Monday, September 14, 2015

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

In the United States, 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese and, according to the 2013 Colorado Health Survey, nearly 1 in 4 children are overweight or obese in Colorado. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Many different factors contribute to children being overweight and obese, such as lack of physical activity. In Colorado, only 13 percent of kids walk or bike to school, and less than a quarter of Colorado kids have physical education 5 days a week.

Two other factors that largely contribute to childhood obesity are consumption of unhealthy foods and unhealthy drinks, such sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). Did you know, for example, that an extra soft drink a day increases a child’s risk of becoming obese by 60%? And that drinking one or two cans of soda a day increases risk for diabetes by 26%? Despite these hard facts and many more, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the American Beverage Association have spent at least $106 million to defeat public health initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels since 2009, according to an analysis conducted by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Less expensive food and drink are oftentimes more accessible and obtainable, but tend to have lower nutritional value. Access to fresh produce can be limited due to higher cost- eating healthy can be expensive! Ensuring all kids have adequate access to healthy food is essential to decreasing obesity in Colorado’s children.

The good news? Childhood obesity can be prevented. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to create opportunities for kids to eat healthier and get more active. In honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month this September, Jefferson County Public Health encourages your family to make healthy changes together. We all have a role in helping raise awareness around childhood obesity and the contributing factors, because we all have a role in building a healthier Jefferson County for our future generations. Here are some easy, helpful tips to get started:

Get active outside: Walk around the neighborhood, go on a bike ride, or play basketball at the park. There are so many sunny days and great places in Jefferson County to spend outside;
Limit screen time: Keep screen time (time spent on the computer, watching TV, or playing video games) to 2 hours or less a day; and,
Make healthy meals: Buy and serve more vegetables, fruits and whole-grain foods.

Taking small steps as a family and as a community can help our future Jefferson County generations stay happy and healthy. As Jefferson County residents, we have a wealth of open land full of beautiful walking and hiking trails which are a great way to get active. To find out more about our Open Space areas in the County, visit our Open Space page. For more information on childhood obesity rates and health effects, please visit JCPH’s Achieving a Healthier Weight (Obesity Prevention) page. For additional information on how to choose healthy foods and be physically active, please visit the following sites:

September is Food Safety Month . . .

This year’s National Food Safety Month’s theme is “Let it Flow,” focusing on the flow of food through restaurants.  As restaurant customers, the tasty final product is what meets the eye.   Yet, many steps and procedures from receiving to serving, occur beforehand and behind the scenes to ensure the yummiest and safest meal reaches the table.
To help ensure food is safe when it reaches the customer, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) features several effective food safety programs that assist restaurant operators in educating their staff in the importance of food safety.
“Food establishments that consistently demonstrate a commitment to safe food handling and preparation are essential to our goal of reducing the incidence of food-borne illness," says Terri Leichtweis, Senior Environmental Health Specialist and TUFFS coordinator. “We want to recognize the staff and the management of these establishments for their prevention efforts through the Team UP for Food Safety or TUFFS initiative.”
Team Up For Food Safety (TUFFS) is designed to promote excellent food safety practices and give recognition to facilities that value food safety.  The program is voluntary, but it requires that a facility meet certain food safety criteria to qualify for the program. Current List of TUFFS Members. The TUFFS initiative is also intended to help build collaborative, effective partnerships between regulators and the food industry while at the same time, reducing risk factors that cause or contribute to foodborne illness. 
The next time you go out to eat, look for the TUFFS logo on the window or door of participating restaurants and mention it to the staff.   Posting of the TUFFS logo is an indication that the food service establishment is actively engaged in taking control of food safety risk factors and taking necessary actions toward reducing foodborne illness in Jefferson County.
Because everyone has a role in food safety, TUFFS members along with many other restaurant operators also participate in the Jefferson County Food Safety Forum.  The next meeting of the Forum is October 6, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.  This group of restaurant operators and JCPH food safety inspectors meet to discuss current foodborne illness concerns, and strive to improve food safety in Jefferson County. 

For more information on Jefferson County Public Health’s food safety program and food safety education opportunities view our web page or download the Excellence in Food Safety brochure. A convenient online class is also available in 5 languages at  

Getting and Staying Prepared for an Emergency

September is National Preparedness Month and Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) urges families to make this month a time to get prepared for any multitude of disasters that may impact occur. From natural disasters like fires and floods, to influenza season or a bioterrorism event, it is never too early to begin preparing for emergencies—even those that are not likely to occur! Plan how to stay safe and communicate during the disasters that can affect your community.

In an effort to increase awareness on a range of different emergencies, National Preparedness Month features a different type of emergency each week.

Week 1:  September 1-5th            Flood
Week 2:  September 6-12th          Wildfire
Week 3:  September 13-19th        Hurricane
Week 4:  September 20-26th        Power Outage

Be Prepared
Anyone can be impacted by an emergency such as a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or disease outbreak, for example. You can take steps now to help you prepare for an emergency and cope if an emergency happens.

1. Get a Kit
If a disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for some time. It’s important to maintain an emergency kit with enough supplies for at least 72-hours. It is important to consider your family’s unique needs, like medications or food for your pets.

2. Make a Plan
Families can cope with disasters by preparing in advance and working together as a team. If an emergency were to occur, it is imperative to know how family members will contact each other, where members would go to stay safe, and what to do in general during any different variation of an emergency.  Planning what to do before a disaster strikes provides the best protection.

