The CDC recently sounded the alarm on a growing epidemic in our country: the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. According to the CDC, American health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
From a public health perspective, this is a serious concern as higher prescribing of pain killers is associated with more overdoses and deaths. Here in South Carolina, 102 prescriptions for painkillers are now written for every 100 residents, and more than 200 people die each year from accidental prescription drug overdose. All of these deaths are avoidable. Most are caused because people are able to shop for painkillers by contacting multiple pharmacies and physicians to receive separate prescriptions for the same drug.
To combat the problem, DHEC is working with health care providers and pharmacists across the state to increase the number of prescribers utilizing our enhanced prescription monitoring program known as SCRIPTS. Run by our Bureau of Drug Control, this voluntary, online database makes it easier for South Carolina doctors and pharmacists to identify and report potential prescription drug abuse.
May is Stroke Awareness Month, which gives us an opportunity to shine a spotlight on one of the leading causes of death and disability in South Carolina. In 2012, 2,331 people died from stroke in our state, and more than 9,000 individuals were treated for a stroke in South Carolina hospitals.
The good news is that strokes can be prevented by understanding and controlling risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes, and obesity.
Receiving immediate medical attention is critical to improving outcomes for stroke patients. If you think someone may be having a stroke, remember to think FAST:
Face drooping – one side of the face droops or goes numb
Arm weakness – one arm goes weak or is numb
Speech difficulty – speech may be slurred or the person is unable to speak or hard to understand
Time to call 9-1-1 – call EMS right away if you see these symptoms in someone, even if symptoms go away; check the time so you know when the symptoms first began
April is Minority Health Month, which provides us with an opportunity to share some of the great work we’re doing here at DHEC Public Health to reduce health disparities that affect minority populations in South Carolina.
One of our top priorities is reducing health disparities through our obesity prevention efforts. Here in South Carolina, while obesity affects all races, African-American and Hispanic populations are disproportionately affected by obesity. African-Americans in our state have a 51% higher rate of obesity and Hispanics have a 21% higher rate than whites. Similarly, research shows that food deserts – geographic areas where people struggle to access healthy food options – are often found in low-income, rural and minority neighborhoods. Continue reading →
With spring upon us and a few days of higher than average temperatures, it’s time to start thinking about heatstroke prevention for kids in cars.
Every 10 days in the U.S., a child dies from being left in a hot car. These deaths are preventable and most result from a distracted caregiver forgetting that the child has been left in the car. Continue reading →
Hospital-associated infections continue to be a serious public health concern. A new study released by the CDC this week reveals that 4 percent of patients develop a new infection while hospitalized, 11 percent of which turn deadly.
Here at DHEC Public Health, we provide data surveillance and reports on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) to help health care organizations identify problems and track trends. Our healthcare-associated infections epidemiologist Kate Habicht does a great job overseeing this data collection and reporting to the 78 hospitals in South Carolina that are required to report this information under the Hospital Infections Disclosure Act (HIDA). Kate also provides support to the S.C. Hospital Association, which is the organization in our state that leads healthcare-associated infection prevention initiatives.
Each year, DHEC produces two reports on facility-specific HAIs that are distributed to hospitals and legislators, and is available to the general public on our website. These reports provide consumers and public health officials with a way to measure and compare South Carolina’s progress in preventing HAIs. They also help to promote better infection control practices across the state.
Special thanks to Kate for her hard work in monitoring and reporting HAIs. Her work is helping South Carolina health care providers identify ways to prevent these infections in the future.