Stay Informed of Your Family Health History

dinner settingThanksgiving Day is National Family Health History Day

Family health history is a record of the diseases and health conditions in your family. Most people have family history of at least one chronic disease that makes them more likely to get that disease.(1)

Staying informed of your family’s health history can help you and your doctor prepare for and prevent diseases you are more likely to get and that can affect you later in life.

Do your research

Be informed of your family health and medical histories before your next doctor’s appointment. Even if you don’t know all your health history information, share what you do know.

Collect family health history information through conversations with blood relatives. The most important relatives to talk to are your parents, siblings, and your children. Next, you may want to talk to grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and half-brothers and half-sisters. Ask them questions like:

  • Do you have any medical conditions, including chronic diseases, such as diabetes, or health conditions, such as high blood pressure?
  • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke?
  • How old were you when each of these diseases and health conditions was diagnosed?
  • What is our family’s ancestry – from what countries did our ancestors come to the United States?
  • For relatives who have died, be sure to ask about the cause and their age of death.(2)

Try to gather the following information for each person:

  • Sex assigned at birth
  • Date of birth
  • Ethnicity/Ancestry
  • Medical conditions
  • Mental health conditions, including alcoholism or other substance abuse
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Age when each condition was diagnosed
  • Lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise, and tobacco use
  • For relatives who have died, age at death and cause of death(3)

You might find it useful to look at important family paperwork and vital records. Birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates are usually available through state and county government offices. Electronic personal health records are a good resource, too.

Use whatever information you collect to create a family health history.

Paint a portrait

The Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait” is a free online tool to help you organize and share your family health history information with your doctor and other family members.

Save copies of family health history records, including your family health portrait, to a flash or external hard drive or a secure cloud service. This can help you keep track of the information and ensure it is easily accessible in an emergency.

Update the information in your family health portrait regularly and as the health and medical histories of family members change.

Keep a personal health record

Chronic diseases can be passed down through generations. If you live with a chronic disease(4), keeping a personal health record (PHR) can help future generations better understand their health history. Remember, you’re not doing this to just protect your health, but also to help others.

A PHR is an electronic application that patients can use to maintain and manage their health information. A PHR can also help caregivers, such as those caring for young children, elderly parents, or spouses, manage their patients’ care.(5)

There are many benefits to keeping a PHR. For example, PHRs are protected from the effects of emergencies (e.g., floodwater, fire, and smoke) and accessible when traveling, such as during an evacuation.(5)

The types of information you could put in a personal health record include:

  • Your name, birth date, blood type, and emergency contact information.
  • The date of your last physical exam.
  • The dates and results of tests and screenings.
  • The dates of major illnesses and surgeries.
  • A list of your medicines and supplements, the dosages, and how long you’ve taken them.
  • A list of allergies.
  • A list of chronic diseases, including the date of diagnosis.
  • A history of medical conditions in your family.(6)

Knowing and acting on the information is an important way to prepare and protect your health.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/famhist_basics.htm
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/famhist_adults.htm
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/medical-history/art-20044961
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm
  5. https://www.healthit.gov/faq/what-are-benefits-personal-health-records
  6. https://medlineplus.gov/personalhealthrecords.html

Resources

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Epilepsy and Emergency Preparedness

purple ribbon

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month

Epilepsy is common. In 2015, about 3.4 million people reported having active epilepsy in the United States.

Epilepsy is a broad term used for a brain disorder that causes repeated seizures. There are many different types of epilepsy.managing epilepsy

A seizure is a short change in normal brain activity.(1) There are also many different kinds of seizures.

People are diagnosed with epilepsy when they have had two or more seizures.

Self-management is what you do to take care of yourself and your health. For people with epilepsy, that includes preparing for and responding to emergencies and disasters.

#PrepYourHealth for an Emergency

People with epilepsy have personal needs to consider when collecting emergency supplies and making an emergency plan.

