Top 10 Local Public Health News for El Paso County in 2012
Public Health Accreditation
El Paso County Public Health applied to the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) for Public Health Accreditation and was notified the application was accepted. El Paso County Public Health anticipates being among the first local public health agencies in the nation to earn the distinction of accreditation.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Epidemic
Reported cases of Pertussis (whooping cough) are on the rise in Colorado. As of December 27, El Paso County had 90 confirmed cases of Pertussis. In September, El Paso County Public Health partnered with the Pikes Peak Flu & Immunization Coalition to offer free Tdap vaccination among child care providers to help prevent the spread of disease and protect the most vulnerable – young infants. Public Health urges people, especially those who care for infants and toddlers to get vaccinated in order to prevent an outbreak in El Paso County. Efforts to educate people about the importance of vaccination are ongoing.
Release of the El Paso County Health Indicators Report
El Paso County Public Health has released its first Health Indicators Report for El Paso County, providing a comprehensive look at the overall health status of the community. El Paso County Public Health collected and analyzed data to assess the county’s “health” using indicators that align with Colorado’s 10 Winnable Battles. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the 10 Winnable Battles for the state earlier this year, which represent key public health and environmental issues where progress can be made in the next three to five years.
Obesity Prevention Efforts – Healthy Community Collaborative
To begin steps towards addressing one of the concerning health trends found in the Health Indicators 2012 Report – the marked rise in obesity – the Healthy Community Collaborative will focus community efforts and resources using evidence-based practices to increase healthy eating and active living to stop the upward trend of overweight and obesity in adults and children. The collaborative is a group of health leaders, elected officials, and interested citizens.
Smoking Cessation and Tobacco Education Prevention Partnership (TEPP) grant funding
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment awarded a grant of $620,000 to the Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership. The grant will begin October 1, 2012 and go through June 30, 2013. The main goal is to increase smoking cessation. In 2013, an education campaign will launch to promote the Colorado QuitLine (1-800-QUIT-NOW), a free resource with researched-based information and a support team of coaches to help people stop smoking.
Reinstatement of Pools and Spas Program
After a 4-year absence, El Paso County’s swimming pools and spas started having regular inspections again in April when El Paso County Public Health’s Board of Health reinstated its public swimming pool and spa education and inspection program. There are an estimated 172 public pool and spa facilities in El Paso County. Proper pool and spa maintenance can help prevent gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases that may be spread through improperly maintained pool water. The goals of the program are to increase education and outreach to the community and to stakeholders in the pool/spa industry; and protect the health and safety of pool and spa visitors with efficient use of staff resources and effective inspections and training.
Clean Air - Reinstatement of the Air Quality Control Program
The Air Quality Control program was reinstated July 1, by El Paso County Public Health’s Board of Health. This program issues open burn and construction activity permits and responds to air quality complaints from residents of El Paso County. This includes the cities and towns of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Calhan, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls, Monument, Palmer Lake and Ramah. Local regulations of air quality protect public health by reducing potentially harmful particulate emissions into the fresh outside air.
Waldo Canyon Wildfire Response
El Paso County Public Health served as a liaison to the emergency operations centers at both the city and county, assisting in evacuations of long-term care and nursing facilities, support to shelters, activation of the Medical Reserve Corps and to assist with re-entry to the burn area for residents during the Waldo Canyon Wildfire emergency.
• Health education and information was provided to residents through the agency’s website, interviews with local media and social media about air quality concerns related to smoke, ash, and heat during the fire.
• Public Health nurses assisted evacuees in obtaining prescription refills, personal hygiene items and mental health services.
• Environmental Health specialists assisted with about 80 retail food establishments in the evacuated areas with spoiled food disposal associated with power outages, smoke/soot clean-up questions, and re-opening establishments to the public.
• Numerous staff worked at the Disaster Recovering Center; answered questions regarding smoke damage in homes and businesses, provided education on how to deal with spoiled food products from power outages, and the need for personal protection for ash/debris site clean-ups associated with damaged and destroyed houses, and provided handouts on a multitude of environmental topics associated with wildfires and the recovery process. They were also involved in assisting mass shelters set up for evacuees with food safety and sanitation guidance.
• Staff continues to monitor activity in the burn area to assure that contractors are following the proper debris removal and cleanup procedures.
West Nile Virus
As of December 11, 2012, 48 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 5,387 cases of West Nile virus disease in people including 234 deaths, have been reported to CDC. One El Paso County resident was hospitalized with the virus in September. The 5,387 cases reported in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the second week in December since 2003. Eighty percent of the cases have been reported from 13 states and a third of all cases have been reported from Texas. Public Health continues to stress prevention methods, including use of larvicide.
Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
Public Health lost federal funds totaling $298,654 for the WIC Program, forcing the closure of two of its Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) centers in Colorado Springs (at Montebello Drive and Lake Plaza Drive) in May. Clients and staff of the two locations relocated to Public Health’s main offices at 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road on the second floor of the Citizens Service Center. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides vouchers for nutritious foods to supplement the diet of pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children under the age of 5 years, who both meet the income guidelines and qualify as “nutritionally at risk.” Purchases made with the redeemable vouchers put slightly more than $9 million back into the community in 2011. Public Health had an estimated 16,567 total WIC families (or 26,261 individuals) in 2011. All clients continue to receive services with their WIC educator.