Tag Archives: Public Health

DHEC in the News: swimming advisory lifted, Duke Endowment grant, Shem Creek, 111 candles

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

A swimming advisory for a portion of Surfside Beach has been lifted. For access to advisories, tide tables, forecasts and more, visit the coastal resources hub on our website.

RMC Vice President of Strategy & Compliance Brenda Williams led the creation of the Tri-County Health Network as a nonprofit organization in 2012 and currently serves as chair of the network.

“Receiving a grant from The Duke Endowment is a great acknowledgment of the work the Tri-County Health Network is doing in our communities,” Williams said.

“Since its creation, the network has made a significant impact on health in Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg counties by implementing a variety of programs, including community gardens, faith-based health programs, area health summits and chronic disease forums,” she said. “This funding will allow the network to have an even greater reach.”

  • Two areas of Shem Creek have still not been cleared for swimming:

The good news is that three areas previously flagged on Shem Creek for high levels of bacteria have been cleared for swimming after a Wednesday water quality test by the Charleston Waterkeeper.

Unfortunately, two of several areas on the report remain “in the red.”

Exposure to water is still discouraged at Brittlebank Park and James Island Creek (test site 2).

  • While DHEC doesn’t keep track of how many South Carolinians are over 100, we wish a happy birthday to Laura Wright, who celebrated her 111th birthday this week:

Laura Wright’s devotion to solving crossword puzzles was put on hold Thursday as family and friends celebrated her 111th birthday.

The retired teacher attributes her longevity to “the hands of the Lord.”

No one knows if she is the oldest person living in South Carolina, although amateur genealogists consulted by her relatives say she is in the running for that title.

For more news from DHEC, visit Live Healthy SC.

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’s environmental staff plays a role in improving public health

National Public Health Week (April 3-9) is a time to highlight the importance of public health, promote better health practices among residents — and, of course, celebrate those who work so hard in the field. Staff all across DHEC work to preserve and improve public health. That includes those in our environmental and environmental health programs.

DHEC’s environmental and environmental health programs provide many services that enhance and protect public health. They ensure that the following — and so much more — meet state regulatory requirements: the pools we swim in, the restaurants we eat in, the shippers that handle our shellfish, the landfills we take our trash to, the underground storage tanks that store our gasoline, the wastewater plants that treat our sewage, the drinking water plants that treat our water, the facilities that hold air permits, and the facilities that generate hazardous waste.

With offices located across the state, we are able to provide exceptional customer service, accountability, efficiency and response to regulated entities, local governments and members of the community.  We issue permits, inspect, sample, monitor and analyze as well as investigate complaints. Our day-to-day duties include:

  • Air quality monitoring, modeling and forecasting
  • Industrial air emissions permitting and compliance
  • Stormwater and wastewater permitting and compliance
  • Asbestos awareness and compliance
  • Dam safety
  • Drinking water protection
  • Hazardous, radioactive and infectious waste management
  • Onsite wastewater permitting and licensing
  • Rabies prevention
  • Food protection
  • Dairy and manufactured food protection
  • Laboratory certification
  • Lead risk assessment
  • Oil, chemical and nuclear emergency response programs
  • Air, water, wastewater, soil, fish, milk and dairy analysis
  • Complaint investigation

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 works to preserve, protect the health of all of South Carolina

By Lilian Peake, MD
Director, Health Services

When we at the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) say that our vision is healthy people living in healthy communities, we aren’t feeding South Carolinians some feel-good line. We mean it.

Protecting and preserving the collective health of residents and the communities in which they live is at the heart of what we do as the state’s public health agency.

Ensuring the well-being of entire populations

Although doctors do the critical work of treating diseases and injuries one patient at a time, we at DHEC are charged with addressing disease and injury for the state’s population as a whole. Instead of treating the individual who suffers a heart attack, we analyze the links between heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. That information allows DHEC and partners across the state to develop programs to prevent and control heart disease.

That’s the essence of public health: ensuring the well-being of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood or as large as a region or the entire state. When health care providers report an infectious disease outbreak, we are there. When the need arises to plan and prepare for the potential of a new threat like Zika virus entering our state, we are there. When natural disasters arise — whether a damaging hurricane or a perilous flood — we are there.

Agency’s skilled workers help build public health system

DHEC employs many skilled professionals and experts who work tirelessly to help build and maintain a public health system capable of preventing and responding to the various emergencies and outbreaks that sometimes arise. The work of these public health and environmental control professionals covers a wide range of areas, including chronic disease, aging, safe drinking water, disaster response, tobacco control and so much more.

The agency investigates nearly 400 acute disease outbreaks and 55,000 disease reports a year; conducts more than 90,000 inspections covering a diverse range of programs; and has legal responsibilities that include more than 360 state or federal statutes, regulations and provisos.

Our team uses a multiplicity of methods to help prevent and respond to public health threats and reverse negative trends. Those methods include developing educational materials and programs, administering needed services and proposing policy changes. Our work includes efforts to make sure everyone has an opportunity for a healthy life.