Here are some other steps a person living with epilepsy can take to prepare for emergencies:

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how you can create an emergency supply of medicine if possible. If you miss just 1 dose of medication, you can lose control of your seizures.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry some other form of identification. This way, if you have a seizure while in an emergency shelter, first responders will know how to better assist you.
  • Talk to family, close friends, coworkers, and neighbors about how they can help if you have a seizure.
  • Try to find out what triggers your seizures. Flashing lights, sounds, lack of sleep, and stress are triggers for some people. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to avoid seizure triggers during an emergency.(2)

Learn more about epilepsy and emergency preparedness.

Seizure Action Plans

More than a collection of names and phone numbers, an Emergency Action Plan is a user guide for how to stay healthy, informed, calm, and connected in an emergency. A person living with epilepsy should have an emergency action plan that includes a seizure action plan.

People with epilepsy need others to understand their condition. A seizure action plan is used to organize seizure information and inform bystanders and first responders on how to help during a seizure.

A good seizure plan should describe the seizures (seizures may not look like someone would expect) detail how to help (i.e., seizure first aid), and explain when to call 911.

Having a plan in place can help you feel ready for the unexpected.

when to call 911

Helping Others with Seizure First Aid

Seizures are common. About 1 out of 10 people may have a seizure during their lifetime. On

e day you might need to help someone who is having a seizure.(3)

You do not need formal training or special certification to give seizure first aid, but you do need education. Learn what you can do to keep that person safe until the seizure stops by itself.

These are general steps to help someone who is having any type of seizure:

  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends and they are fully awake.
  • Remain calm. Time how long the seizure lasts.
  • Keep the person safe by guiding or moving them from harm.
  • Comfort them and speak calmly.
  • Check to see if they are wearing a medical bracelet.
  • Keep their airway clear and loosen tight clothing around their neck.(3)

Knowing what NOT to do is important for keeping a person safe during or after a seizure. Here’s a list of things you should not do:

  • Do not hold the person down or try to stop their movements.
  • Do not put anything in their mouth.
  • Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths. People usually start breathing again on their own after a seizure.
  • Do not offer person water or food until there are fully alert.(3)

If you are interested in learning more or receiving certification, the Epilepsy Foundation has a free, online seizure first aid course.

Resources

References

  1. https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/emergency/index.htm
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/about/first-aid.htm

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Burn Institute Teaches Kids Burn Prevention, Fire Safety

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

A cast of green and purple puppets breaks into song. The audience of 3-year-olds responds as you’d expect, by dancing in their seats.

Puppets, song, and dance are how the performers of “Let’s Stay Safe from Fires & Burns” introduce preschoolers to the topics of fire safety and burn prevention. Puppets named Greg and Jen teach children about the dangers of matches. “Mr. Match” emphasizes the importance of stop-drop-and-roll.

After the show, students receive bags of educational materials, including coloring books, stickers, and a safety checklist to share with their families.

“Burns Don’t Discriminate”

The Burn Institute in San Diego leads the effort to reduce burn injuries and empower people with burn injuries in the area. They place particular focus on children.

Susan Day is the Burn Institute’s executive director. “Burns affect people of all ages,” she said. “Burn and fire prevention education can never start too early.”

Children age 5 and under have more than double the risk of dying in a fire than any other age group. The rate of child deaths from burns is seven times higher in low to middle-income countries, as compared to high-income, per the World Health Organization.(1)

Tessa Haviland is the institute’s director of marketing and events. “Burns don’t discriminate based on any age, demographic, socioeconomic status, or anything like that,” she said. “So, it’s really important that we reach all communities.”

Fire-Safe Kids

In 2009, the Burn Institute developed the Fire-Safe Kids program in collaboration with the local fire department and the University of California San Diego Burn Center. The goal is to teach kindergarteners through third graders about fire safety.

The Burn Institute’s team of staff, interns, and volunteers tailor programs to the needs of different age groups and communities. Puppets and songs are used with young children. Presenters rely on active storytelling and games to teach older kids. These presentations tell the story of three friends and their dog as they learn about best fire practices, escape plans, and burn management.

