Category Archives: Maternal & Child Health

DHEC in the News: HIV treatment, swim advisories, WIC in Orangeburg

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Stigma preventing thousands with HIV from seeking treatment in SC

(Greenwood, SC – Index Journal) With modern treatment, HIV is no longer a death sentence, but McLendon said the shame surrounding the virus is more deadly than the disease itself. As of 2015, 18,340 people in South Carolina had been diagnosed with HIV, but about 6,235 of them had not received any form of treatment, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. [Elizabeth] McLendon said because many people live with the virus without knowing it or are never formally diagnosed, the number of people not receiving treatment is likely higher. Particularly in rural areas, such as Greenwood County — where there were about 82 people diagnosed with HIV as of 2014, according to AIDS VU — McLendon said the actual number of infected people is likely much larger.

Swim advisory issued for Saluda River because of sewage discharge

(Lexington County, SC – The State) An official swim advisory was issued Sunday, after water quality tests from portions of the Saluda River, near Saluda Shoals Park, showed high levels of bacteria, the Congaree Riverkeeper said Sunday.

The state standard for bacteria is 349, and the sample taken from the river Saturday registered 980.4, Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler said. Such levels could make swimmers ill.

A wastewater discharge from the Friarsgate Wastewater Treatment facility late last week resulted in the increased bacteria level in the water, the riverkeeper said. State health officials had issued a caution to swimmers earlier in the weekend before a formal advisory was issued Sunday with results of water quality tests.

Sewage spill doesn’t stop summer fun at Catawba River

(Rock Hill, SC – The Herald) As of Saturday, Landsford Canal State Park, a popular recreational area in South Carolina about 45 miles south of Charlotte, had posted advisories against boating, wade fishing and swimming in the water, the Charlotte Observer reported. The advisories are posted at the entrance to the park as well as bathrooms and fence posts.

A notice was also posted at the Catawba Indian Nation landing, according to DHEC.

The department states: “DHEC has performed modeling which indicates that the spill should pass downstream of the Landsford Canal and Catawba Indian Reservation landings by Monday evening. Based on this information, we will be able to recommend removal of the notices Wednesday morning.”

An update on the Habersham boil water advisory

An advisory for Habersham residents to boil their water was lifted on Friday.

The precautionary advisory was issued on Thursday by the Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, according to a BJWSA news release sent out late Friday afternoon. The groups announced on Friday that the latest water sample analyses showed the water in the area was free from bacteria and is safe to consume.

Head Start making impact; OCAB director seeking to enroll more children

(Orangeburg, SC – Times & Democrat) Head Start…participates in USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which provides increased access to foods grown from local farmers.

“We applied for those funds to actually purchase fresh fruits and vegetables (from local farmers) to feed the kids. And it’s more to it than that. Children will learn that corn doesn’t come in a can, but they actually learn how food is grown. It helps the local economy, too,” Wright said, noting that children actually participate in food preparation by planting seeds and watching fruits and vegetables grow in their classrooms.

Stroman said the state Department of Health and Environmental Control has implemented a nutrition initiative within the Head Start program. Children are given nutrition lessons and activities, some of which are sent home to parents.

“We also have a certified dietician and nutritionist that approves all of our menus so that they are aligned with the USDA requirements and good healthy eating patterns,” she said.

Stroman said the Head Start program is also partnering with the state DHEC’s WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office to have mobile units come out to its sites to make sure parents’ WIC certifications stay up to date.

Get regular oral exams for early detection of oral cancer

By Adrianna Bradley

DHEC urges you to proactively fight oral cancer by getting regular screenings.

It’s estimated that over 900 people in South Carolina will be diagnosed with oral cancers and cancers of the throat, tonsils and back of the tongue in 2017 alone and 180 will die from oral cancers.  These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women. They are about equally common in blacks and in whites.

“Regular visits to your dentist or physician is the best method to help detect oral cancer in its early stages,” said Dr. Ray Lala, director of DHEC’s Division of Oral Health. “Oral cancer is a highly preventable disease and very treatable if caught early.”

Oral cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people who are 50 or older, but HPV-related oral cancers are often detected in younger people.

