Category Archives: Prevention

DHEC Observes National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

There are currently over 95,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease in South Carolina, and over 25% of these persons reside in a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home.  

Long-term care facility residents and staff have represented about 40% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. At the same time, the year-long visitation restrictions also took a tremendous toll on residents, family members, caregivers, and facility staff, especially with residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.  

“Ongoing changes and restrictions related to COVID-19 impacted our most vulnerable population,” said JoMonica Taylor, Director of Residential Facilities Division in the Bureau of Community Care. “Amidst staffing shortages, increase in infection rates and lockdowns, facility’s staff remained a physical, emotional, and spiritual support to the residents, especially those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.” 

DHEC worked with facilities over the past year to combat the spread of COVID-19 and find ways that facilities could still offer a connection between residents and loved ones, including tablets and other telecommunications, window visits, and isolation barrier visits.  

Long-term care facilities in South Carolina are now required to allow visitation at all times for all residents in accordance with DHEC guidelines, including indoor visits, outdoor visits, compassionate care visits, and window visits. With long-term care facilities reopened and widespread vaccine availability, DHEC leaders that oversee these facilities express their appreciation to facility staff.  

“DHEC would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the facilities and their staff for their commitment to taking care of and keeping safe one of our most precious populations during this past year of uncertainty and change,” said Angie Smith, Director of the Bureau of Community Care. “DHEC stands along with the facilities and their staff and their commitment to the health, safety, and wellbeing of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia population.”  

As a reminder, DHEC continues to help administer CMS’s Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) Reinvestment Program, which supports projects that benefit nursing home residents and improve their quality of life. Many of the projects are designed to help alleviate and comfort residents suffering with dementia.  

More information on the program and how entities can apply for funds to support an eligible project are available on DHEC’s website here.  

Lancaster County Goes Tobacco Free

DHEC’s Division of Tobacco Control and Prevention and the Midlands Community Systems team recently celebrated with community partners for Lancaster County going tobacco free. Congratulations and a big thank you to our community partners in Lancaster County, especially the Lancaster County Health and Wellness commission, for all they have done to protect residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.  

In 2013, Lancaster became the first county in the state to ban indoor smoking at its public facilities and municipal government. Many other public agencies also adopted tobacco-free policies at that time. In 2019, three remaining public entities needed to adopt tobacco-free policies for the county to be considered fully tobacco-free – the first such county in South Carolina. 

The Division of Tobacco Control and Prevention and the Midlands Community Systems team were able to offer support and resources to help Lancaster County achieve this incredible milestone. By July 2020, the three remaining entities passed tobacco free polices.  

To celebrate and show our appreciation for all the hard work achieved by our partners, we provided tobacco free signs to all seven entities. A billboard on I-77 also recognized this accomplishment.  

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. 

 

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

May 5 is World Hand Hygiene Day: Good Hand Hygiene Is A Life Saver

As DHEC and other public health agencies across the country have responded to COVID-19, one of the key prevention steps – in addition to wearing masks and physical distancing – has been the practice of good hand washing. That’s because clean hands save lives. 

The practice is so important that on May 5 of each year we observe World Hand Hygiene Day. 

Good hand hygiene is the single most important practice supported by evidence in helping eliminate cross-contamination and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). 

It’s a way of reminding everyone – particularly health care workers – that hand cleanliness plays a key role in preventing HAIs. Up to 70 percent of HAIs that occur yearly could be prevented if health care workers follow recommended protocols, which include proper hand washing. 

The key elements for keeping hands clean are soap and water or hand sanitizer. 

Soap and water 

Use soap and water when hands are visibly soiled and/or when working with a patient or an environment in which you may come into contact with contaminants.

The amount of time for proper hand washing with soap and water varies from 15 seconds to 30 seconds (depending on the study), so hands should be vigorously scrubbed for a minimum of 15 seconds.

Hand sanitizer 

An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the preferred method for cleaning your hands when they are not visibly dirty because it:

  • Is more effective at killing potentially deadly germs on hands than soap; 
  • Requires less time; 
  • Is more accessible than hand washing sinks; 
  • Reduces bacterial counts on hands; 
  • Improves skin condition with less irritation and dryness than soap and water. 

Whether it is using traditional soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, proper handwashing must continue to be emphasized by all champions of infection prevention as a constant in the fight to prevent disease spread and saving lives. 

Click here to view a video on why good hand hygiene is important now more than ever.