The program was expanded in 2015 to include fourth through sixth graders and incorporate topics like kitchen safety, the risks of electricity, and the consequences of fire-play. Maria Leushina is a former intern at the Burn Institute who now leads Fire-Safe Kids as the prevention education coordinator.

“We keep the presentations interactive,” Leushina said. “We ask the kids questions as we go. We have them demonstrate stop-drop-and-roll, crawling to a door, and checking it with the back of their hand. We also have some videos as well.”

A Family Approach

Tessa Haviland underscores the importance of taking a family approach to fire prevention and emergency preparedness.

“When an emergency happens, there’s not always time to sit down and make sure that everyone knows [the plan],” Haviland said. “If everyone’s part of the [planning] process, they’ll know what to do, where to go, and how to get out of the house.”

For more information on how to make a home fire escape plan, visit the Ready Campaign website.

Inclusion Creates Community

In its outreach efforts, the Burn Institute also strives to bring down societal and language barriers. The Institute recently added Spanish captions to all the Fire-Safe Kids slides. Pre-recorded presentations are available in multiple languages. And the puppet show is performed in English and Spanish.

The Burn Institute also leads outreach efforts to help people with burn injuries and survivors of fires cope with trauma. The institute hosts support groups, holds retreats, and offers specialized programming to help people care for each other and heal.

“The trauma of a burn doesn’t end when you leave the hospital; some of that emotional and long-term scarring can last throughout a lifetime,” Haviland said. “The commitment of the Burn Institute to form communities for these burn survivors [so they] have a safe space where they’re able to connect and mentor each other about the struggles, but also [share] the successes that they have––it’s something truly motivational.”

References

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/burns
  2. https://www.kidsdata.org/topic/765/linguistically-isolated65/table#

Resources

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Project Firstline Reaches Frontline Healthcare Workforce with Infection Control Training

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing gaps in infection control knowledge and understanding among the frontline healthcare workforce. Since the onset of the pandemic, healthcare-associated infections and antibiotic-resistant infections have increased, reversing national progress made before 2020.

Infectious disease threats like Ebola, COVID-19, and antibiotic resistance will continue to emerge. It’s more important than ever that we equip our nation’s healthcare workforce with the infection control knowledge they need to protect themselves, their patients, and their communities.

One year ago, this month, CDC launched Project Firstline. Project Firstline provides engaging, innovative, and effective infection control education and training for U.S. frontline healthcare workers.

Meeting the Needs of the Diverse Healthcare Workforce

Project Firstline’s innovative content is designed for all healthcare workers, regardless of their previous training or educational background. The program’s training and educational materials provide critical infection control information in a format that best meets healthcare workers’ needs.

During its first year, Project Firstline and its partners hosted more than 300 educational events on infection control and developed more than 130 educational products. The products are accessible on a variety of digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and CDC and partner websites. Products currently available on the CDC Project Firstline site include:

Maximizing Impact through Partnerships

Project Firstline brings together academic, public health, and healthcare partners plus 64 state, local, and territorial health departments to provide infection control educational resources to healthcare workers nationwide.

Our partners have used a diverse range of products and activities to reach healthcare workers with tailored infection control information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these activities include Twitter chats, podcasts, videos,  and virtual training events simulcast and translated into multiple languages.

Additionally, Project Firstline launched the Community College Collaborative in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the League of Innovation in the Community College. The program is integrating enhanced infection control content into the health programs of community college classrooms. The program was piloted this summer with faculty cohorts from 16 participating colleges across a range of community college settings. Faculty came together to tailor the infection control curriculum for each professional area, with a plan to phase it into their coursework. Professional areas included:

  • emergency medical services
  • respiratory care
  • nursing
  • practical nursing and nursing assistants
  • medical assisting

This effort will help ensure that the future healthcare workforce starts their careers with key infection control knowledge to protect themselves and their patients.

The Future of Project Firstline

Project Firstline aims to become the go-to resource for infection control among healthcare workers. It will focus on building a strong culture of infection control within all healthcare facilities.

