Tag Archives: Public Health

Collaborative project focuses on combating obesity and improving children’s health

As schools wrap up another academic year, findings from a project aimed at improving the health of South Carolina’s children highlight the benefit parents and communities can gain by including physical activity in children’s schedules over the summer and beyond.

While positive steps have already been taken in South Carolina to address the issue, the state still faces a high childhood obesity rate. According to the SC FitnessGram project, nearly 37 percent of South Carolina’s youth are obese or overweight and almost half of them do not meet health-related standards for heart-lung fitness when tested on physical activities such as brisk walking or running.

‘Healthy students learn better’

This statewide effort to evaluate and improve health-related fitness among public school students is funded by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation as part of a partnership that includes DHEC, the South Carolina Department of Education and the University of South Carolina.

“The Foundation’s commitment to a healthier South Carolina starts by creating healthy habits in our children,” Foundation executive director Erika Kirby said. “We know that healthy students learn better. For the first time, we have statewide health-related fitness data that can be used to shape and support quality physical education efforts in South Carolina. We remain focused on the health of our children and will use these numbers as an example of the continued work to be done.”

While it has long been known that South Carolina has an obesity problem, this is the first time our state has compiled comprehensive data of this kind. Thanks to the statewide FitnessGram software and the partners that have collaborated on this effort, there is now a way of tracking the problem and, more importantly, of coming up with ways to combat it.

“The SC FitnessGram project provides important findings that are a great benefit to our state. It’s critical that we continue to support greater health-related fitness outcomes for our state’s K-12 students,” said USC President Harris Pastides.

Obesity has consequences 

During the 2016-2017 school year, over 100,000 students from over 700 schools in 60 school districts participated in the project. The program was administered by physical education teachers to students in the second, fifth and eighth grades and high school. FitnessGram assesses components of fitness that are known to be related to health outcomes in children and youth.

“The health and nutrition of South Carolina’s students has a strong impact on their future and productivity later in life,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “The collaborative support from both the public and private sectors in the SC FitnessGram project has provided educators and communities with valuable data to make informed decisions about the well being of our young people. I look forward to continuing our work and ensuring that South Carolina students are prepared for success.”

Obesity has important consequences on South Carolina’s health and economy. The economic cost of obesity in S.C. is estimated at $8.5 billion per year and growing. Obese and overweight children are at risk for several serious health problems such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Physical activity is key

“Increasing physical activity is a critical strategy to prevent childhood obesity and decrease the risk for numerous adverse health outcomes,” said Dr. Lilian Peake, DHEC director of Public Health. “Overcoming obesity is a significant challenge that South Carolinians must tackle together. It will take a concerted effort by parents, schools, community organizations, health care centers and others to help improve the health of our students.”

School-age youth need 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. In an effort to encourage more physical activity among South Carolina’s youth, several recommendations have been developed that people can use at homein schools, and around their communities.

The full SC FitnessGram report as well as other information related to obesity and fitness can be found on the SCaledown website at scaledown.org/fitnessgram.

Announcing DHEC’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award Winner

DHEC is proud to announce that Dr. Eliza Varadi has been selected as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Childhood Immunization Champion for South Carolina. CDC and the CDC Foundation hold this annual awards program to honor immunization champions across the 50 U.S. states, eight U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia during National Infant Immunization Week (April 21-28).

A champion for patients/caregiversVaradi pic

Dr. Varadi was nominated and selected from a distinguished pool of health professionals, community advocates, and other immunization leaders for making a significant contribution to public health in South Carolina through her work in childhood immunization.

Dr. Varadi is a champion for vaccines for patients and their parents/caregivers.  She educates parents about the importance of vaccines at prenatal visits and offers parents and caregivers Tdap and flu vaccine in her office to make sure they are protected. She also takes the time at sick visits to make sure children are up to date on their vaccines. Dr. Varadi is committed to dispelling misinformation about vaccines and is currently conducting a social media project where she posts reputable information about vaccines on her practice’s Facebook and Twitter pages. She has also participated in several initiatives to increase adolescent immunizations in her practice with excellent success.