Your mouth is one of your body’s most important early warning systems. Don’t ignore any suspicious lumps or sores that last more than two weeks. If you discover something suspicious, make a dental or medical appointment for an examination. Early treatment is the key to recovery.

Here are some tips on how you can take an active role in preventing oral cancer:

  1. Brush and floss your teeth regularly. An unhealthy mouth reduces your immune system and obstructs your body’s ability to fight off bacteria.
  2. Ditch the tobacco. Whether you smoke it or chew it, your risks for cancer increases dramatically. Call the S.C. Tobacco Quitline today at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-900-784-8669). For services in Spanish, call 1-855- DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569).
  3. Limit your alcohol consumption. The risk of developing oral cancer increases with the amount and length of time alcohol products are used.
  4. Limit your sun exposure. Always use UV-A/B blocking sun protection on your lips when you are in the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lips.
  5. Exercise regularly. An active lifestyle can boost the immune system and help fight cancer.
  6. Choose cancer-fighting The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating lots of beans, berries, dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, garlic, grapes and tomatoes for their role in cancer prevention.
  7. See your dentist regularly. At least every six months, visit a dental hygienist and ask for an oral cancer screening to be done.
  8. Conduct self-examinations. Check the back and sides of your tongue. If you see or feel anything suspicious like lumps, bumps or tender areas, make an appointment to visit your dentist or doctor.

Visit the DHEC website for more information about oral cancer.

The value of immunizations for infants can’t be overstated

Immunizations save lives. There is no denying it: Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases.

Just consider some of the milestones shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.
  • In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles and, unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Many physicians today have never seen a case of the measles.
  • Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
  • The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

The importance of immunizations

Immunizations play a valuable role in protecting the health of not only our children, but families and communities. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

The success of vaccines in preventing disease can’t be overstated. Each year we pause to observe National Infant Immunization Week, which this year runs from April 22-29.  It is a time to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.  It is also a time to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring all children are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the United States. It’s easy for measles to spread when it reaches communities in the United States — or anywhere else — where groups of people are unvaccinated.

The best way to protect against childhood diseases

Remember, giving babies the recommended immunizations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from serious diseases, like whooping cough and measles.  Talk to your health care provider about what vaccines are recommended for your child, and make sure you keep all immunization and well-child appointments.  For more information about how to protect your child with immunizations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/protecting-children/index.html.

Make getting vaccinations less stressful

Even though you know you are keeping her safe from diseases, it’s hard to see your child cry when she gets her shots. But you can take some steps to make the process less stressful.

The CDC suggests trying the following tips before, during and after shots:

For babies and younger children

  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
  • Smile and make eye contact with your child. Let your child know that everything is OK.
  • Comfort your child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar will help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Hold your child firmly on your lap, whenever possible.

For older children and adolescents

  • Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
  • Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
  • Tell or read stories. Be sure to pack their favorite book!
  • Support your child if he or she cries. Never scold a child for not “being brave.”

Maternal and Child Health shares information, tips for NPHW

During this National Public Health Week (April 3-9), divisions of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health want to take a moment to highlight some programs as well as provide key information encouraging good health practices.

 Division of Children’s Health: First Sound

First Sound is South Carolina’s early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) program. All babies delivered in birthing hospitals are screened for hearing loss before going home. Some babies will need further evaluation to confirm results.

It is very important that babies are screened and, if recommended, follow up with further testing. Hearing loss occurs in newborn infants more frequently than any other health condition for which screening is required. Hearing is extremely important for the development of speech and language skills. Early detection of hearing loss enables the infant to receive early intervention services to avoid developmental delays in speech and language. Age-appropriate language development is essential to success in school.

Women, Infants and Children program (WIC)

WIC is a special supplemental nutrition program that also provides breastfeeding information, support and assistance.

  • WIC offers a positive clinic environment that supports breastfeeding
  • WIC mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their infants, unless there is a medical reason not to.
  • WIC mothers choosing to breastfeed are provided support and information through peer counselors, certified lactation counselors and other experts. Support groups, classes and breastfeeding educational materials are also available.
  • Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to participate in WIC longer than non-breastfeeding mothers.
  • Breastfeeding mothers can receive breast pumps and other supplies, if appropriate, to help with the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.
  • Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their infants receive an enhanced food package.