Using insights learned during its first year, the program will create a new suite of readily available and easy-to-consume education materials. The new materials will be designed to help strengthen infection prevention and control capacities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Rx Prep: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is October 23

Many of us have a medicine cabinet in our homes. It may contain first-aid supplies, personal hygiene items, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and other personal needs.

Keep tabs on your medicines to help you keep them out of the wrong hands. Each year in the United States, more than 1 million people visit emergency departments for an adverse drug event. An adverse drug events (ADE) is when someone is harmed by a medicine.(1)

Blood thinners, antibiotics, diabetes drugs, and opioid analgesics are the leading cause of emergency department visits for ADEs.(2)

Practicing safe storage and proper disposal of prescription medicines can help keep your family safe and healthy.

Up and Away

Toddlers can be harmed if they get into medicines when no adult is watching. Approximately 50,000 children younger than 5 years old go to emergency departments each year for an ADE.(3)

Emergency visits for kids and pets, too, are preventable if people put medicines up and away after every use. Here are some safe medicine storage practices:

  • Put medicine and vitamins up and away and out of children’s reach and sight.
  • Put medicine and vitamins away every time.
  • At home or away, keep medicines in their original, child-resistant containers.
  • Never leave loose pills or liquid medicine out on a counter, table, or child’s bedside.
  • Lock the safety cap.
  • Teach your children about medicine safety.
  • Ask guests to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicine in them out of children’s reach and sight when they are in your home.
  • Prepare for an emergency. Create an Emergency Action Plan that includes important contact information, such as phone numbers for your physician, pharmacist, veterinarian, and the Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222.(4)

Learn more about safe medicine storage.

Drug disposal

It’s important that you safely dispose of expired, unwanted, or unused prescription medicines. There are several ways to do that.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a semiannual event held in October and April. The campaign teaches people how to dispose of medicines and provides safe and secure locations where they can dispose of their medicines.(5)

The best way to dispose of most types of medicines is to drop them off at a drug take back location.(6) This may be your local pharmacy or police station.

There are other drug disposal options if you cannot get to a Take Back Day location. Flush medicines on the FDA flush list down the toilet. If a child, adult, or pet in your home ingests, touches, misuses, or abuses a medicine on the flush list, they could suffer serious consequences or die.(7)

Dispose of medicines that are not on the flush list in your home trash.

  1. Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Throw away the container in your trash at home.
  4. Remove personal information from the label of empty medicine bottles and packaging. Throw away or recycle the bottle or packaging.(8)

Learn more about the safe disposal of medicines.

Resources

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/basics.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/program_focus_activities.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/parents_childrenadversedrugevents.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/protect/campaign.html
  5. https://takebackday.dea.gov/
  6. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/safe-disposal-medicines/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know
  7. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know/drug-disposal-fdas-flush-list-certain-medicines
  8. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know/drug-disposal-dispose-non-flush-list-medicine-trash

Healthy State of Mind to Cope with an Emergency

October 10 is World Mental Health Day

Mental health is as important as physical health to your overall well-being. Taking care of both your physical and mental health will help you protect yourself and your family for an emergency.

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It can affect how we think, feel, relate to others, and plays a role in how we handle stress and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life.

Emergencies or natural disasters can disrupt our mental health. It’s important to learn how to manage traumatic events that happen during and after an emergency or natural disaster.

A traumatic event is an event, or series of events, that causes moderate to severe stress reactions. They include natural disasters, loss of a loved one, acts of violence (assault, abuse, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings), or car crashes and other types of accidents.

Experiences such as these can cause feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and depression, helplessness, sadness, anger, and other emotions and reactions. These emotions are normal to experience at the onset of a traumatic event, but if they last too long, it can be problematic.(1)

Preparing to deal with the stress and challenges of an emergency is part of personal health preparedness. Knowing how to cope with feelings in healthy ways can help you stay calm, think clearly, and respond quickly during emergencies.