Advocates who go the extra mile

Young children rely on the champions in their lives to keep them safe and healthy. Champions may be doctors and nurses who share scientifically accurate, up-to-date information about vaccines with parents. They may be advocates who go the extra mile to ensure that all children in their communities have access to vaccines. They may be public health professionals who work behind the scenes tracking immunization data, coordinating vaccine logistics, or developing public awareness campaigns. They may be parents who share their personal stories about vaccination with their communities.

When families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials work together, all children can be protected from serious and deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. Dr. Varadi is an inspiration to all of us who care about children’s health in South Carolina. We are pleased and honored to congratulate her on this well-deserved award.

We also would like to recognize the other nominees for the S.C. award, as they all are champions for childhood immunization in the Palmetto State. They are Dr. Deborah Greenhouse (Palmetto Pediatrics, Columbia, SC), Dr. Calvin James (Family Health Centers, Inc., Orangeburg, SC) and Dr. Hannah Wakefield (MUSC Department of Pediatrics, Charleston, SC).  Congratulations to all nominees!

To read Dr. Varadi’s and other award winners’ profiles, click here.

About National Infant Immunization Week

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance 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. Each year, during NIIW, communities across the U.S. celebrate the CDC Childhood Immunization Champions. These award recipients are being recognized for the important contributions they have made to public health through their work in childhood immunization.

DHEC in the News: Rooftop air pollution sensors, National Health Security Preparedness Index, Isle of Palms renourishment project

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

Rooftop sensors on U.S. embassies are warning the world about ‘crazy bad’ air pollution

In October 2010, as heavy smog hung over Beijing, the U.S. embassy’s Twitter feed said its rooftop pollution sensor had detected “crazy bad” levels of hazardous microparticles. So-called PM2.5 had shot up to about 550 micrograms per cubic meter—a level to which programmers had given the sardonic label because they thought it would never be reached. …

By now, rooftop sensors like those that drew attention to Beijing’s pollution sprout from 26 diplomatic posts in 16 countries. Their immediate goal is to protect the health of U.S. diplomats. But they are raising concerns about air pollution from Sarajevo to New Delhi and supplying data to research efforts. The “little-air-monitor-that-could,” as physicist and former U.S. diplomat David Roberts calls it, has become a worldwide watchdog. …

Findings are radiating into other disciplines. During a stint at the U.S. consulate in São Paulo, Brazil, Tommy Flynn, a program manager with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, is providing technical assistance on the monitors.

General Interest

Is the U.S. Prepared for a Public Health Emergency?

The National Health Security Preparedness Index shows that overall, the United States’ day-to-day readiness for managing a public health crisis last year improved by 11 percent since the index’s first iteration in 2013, scoring a 7.1 on a 10-point scale. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia also boosted their overall health security in the last year, with Maryland scoring an 8.0 to outpace all other states.

“Threats to America’s health security are on the rise, but so is our nation’s preparedness to deal with these emergencies,” Dr. Alonzo Plough, chief science officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a press release. “The Index shows how prepared public and private stakeholders are to tackle health security challenges and sheds light on areas for improvement.”

Isle of Palms gets $1.3 million federal grant to restore sand taken by Tropical Storm Irma

The sand that Tropical Storm Irma washed away from Isle of Palms has been restored, and the federal government just kicked in $1.3 million to help foot the bill.

The city had been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency since the storm struck late last year, and the city hoped to save money by piggybacking off of earlier renourishment work.

Active flu season: A Case Study In How DHEC Works Year Round To Protect S.C.’s Health

By Lilian Peake, MD
Director, Public Health

The current flu season, one of the most active in recent years, has commanded the attention of our entire state and nation. And for good reason: The flu can be a serious threat. This contagious respiratory illness can cause mild to severe illness, with potentially serious complications resulting in hospitalization or death.dr-lilian-peake-dhec

That’s why it is so important to have a strong public health system not only working to prevent disease, but also monitoring the health and well-being of the people of South Carolina and responding as situations arise.