Helping hundreds of thousands stay healthy

With DHEC locations in all 46 counties around the state, residents make numerous clinic visits each year, whether for TB therapy or a flu vaccine. Three programs in particular comprise the vast majority of visits to our clinics: the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, Preventive Health (family planning services and STD testing/treatment) and Immunization.

DHEC helps hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians stay healthy every year. In 2016, the agency:

  • Delivered high‐quality health and wellness services to 757,813 South Carolinians in our community health
  • Provided nutrition counseling and assistance to 183,141 women, infants and
  • Provided 60,388 newborn screening test results for babies.
  • Evaluated 12,731 new sites for septic tanks, resulting in 8,988 permits.
  • Performed 39,504 food safety-related inspections, investigated 4,725 complaints, and issued 2,129 permits.
  • Conducted 12,800 initial investigations of potential rabies exposure, with 12,211 follow-up investigations involving wild and domestic animals.

Although we work year-round to educate and inform residents about a wide range of public health issues, this week — National Public Health Week (April 3-9) — gives us an opportunity to highlight the impact public health programs and services have on protecting and improving the well-being of all South Carolinians. We will spend this week celebrating the importance of public health and those who work in the field, while educating citizens about various health issues and how they can improve their quality of life.

It all feeds into our ultimate goal of ensuring that South Carolina remains a state where healthy people live in healthy communities.

DHEC committed to leading a quality public health system

By Catherine Heigel

The average South Carolinian probably isn’t aware of the time and expertise that goes into developing a quality public health system that guards against a potential flu outbreak, tests fish to determine if they are safe to eat, educates citizens amid concerns about the Zika virus and provides vaccinations to children to protect them and future generations from preventable diseases.

They likely aren’t aware of what goes into making sure that infants get proper food and nutrition, citizens are educated on sexually transmitted diseases and people of all ages receive critical health information aimed at helping reduce obesity and tobacco use. They might not know what goes into monitoring and treating chronic diseases or tuberculosis.

But while they might not fully understand what it takes to build effective programs to address those issues, citizens most certainly understand that if someone isn’t doing that vital work — and much more — our overall public health and quality of life will decline.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is the agency charged with that big task. DHEC employs many professionals and experts whose job it is to understand how all these things work together to impact communities. More importantly, they possess the skills necessary to help develop a public health system capable of preventing and responding to the various emergencies and outbreaks that sometimes arise.

DHEC oversees many efforts to reverse negative public health trends. We’re seeing improvement. For example, infant mortality in South Carolina has decreased by over 30 percent from 2005-2014. In the area of youth smoking, an analysis of the agency’s 2015 South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey shows that between 2013 and 2015, cigarette use among high school students has continued to fall below record levels, from 15.4 percent to 11.9 percent.

With locations in all 46 counties around the state, DHEC is accessible to all residents who make numerous clinic visits each year, whether for TB therapy or a flu vaccine. Three programs in particular comprise the vast majority of visits to our clinics: the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, Preventive Health (family planning services and STD testing/treatment) and Immunization.

During the 2014-15 fiscal year, we had 831,674 client visits to those programs:

  • 596,662 WIC visits
  • 177,400 Preventive Health visits
  • 57,612 Immunization visits

Although we work year-round to educate and inform citizens about a wide range of public health issues, this week gives us an opportunity to highlight the impact public health programs and services have on protecting and improving the well-being of all South Carolinians. South Carolina is joining communities around the country this week in recognition of National Public Health Week, which runs April 4-10.

Day in and day out, DHEC works to help communities, families and individuals access information and resources to facilitate personal wellness and empower healthy choices throughout life. We are dedicated to keeping our air, water and food safe. We also work tirelessly to prevent health emergencies. But emergencies do arise at times, and DHEC will be there to respond to such challenges.

These days, DHEC is closely monitoring the Zika virus, although there has not been a confirmed case found in South Carolina. The public is understandably concerned about the disease following an outbreak in South America and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention telling pregnant women to refrain from traveling to areas where the virus is common.

It is likely that Zika will, at some point, be detected in South Carolina. As it does in the case of other mosquito-borne diseases, DHEC is working to detect the presence of Zika in South Carolina and is regularly providing information and education to health care providers, local mosquito-control programs and the general public. DHEC’s public health staff is seeking to detect the virus as early as possible in the event it appears in mosquito populations or in travelers who visited areas where the virus is active.

Whether faced with the daily task of helping citizens stay well or working to prevent or respond to a public health emergency, DHEC is committed to maintaining a strong public health system that keeps our citizens healthy and productive and our communities prosperous and vibrant.

During National Public Health Week, we have been hosting open houses in each of our four regions to celebrate the impact of public health and strengthen our connections to the communities we serve. The forums give citizens — from the Midlands to the Pee Dee to the Lowcountry to the Upstate — the opportunity to come in and learn more about our public health system and how we are actively fostering healthy people living in healthy communities in our great state.

MANDATORY CREDIT: Travis Bell Photography ©2015 Travis Bell

Catherine Heigel                                                                  Travis Bell Photography ©2015 Travis Bell


Catherine Heigel is the Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. A South Carolina native, Heigel holds more than 20 years of combined legal, regulatory and executive management experience.