Prep Your Mental Health for an Emergency

Traumatic events and most emergencies are beyond your control. You can lessen their impact on your health and safety by taking steps now to improve your preparedness, develop coping skills, and make social connections. These steps can help you respond to and recover from stressful situations, including emergencies.

Ways of preparing your mental health include:

  • Identifying trusted sources of information, including CDC and your state and local health departments, so you can stay informed during an emergency. When you feel that you are missing important information, you may become stressed or anxious.
  • Learning new and refreshing old practical skills can help you build confidence and better respond in a crisis.
  • Taking care of your body. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, get needed vaccinations (flu and COVID-19), and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.(2)
  • Taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
  • Connecting with others. It’s important to have strong, healthy relationships. It is also good to have different types of connections.(3) Get involved in your community by helping a neighbor prepare for emergencies or volunteering with an organization active in disaster relief.
  • Making time to unwind. Try to do other activities that you enjoy.(2)

Know the Signs of Distress

It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during and after a disaster. Everyone copes differently to stressful situations and your feelings can change over time. Stress can cause the following(4):

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

Stress reactions after a traumatic event are very common and may resolve after a few weeks. Know how and where to get professional help if these reactions last longer and interfere with your everyday life.

Care for yourself

Coping skills and self-care activities can help you remain calm in stressful situations.

Making time for self-care and practicing coping skills can help ground you before, during, or after an emergency and help you become more resilient in your everyday life. Taking care of yourself can also better equip you to take care of others.

The most effective self-care and coping skills are those you can practice anywhere at any time. Find a small way each day to care for yourself. Ways to do that include:

  • Practicing gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life.(3) Practicing gratitude can help you keep things in perspective and appreciate moments of positive emotion.
  • Staying connected with friends and family. Talking with people you trust about your feelings and concerns can relieve stress.
  • Helping others. Caring for others in your community can also help you feel a sense of purpose, mindfulness, and gratitude.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing exercises. Relaxation techniques can help slow your breathing, lower blood pressure, and reduce muscle tension and stress.

The How Right Now campaign helps people cope with the effects of a natural disaster or emergency, such as COVID-19 . Visit the campaign website to find information and resources you can use to help yourself and others cope with stress, grief, and loss.

If you are struggling to cope, there are many ways to get help. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities.(2)

If you are in crisis, get immediate help:

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/dealing-with-stress/index.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/cope-with-stress/index.html
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/howtoimprovementalhealth.html
  4. https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp

Resources

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

 

Healthcare Workers “Pop Up” to Help Vaccinate in IL Communities

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

The sound of live music and the smell of fried food filled the air on a warm July evening in Moline, Illinois’ Hispanic Floreciente neighborhood. Peggy Newkirk, 73, a retired nurse practitioner, stands behind a folding table in the shade with other volunteers.

Most people crowd to Mercado on Fifth—a weekly open-air cultural fest and market—in the summer to shop, eat, and dance. But Newkirk and her fellow volunteers were there with other plans—to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. “We make it as convenient as possible so that if somebody is even considering it, you’re right there before they have a chance to change their mind,” Newkirk said.

“Pop Ups” Put Shots in Arms

The Rock Island County Health Department has held pop-up vaccine clinics at Mercado on Fifth and at community gathering places in other minority neighborhoods across Rock Island and Moline. The health department also held clinics at the Islamic Center of Quad Cities in Moline and the Second Baptist Church in Rock Island.

About 42% of the population of Rock Island County was fully vaccinated as of August 31, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.(1) About 52% of people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.(2)

Nationally, vaccination rates are lower on average among people from racial and ethnic minority groups, according to CDC.(3) The goal of the pop-up vaccine clinics in Rock Island County is to reach disproportionately affected communities and remove barriers to vaccination access.

The clinics were run by health department staff and Rock Island County Medical Reserve Corps volunteers. Most volunteers are retired healthcare workers like Newkirk. They’re trained to fill the gap of first responder and medical staff shortages in emergencies.

“We’re just trying to reach anyone and everyone we can,” said Kate Meyer, manager of emergency planning and response for the health department. “And we couldn’t have done all of our response without the Medical Reserve Corps.”

