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecastahead of time also allows you to make informed decisions that can help reduce air pollution and decrease ground-level ozone by:    

  1. Refueling your car after 6:00 PM and don’t top off your tank  
  2. Using electric powered lawn equipment  
  3. Avoiding driving during peak traffic hours  
  4. Combining trips when you drive  
  5. Telecommuting (work from home) if possible
  6. Taking your lunch to work  

Sign up to receive forecasts via emails, texts or tweets (customized to fit your style) using EPA’s free EnviroFlash service at www.enviroflash.info.  
For additional information about ozone and air quality, click here.   

All About Bats: What you need to know about bats in SC

A big brown bat roosting on a vine near a cave.

Did you know SC is home to 14 different types of bats? Have you ever wondered what to do if you encounter one? DHEC is here to help. Check out the DHEC Bat Webpage for detailed information.

Bats are great for our ecosystems. They eat pesky bugs like disease carrying mosquitoes, which here in SC is very much appreciated.  Sometimes bats, people, and pets collide. When that happens, you can rest assured your DHEC EA team will be there.

Some species of bats enjoy making their homes in crevices, gaps, and holes of existing structures—like in your attic! The CDC has some helpful tips on how to bat proof your home.

Summer has arrived and the spirit of adventure is calling! If you happen to encounter a bat while camping, hiking, or cleaning out the garage, attic, etc., give them space. If you have direct contact with a bat or wake to one in a room or tent, reach out to your local DHEC Environmental Affairs rabies program for guidance.

Bats are most active at dusk and at night. If you find a bat on the ground during the day, do not touch it with your bare hands! Use gloves, a shovel, or a plastic container to properly dispose of the animal. If alive, contact a wildlife control operator for assistance.

If you find a bat in your home and you think it may have been in the room with a sleeping person, a small child, or someone with a mental impairment, do not let the bat go! It needs to be tested for rabies and should not be touched. Reach out to your local DHEC Environmental Affairs rabies program for guidance and check out the DHEC Bat Webpage.

DHEC Recognizes National Trauma Awareness Month by Highlighting Healthcare Quality Programs

May is National Trauma Awareness Month, and the American Trauma Society (ATS) has deemed this year’s theme “Safe & Secure: Safety is a Choice, Prevention is Key.”   

Most injuries are preventable, and it takes us as individuals to be aware of our surroundings, informed of current practices and methods, and encouraging others to practice safety and prevention. Luckily, DHEC has a number of employees who have dedicated their careers to teaching the public and healthcare providers what it means to prevent injury and traumas.  

Child Passenger Safety Program  

Did you know that DHEC has a Child Passenger Safety Program? Its purpose is to educate parents and the community, public health offices, and partner organization on how to properly install various child safety seats, including booster seats, to prevent child trauma in vehicular accidents.  

Child Passenger Safety Technicians will explain potential dangers for children who are not properly restrained and will serve as a valuable resource for child passenger safety. Karen Moore is a Child Passenger Safety Technician and partners with Safe Kids Worldwide.  

Healthcare Systems and Services  

DHEC’S Bureau of Healthcare Systems and Services is doing great work with South Carolina’s healthcare providers and the community. Within the bureau is the division of EMS, which is gearing up for EMS Week, May 16th-22nd, 2021.

Each day during EMS Week has a different theme, and May 19th is EMS for Children Day. Karen is also the interim manager for Emergent Care and coordinates the EMS for Children program at DHEC. She is actively involved with the mission to improve performance measures and healthcare outcomes for children through education and training for EMS personnel and hospital providers.  

EMS for Children 

The EMS for Children program focuses on prevention in many, if not all, of its initiatives.  

The program holds an annual Pediatric Trauma & Injury Prevention Symposium as a collaboration with the South Carolina Trauma Association. This year marked the 11th annual symposium, which was held in early March. Presentations and topics varied from pediatric burn prevention, traumatic brain injury among children, to new advances in early trauma management.  

This training helps providers in the field stay up to date with the latest data, equipment advances, and prevention & treatment protocol.  

Stop the Bleed 

Also among EMS for Children’s initiatives is the Stop the Bleed program, which has its own observance on May 20th during EMS Week (May 16-22).  

Stop the Bleed is an annual observance that focuses on training the public how to stop traumatic bleeding. Participants will learn how to apply pressure to a wound, pack a wound to control bleeding, and apply a tourniquet.  

The training is open to anyone and offered by a number of organizations; DHEC partners with the American Red Cross. Being trained to Stop the Bleed can mean preventing further injury or death for a traumatically injured person waiting for help from professionals. To find out more about the Stop the Bleed campaign, click here to visit their website.  

In observance of National Trauma Awareness Month, we’ve highlighted a few ways DHEC is working to prevent injury, disability, and fatal outcomes in the community. Please check out the links to learn more. 

By providing trainings and information on these trauma prevention methods, DHEC displays the core value of Promoting Teamwork and the agency strategy of Education and Engagement.  

National School Nurse Day is May 12: Championing the Whole Student

National School Nurse Day
May 12, 2021
School Nurses: Championing the Whole Student

Picture of a nurse and a student

Since 1972, National School Nurse Day has been set aside to recognize school nurses.

National School Nurse Day was established to foster a better understanding of the role of school nurses in the educational setting.

May 6-12 is National Nurses Week and school nurses are honored for the work they do in advancing the well-being, academic success, and lifelong achievements of students by providing access to care in the school environment.

Picture of school nurses from Newberry School District.
School nurses from Newberry School District: on the far left is Tricia Ulch, BSN, RN, School Nurse Coordinator, recipient of the 2019/2020 DeeDee Chewning School Nurse Administrator of the Year Award. The winner for the 2020/2021 school year has not been announced yet.

The 2021 theme for National School Nurse Day is “Championing the Whole Student.”

This theme recognizes the integral role that school nurses play bridging health and education to improve each child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotion development, regardless of whether they are physically present in school or not.

School nurses serve as a critical health hub for students, ensuring that students are ready for learning by managing complex chronic conditions; identifying and addressing mental health issues; leveling the field on health disparities and promoting healthy behaviors; enrolling children in health insurance and connecting families to healthcare providers; handling medical emergencies; and now, navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic by testing, tracking and vaccinating students and school personnel.

School nurses act as a liaison to the school community, families, and health care providers on behalf of children’s health.

School nurses champion the whole student every day of the year. But, on National School Nurse Day, we take special time to celebrate and recognize the contributions that school nurses are making to the health and learning of our nation’s 50 million children.

Gov. Henry McMaster signed a proclamation earlier this month recognizing May 12 as School Nurses Day in South Carolina.

Governor's Proclamation declaring May 12 School Nurses Day
Governor Henry McMaster’s Proclamation