As South Carolina’s lead public health and environmental agency, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is responsible for protecting and promoting the health of our community. Our public health system must be well prepared to address a variety of health threats to our citizens. These threats may be infectious diseases, such as West Nile virus, whooping cough, and flu, or disasters, such as hurricanes. DHEC employs skilled public health and environmental control professionals who work every day to improve the health of South Carolinians and maintain readiness to respond to any public health threats to our community.

DHEC public health professionals work year round to provide education and surveillance to prepare for seasonal flu as well as the threat of pandemic flu. DHEC staff collaborate with other public health professionals, health care providers and community partners each year, both before and during flu season, to help our state better respond to flu, no matter how severe the season.

Prevention is the first place to start. Getting vaccinated is the best way South Carolinians can prevent the spread of influenza. Yearly vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. DHEC provides flu vaccination at its health clinics across the state, in schools, and in other community settings. Health care providers, pharmacies and others also provide flu shots. This season DHEC was a partner in a Palmetto Health initiative to provide flu vaccine clinics in churches in the Midlands.

DHEC shares prevention messages and other information on its website and through news releases, interviews, blog posts, social media and public service announcements. This helps keep the public up-to-date on the flu season and inform them of the important steps they can take to protect themselves, their families, and vulnerable members of their community.

Monitoring (or conducting surveillance) of influenza plays an important role in understanding the spread of the flu, the severity of the season and its impact on South Carolina.  It helps detect novel influenza strains, measure the effects of influenza, determine where the flu is spreading in the state and the nation, and identify unusual clustering of cases or outbreaks. Detecting flu early in the season provides more opportunity to encourage members of high-risk groups to get vaccinated before the virus becomes widespread.

Certain influenza data are required to be reported to DHEC to allow for monitoring, including confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths. These data are used to produce FluWatch, a weekly summary of influenza activity in South Carolina. Outbreaks of flu in schools, child care centers, health care facilities and elsewhere must also be reported, and DHEC provides guidance to help stop the spread of influenza.

DHEC also partners with hospitals to help respond to flu. During this year’s active season, hospitals across the state put their medical surge plans into operation to successfully handle the increased number of patients. Working with hospitals and the South Carolina Hospital Association, DHEC facilitated a process in which bed availability and emergency room status were gathered daily. By working together, there was assurance that patients got the care they needed.

Such collaboration supports DHEC’s vision of healthy people living in healthy communities. It is good to know that when the public health is threatened, South Carolina is ready to respond.

From Other Blogs: Eating properly for workouts, preparing for your colonoscopy, communicating about workplace safety & more

A collection of health and environmental posts from other governmental blogs.

Eat properly to workout properly

Fueling before a workout is essential in order to get the best results. A good workout allows your body to positively adapt to the training stimulus. Think better results, faster! By giving your body the proper nutrients it needs, your body will digest and turn food into useable energy. — From Flourish, Palmetto Health’s blog

9 Tips on Preparing for Your Colonoscopy

Anyone who’s had a colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer will tell you that getting ready for one takes time and can be pretty inconvenient. But it’s very important to empty out your colon so the doctor can see even the tiniest trouble spot! — From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) The Topic Is Cancer blog

Workplace Safety Communications Campaigns Should be Driven by Employer, Industry, Workflow, and Culture

Employees who drive for work face significant roadway risks, and motor vehicle crashes can devastate families, communities, and organizations. Crashes are the leading cause of workplace fatalities, with 1,252 deaths of vehicle drivers and passengers on public roads in 2016. In 2013, on-the-job crashes cost employers over $25 billion and led to 155,000 lost work days. Despite the human and financial costs of crashes, only 24 percent of employers offer occupational health services as part of their wellness programs. Furthermore, the available safety training does not always improve worker health outcomes. — From the CDC’s NIOSH Science Blog

Assessing Community Needs in Real-time

What if there was a way to evaluate the needs of a community after a natural disaster? Or understand a community’s attitudes and beliefs about a specific public health behavior? Enter CASPER: Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response, a tool for health departments and public health professionals to assess community needs in real-time.  — From the CDC’s Public Health Matters blog