“Like Giving People Hope.”

Deborah Freiburg, 70, is another Medical Reserve Corps member. She retired in Rock Island after 40 years as a nurse at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “Going from working such a heavy job and just all of a sudden retiring, you can’t just sit at home,” she said.

When Freiburg’s planned trip to the Galapagos fell through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she called the health department and offered to help, first as a contract tracer, then later at the vaccine clinics.

Things were hectic at first. Freiburg remembers standing for six hours at a time in an ice-covered parking lot outside the Tax Slayer Center, the site of Rock Island County’s first mass vaccination clinics. Her job was to monitor vaccine recipients for adverse reactions.

People poured into the clinics. They came by car, bus, and on foot. The health department partnered with public transit company that serves Rock Island and Moline, to provide free bus rides to vaccine appointments. Once dropped off at a clinic parking lot, volunteers would pick up people with mobility issues in golf carts. Peggy Newkirk remembers a family of three generations that came together to get their vaccines.

One man told Freiburg he had waited in his car overnight for his shot. “It was the most exciting thing,” Freiburg said. “Because, you know, it was like giving hope to people. No matter how cold it was outside, or how long you were on your feet, everybody was just excited to be part of this part of history.”

Volunteers and staff were giving out 800 or more vaccine doses each day earlier this year, but the numbers have dropped. Still, regular clinics are set to continue indefinitely.

Hurdles of Hearts and Minds

Many factors influence vaccine decision-making, including cultural, social, and political factors; individual and group factors; and vaccine-specific factors.(3) Newkirk said some of her family members won’t get the shot, despite her best efforts to build COVID-19 vaccine confidence.

Newkirk is undeterred. Confidence in the vaccines leads to more people getting vaccinated, which leads to fewer COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. “Everybody wants to get society back to normal and the best way to do that is to get the people who aren’t vaccinated, vaccinated,” she said.

References

  1. https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccinedata?county=Rock%20Island
  2. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations_vacc-total-admin-rate-total
  3. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccination-demographic
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/vaccinate-with-confidence.html

Resources

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Summer Camp Inspires, Prepares Students for Medical Careers

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

Students in Dr. Abdullah Hasan Pratt’s emergency preparedness program have seen friends and family die. They’ve been in positions to help others during health emergencies but didn’t know how.

Pratt is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Chicago. He started the Medical Careers Exposure and Emergency Preparedness program in 2018. His purpose is to address health disparities in some of Chicago’s most underserved communities.

The South Side communities that neighbor the University of Chicago campus rank among the highest in the city for heart disease, strokes, and incidents of gun violence.(1) Pratt said the program teaches teens who live in those areas the practical skills they need to stay calm and respond in a medical emergency.

Inspiring Leaders

“Emergency preparedness skills help empower them to do something, to act, to be a leader when these situations happen,” Pratt said. The seven-week summer program comes at no cost to the students. Each session includes a lecture, followed by a practical component that puts the students’ new skills to the test. Weekly topics vary and include first aid, clinical skills, doctor-patient interaction, and medical career advice.

Samantha Morris is a rising second-year medical student from New Orleans. She said the opportunity to engage with local communities in Chicago was a reason that she got involved with the program.

“I love teaching and enjoy interacting with students,” said Morris, after showing two of the program’s participants how to take a blood pressure reading. She said the practical sessions help students gain confidence in their skills.

The program includes a medical careers exposure component. Pratt said it aims to address the disparities within healthcare professions in the community. “There’s a paucity of young doctors that actually come from the community that they advocate for,” he said.

Pratt explains the driving forces behind the program are the medical school and community volunteers. They come from similar neighborhoods in Chicago and across the U.S.

“How often do you get someone who’s first generation? How often do you get someone who comes from Roseland or Englewood? How often do you get someone who’s lost a brother and four of their closest best friends to gun violence?” he said.

Having volunteers and medical professionals that can relate to the students personally helps the program succeed.

