Friday, June 25, 2010

National HIV Testing Day

National HIV Testing Day is June 27.

An estimated one out of five Americans who are living with HIV does not know his or her status, and this new study shows that most Americans and Canadians with HIV begin care too late.

A list of test sites is available here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New tobacco controls have public health impact

New tobacco regulations regarding health warning labels, use of misleading descriptors (like “light,” “low,” and “mild”), and sales restrictions will help make tobacco products less accessible to youth and will help encourage smokers to quit.

Read more about Tobacco Controls.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Summer!

It's officially summer. Here are some tips to help keep you healthy as you celebrate the warmer weather:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has posted this advice on how to enjoy the summer and avoid health problems due to heat and skin cancer.

This food safety blog describes safe grilling and food handling when eating outdoors.

Children’s eyes are more at risk for long-term damage from UV rays. This website describes how to pick safe sunglasses for kids.

Plan to go swimming or visit a water park? Find out how to protect yourself and others from recreational water illnesses first.

Severe weather this summer could cause power outages. This US CDC site lists steps you can take to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if your power goes out, and this food safety blog has has helpful information about keeping food safe in the event of power failures.

And, finally, follow the advice you'll find in this American Public Health Association blog about summer safety.

Have a great, safe summer!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Influenza Update

This MMWR discusses the preliminary results of surveillance for Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) related to H1N1 flu vaccination. Initial findings show a rate of GBS among people receiving H1N1 vaccine similar to that found in seasonal influenza vaccines. No system has detected a statistically significant association between GBS and H1N1 vaccination; surveillance and further analyses are ongoing. The H1N1 vaccine safety profile is similar to that for seasonal influenza vaccines, which have an excellent safety record.

Planning efforts for the fall flu vaccine campaign are currently underway. Consent forms and other tools for schools conducting vaccine clinics are being developed and will be posted on the Maine CDC web site as soon as they are finalized, around the time that Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) are released.

A number of updates have been made to the web site. Streamlined information for schools has also been posted.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Update on Health Reform

The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury have issued regulations on grandfathered health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

This webchat describes how the Affordable Care Act will give individuals and families more choices and provide stronger consumer protections.

This Kaiser Health News article describes additional benefits for new moms and pregnant women as a result of health reform.

Seniors across the country recently joined President Obama’s discussion on health reform and Medicare. This blog post also describes ways that the new legislation will strengthen Medicare.

The IRS has issued regulations on the 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services included in the health reform law.

Monday, June 14, 2010

National Men's Health Week

National Men’s Health Week is celebrated each year the week leading up to and including Father’s Day.

During the week, individuals, families, communities, and others work to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This US CDC website describes what you can do to promote awareness during Men’s Health Week.

This US CDC website has daily steps to help men be safer, stronger, and healthier.

Every year, nearly 300,000 American men die of cancer. This US CDC website discusses ways men can lower their risk.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Safe water bond is a good deal

In my job as director of Maine’s public health agency, we work to protect public health for all Maine people. An important part of our core mission for the last 100 years is to ensure that Maine’s drinking water is safe and reliable. However, Maine’s drinking water infrastructure, like that found in most other states, is old and in need of repair and replacement.

In the beginning of May, I watched in awe as Boston’s drinking water operators spent days and nights working to repair a pipe break on a large water transmission line that serves 30 communities surrounding Boston. Because of the potential for contamination, more than 2 million people, including 700,000 households, had to boil their water or use bottled water for three days while the pipe was being repaired. This interruption in service caused great disruption and costs to families, businesses and workers and illustrates the need to maintain our water infrastructure.

On June 8, Question 5 asks whether you favor a $10.25 million state bond that will match $33.25 million in federal funds designated for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects, and agriculture irrigation projects.

If the question passes, $3.4 million of the $10.25 million will be used for drinking water infrastructure projects that will receive a match of $17 million in federal funds. For the 2010 construction season, we have received more than $42 million in drinking water funding requests. Public water systems that have requested funding to improve water treatment or upgrade existing facilities include Bangor, Eastport, Vinalhaven, Mechanic Falls, Bath, Hampden, Gardiner, Old Town, Caribou, Portland and Auburn-Lewiston. Without the state match, these projects will not be funded this year.

For every $1 the state invests, the federal government provides $5. The state must provide the state match in order to receive the federal funds. If the state cannot provide matching funds within two years, Maine’s federal funds are forfeited to other states.

Since 1997, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Drinking Water Program has administered the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund that provides low-interest loans and grants to public water systems. The fund serves systems statewide and operates in conjunction with the Maine Municipal Bond Bank. Re-payment of principal and interest on the loans, combined with the state matching funds and federal funds, is put back into the fund so that new loans can be made.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that Maine’s drinking water infrastructure need over the next 20 years is $900 million, or an average of $45 million per year.

The fund is a notably successful program. Since 1997, we have lent or granted more than $150 million to our public water systems so that they can continue to provide safe and reliable drinking water to people in Maine. These investments also provide well-paying jobs for Maine workers and businesses through the construction, maintenance and operation of these facilities.

Maintenance of our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure does have a cost; however, this is a good deal for Maine people even in these tough economic times. We must continue to make the investment necessary to maintain reliable and safe water for the state of Maine.

Dora Anne Mills is director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s chief health officer.

Originally printed in the Bangor Daily News.