Division of Oral Health: A few brief messages dental health

  • Prevent tooth decay by brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Pregnant women need to visit the dentist regularly even when pregnant.
  • Drink from the tap. Drinking fluoridated water is an easy way to prevent tooth decay.

Division of Women’s Health: Take precautions against Zika

The CDC recommends that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika risk.

  • Avoid traveling to affected regions, especially if you are or are trying to become pregnant.
  • Travelers should wear repellent for at least two weeks after returning because that’s how long the virus stays in a person’s bloodstream.
  • If a mosquito bites a person who has Zika in their blood, that mosquito can pick up the virus and pass it on to another human when it takes its next blood meal.
  • Travelers should also wait at least six months to have unprotected sex after visiting an area with risk of Zika because the virus can persist in semen and in the vaginal tract long after symptoms emerge.

Division of Research and Planning: Safe sleep reminder for babies

A safe sleep environment can help reduce a baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of infant death. This is a good reminder for parents, family members and other caregivers of any infant under one year of age. This 1-minute video shows the ABC‘s of how to create a safe sleep environment for baby – Alone, on his/her Back, in a Crib (or other safety approved sleep surface):  https://youtu.be/Rs9Jw3uIoaU.

For more information

Visit the DHEC website for more information on the agency’s observance of National Public Health Week. You can also go to the official National Public Health Week website.

DHEC wants your child to have a healthy smile!

By Adrianna Bradley

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) wants parents to help their little ones brush up on oral health.

Although it’s preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. When left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain and infections that can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that children who have poor oral health tend to miss more school days and receive lower grades than children who don’t.

Good dental habits start at home

DHEC encourages parents to support good habits at home, such as brushing teeth twice a day and visiting the dentist regularly, so children can have healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime. DHEC’s Division of Oral Health collaborates with the S.C. Dental Association and the Columbia Marionette Theatre to support a traveling puppet show called “Flora and Floppy go to the Dentist.” The purpose of this interactive show is to teach children what they need to do to have healthy smiles.  Some of the key messages in the puppet show are brushing and flossing, going to the dentist, drinking water with fluoride, getting dental sealants, and eating healthy foods.

“The Flora and Floppy puppet show has been able to reach over 35,000 children in schools and Head Start centers across the state with a positive oral health message since it began in 2007,” said Dr. Ray LaLa, director of the Division of Oral Health at DHEC. “The ability to deliver key oral health messages in an entertaining way is an extremely effective way to reach young children and their families.”

Tooth decay a problem among children

Even though tooth decay has been on the decline for the past 30 years, it is still prevalent in children ages 6 to 19. South Carolina’s Oral Health Needs Assessment in 2012 showed a decline in untreated decay, but there is still work to be done, particularly in the more rural areas of the state. For example, over 40 percent of the students screened in 2012 showed they had some form of decay, either treated or untreated. Consistent preventive messages and public health interventions such as community water fluoridation can go a long way to improve the oral health status of children in South Carolina.

Steps to take to protect children’s dental health

Here are some useful tips for parents and caregivers to help protect their children from future dental issues.

  • Oral care begins with wiping out the mouths of infants with soft cloth even before the first tooth arrives.
  • Once teeth arrive, brush your child’s teeth with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day. Children under age 3 should use a smear of toothpaste, and children over age 3 should use a pea-sized amount.
  • Children should be supervised when brushing their teeth until age 6-8.little-girl-brushing
  • Children should visit the dentist regularly beginning at age 1.
  • Talk to your pediatrician, family doctor, nurse or dentist about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears in the mouth.
  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks.
  • Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants. Sealants protect teeth from decay.
  • Have your child drink tap water that contains fluoride. If you have well water, you can contact your water utility company and request a copy of the utility’s most recent “Consumer Confidence Report.” This report provides information on the level of fluoride in your drinking (tap) water.

A healthy mouth is an important part of overall health. To learn more about Children’s Dental Health Month, please visit http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/national-childrens-dental-health-month.