“I think that’s why you don’t see as many of these programs,” Pratt said. “Because it takes an intimate knowledge of the problems almost to the point where you’ve suffered. You’ve been traumatized, you are no different than your patients, no different than these students. I don’t see them as any different than me.”

Building Relationships

The program works to foster long-term relationships and mentorship that encourages participants to give back to the community throughout their careers.

“And that’s what I want for them. I want them to look up one day and say, ‘That’s my big sister, and now they’re a young doctor or nurse practitioner, and they can now collaborate on things,’ but it’s been built for years, that relationship,” Pratt said.

It’s not just the program participants who benefit from the mentorship. The volunteers, all of whom are at different stages of their medical careers, are mentees to the students and each other. Pratt sees the benefits of mentorship first-hand. “We’re continuing to guide them in their careers,” he said. “They’re meeting people who are going to help them become better applicants, better candidates to get into the schools or the professions that they choose.”

Nycholle Warne is a certified nursing assistant who joined the program as a volunteer to give back to the community. She said if a program like this had been available to her in high school, she’d be further along in her career.

“The resources, support, and reaching out to people put you in the right direction,” Warne said. With Pratt’s guidance, she recently started working towards her master’s in nursing.

Pratt’s program prioritizes the students rather than overheads. Free use of university facilities and donated equipment help him keep the focus on preparing teens in disproportionately affected communities. Pratt would like to see the program replicated in cities across the U.S. He hopes that other communities with limited resources can create programs inspired by what they’ve built in Chicago.

“A dream of ours is that any student fresh off the streets can hear about what we do, go to our website, and be linked to the corresponding programs,” Pratt said. “My goal is to connect them with people who they can say ‘I’m her. I want to be him. I’m already him. He walked my shoes. He did it. I can do it.’”

References

  1. https://chicagohealthatlas.org/indicators

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Risk Communication: Plan with the Whole Community

During a disaster, communication becomes especially critical. Language, accessibility, or other barriers can affect many individuals’ ability to receive, understand, and act on emergency information.

The ability of a community to communicate accurate emergency information, alerts, warnings, and notifications saves lives. Timely and effective messages can inform people on actions to stay safe, take shelter, or evacuate.

What is in the messages and who communicates them to the community is an important element of risk communication.

Why It Matters

There is widespread evidence that emergencies disproportionately impact individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

The term “access and functional needs” refers to individuals with and without disabilities, who may need additional assistance because of any temporary or permanent condition. That condition may limit their ability to act in an emergency. Individuals with access and functional needs do not require any kind of diagnosis or specific evaluation. These may include but are not limited to

  • individuals with disabilities,
  • individuals with limited English proficiency,
  • individuals with limited access to transportation,
  • individuals with limited access to financial resources,
  • older adults, and
  • others deemed “at risk” by the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAIA) or the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

FEMA’s whole community approach promotes community participation in emergency planning, response, recovery, and mitigation activities. Integrating community partners into the emergency planning process can help planners better understand and address the needs of the community. These stakeholders should be included in the development of risk communication messages to ensure they are accessible, understandable, and actionable.

Emergency Planning Can Save Lives

During widespread evacuations, transportation systems may be overwhelmed. Understanding the transportation needs of the whole community ahead of an incident will help identify key partners and prioritize communication. Community partners can help widely disseminate messaging to the populations they serve on actions for how to stay safe.

Parents drop off their kids at schools every day assuming they will come home within roughly 8 hours. Yet, in 2014, many Atlanta parents experienced a disaster they never would have predicted.

Icy conditions created by a winter storm paralyzed traffic just as schools were closing. Thousands of children were stranded at schools and on buses. Some children were rescued by firefighters and the National Guard after many cold and hungry hours on buses.

More than 2,000 children spent the night at schools across the metro area.

Some parents spent hours behind the wheel trying to get to their children. Others walked miles through the snow to reunite with children.

Research indicates that over one-third of American households with children are not familiar with their school’s emergency plans. Even more do not know where schools would evacuate their children to during a disaster.

Emergency action plans help everyone know what to do, who to call, and where to reunite in a disaster.

A new CDC resource for emergency planning

CDC developed a toolkit to help emergency planners, such as those for school districts, develop communication plans that consider the needs of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

The Access and Functional Needs Toolkit is organized in two sections. Section 1 provides examples of groups who may be at greater risk or disproportionately affected in an emergency. This section includes noteworthy practices, key considerations, tips, and resources for effective communication with these groups.

A second section outlines a process and recommended action steps to integrate a network of community partners into risk communication strategies. It provides customizable tools and instructions, templates, worksheets, and noteworthy partner engagement practices. The resources can help create documentation to institutionalize partner engagement practices and identify areas for improvement.

Government agencies and community organizations can use the toolkit’s worksheets and templates to guide their emergency plans and communication strategies.

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

More Than Meals: MOW Delivers Preparedness, Response Help

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

One sizzling day this summer, Mo Perry made what she thought would be a routine visit to her Meals on Wheels (MOW) client, Alvin.

Perry didn’t expect to find Alvin looking disoriented and his residence overheated. Alvin’s air conditioner was broken. And his visual impairment had made it difficult for him to call for help.

“In Alvin’s case, he’s really isolated,” Perry said. “If we hadn’t stopped by, it could have been a bad situation.”

Perry’s story is an example of how MOW volunteers deliver on the organization’s More Than a Meal motto. Food deliveries double as welfare checks.

Checking on older adults during emergencies is important because they are disproportionately affected by extreme weather, said Dr. Christine Kistler, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of North Carolina.

“Older adults tend to be the population that dies during snowstorms, heat waves, and natural disasters because they have less physiological reserve,” Kistler said. She explained that in addition to differences in their physiology, older adults are generally less aware of when they’re overheating or freezing and should seek out a supportive environment. Sometimes, they don’t know where to turn.

If a client doesn’t answer the door, MOW drivers follow an established protocol. First, they try to contact the client and then the client’s emergency contacts. If all else fails, they call first responders. “We don’t quit for the day until we know they are okay,” said Natalie Huggins, a MOW volunteer coordinator based in Richland, Washington.

Volunteers also use their visits with clients to help them prepare for and respond to emergencies. MOW chapters in the Pacific Northwest delivered fans during this summer’s extreme heat.

In Lee County, Florida, it’s not winter storms but hurricanes that worry MOW administrators. Rebecca Busby, Food Programs Manager at MOW of Lee County, said her chapter provided clients with shelf-stable food ahead of Hurricane Elsa in July 2021.

Older adults can face barriers to accessing emergency supplies on their own. Many older adults have mobility disabilities that make it difficult for them to run essential errands.

Older adults might not have the financial means to pay for unanticipated expenses, according to Janaira Quigley, a former program manager at MOW in San Diego. When clients are struggling to cover their living costs on a fixed income, emergency supplies can be a low priority. “Emergency preparedness, that’s way down on the list,” Quigley said. “They’re just trying to make ends meet.”

In addition to supplies, MOW volunteers their clients stay informed.

In Florida, volunteers ensured that their clients stayed up to date as Hurricane Elsa approached. Meals came with a flyer with information on what they need to prepare for, what they can do with their pets, and what they need to have on hand, said Rebecca Busby.

Information about COVID-19, including tips on how older adults can stay safe, was distributed nationally, according to Carter Florence, Senior Director of Strategy and Impact at MOW America.

“I think for seniors, information is important. They don’t hop online, and they don’t get text messages,” said Sarah Hall, Development Director of MOW in Spokane, Washington. “A big barrier is making sure that people stay in contact and not just assume that they know what’s going on.”

MOW is also an important source of information for first responders. Chapters in Florida help responders to identify people who are at increased risk of injury and death during emergencies like hurricanes.

As for Mo Perry in Minnesota, the experience of working with clients like Alvin proves the importance of community connections to building resilience. “I think of it sort of like roots underground that intermingle and hold the trees in place when the storms come,” she said.

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.