3. Stay Informed
It is important to understand what emergencies are likely to occur in your area and specific ways to respond to each one. You should also understand the ways you can get information about potential threats, such as through text alerts, emergency sirens in your community, or other methods.

4. Get Involved
The best way to ensure your family and your community are prepared in the case of an emergency is to get involved. Find opportunities to support your community’s preparedness so that everyone can stay safe when the unexpected occurs.
Stay Safe
Emergencies can be both stressful and dangerous, and they can expose us to dangerous situations.  It is important to remember that there are things you can do to keep yourself safe during an emergency.
Emergencies can expose us to dangerous situations where we could be injured. It’s important to use caution at all times, and learn basic first aid skills before an emergency. Stressful situations may trigger a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event in some individuals. The most important thing you can do during an emergency is to be able to recognize the signs of a cardiovascular event and act immediately by calling 9-1-1.

It’s important to keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40°F and frozen food at or below 0°F. This may be difficult when the power is out. A refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. When in doubt, throw it out – just be sure to throw it out somewhere safe so it doesn’t attract wildlife.
Be Healthy
Emergencies will impact everyone differently. However, some people with chronic medical conditions may be more vulnerable during an emergency. There are a few simple yet powerful things all of us can do to improve our health:

       Exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes a week, and live an active lifestyle as much as possible.
       Eat healthy by following the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines.
       Avoid tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. These substances can weaken an immune system and cause a person to become ill, as well as cause many other chronic diseases.
       Get a flu shot every year.

Please visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website for tools to help.  The Jefferson County Public Health Emergency Preparedness team works to serve the public health needs of the community before, during and after an event.  To learn more, visit our Emergency Preparedness webpage.

Protect against Rabies

Monday, September 28, 2013 is World Rabies Day.  Rabies is a serious disease that affects the nervous system and can be fatal if left untreated.  By keeping your pets vaccinated against rabies, you are not only protecting them, but you are protecting yourself and your family too.  Show your pets how much you love them by honoring September 28th and getting them vaccinated. The Foothills Animal Shelter offers rabies vaccinations for your dog or cat for only $15.  Vaccines can be given during an appointment, or the shelter offers walk-in hours on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3 to 4pm. Please visit their website or call 303-278-7575 for more information.  

The JCPH animal-borne disease program works to monitor and respond to disease threats in the county, as well as monitor any positive rabies tests from animals such as bats. It is important for everyone to take precautions against rabies exposure. While only a small percentage of bats are infected with rabies,  it is important to avoid close contact with them.  The public should contact their local animal control if they find a dead bat or if they find a bat behaving strangely. Animal control will determine whether the bat needs to be collected and tested.  Animal Control will collect specimens for rabies testing if there is a possibility that the bat had contact with people or their pets--particularly within the home or other enclosed buildings.

Jefferson County Health officials advise that even what may seem as insignificant contact with a bat may still be sufficient to transmit the rabies virus. Rabies is spread most often through contact with bat saliva, as a result of bites or from exposure to cuts on the skin. In some instances, people may be unaware that they were bitten and may not see puncture wounds. 

Steps to Prevent Rabies:
    • Residents are urged not to handle wild animals and to beware of any bats or skunks seen during day light hours. Bats that are active during the day (seen in places where bats are not usually seen, i.e. indoors, on the lawn) or any bat that is unable to fly should be considered possibly rabid and reported to the appropriate animal control agency.
    • Pet owners should be sure their pets have current immunizations for rabies and keep their pets from roaming free. Vaccination is essential to protecting pets and preventing further spread of the disease.
    • Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
    • Have all dead, sick, or captured bats/skunks tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets is suspected.
    • Keep wild animals from entering homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might contact people and pets. Seal up holes that might allow bats into your living quarters. Any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be caulked. Use window screens, chimney caps, and draft-guards beneath doors to attics, fill electrical and plumbing holes with stainless steel wool or caulking, and ensure that all doors to the outside close tightly.

·         For more information or to report a suspicious animal, please contact your local Animal Control agency or Jefferson County Animal Control at 303-271-5070

·         For more information on rabies and prevention tips please visit our Animal-Borne Disease Rabies page, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rabies page,  or call the JCPH Animal-Borne Disease Program at at 303-271-5700.

Here Comes the 2015-2016 Influenza Season. Have You and Your Family Gotten Your Flu Shots?

Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year, preferably in the fall before the U.S. flu season begins. Flu season can begin as early as October and can last as late as April or May. Remember that influenza is a respiratory illness that can cause life-threatening complications. Do your part to stop the flu by getting an annual flu vaccination, washing your hands frequently with soap and water (use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available), and covering your sneezes and coughs with a tissue or your elbow.

And, take extra care of yourself as the temperatures change and cold and flu season begins:

  • Get plenty of rest; 
  • For aches, take whatever your doctor or pharmacist recommends; 
  • For cough and mucus, run a humidifier (especially in this dry Colorado air!); and, 
  • Drink 8-12 glasses (8 oz) of fluids daily, such as water or 100% juice (avoid caffeine). 

“The flu is not your common cold. Children younger than five, pregnant women, those 65 years and older, and anyone with chronic medial conditions are at risk of getting seriously ill from seasonal influenza,” states Christine Schmidt, Communicable Disease Control Supervisor. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there were 3,397 hospitalizations and six pediatric deaths caused by the flu.

Getting your influenza vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness this season. Flu vaccines are offered at JCPH; call the clinic appointment line at 303-239-7078.

Get more information by visiting the JCPH influenza web page. For information on how to tell the difference between a cold or the flu, download our brochure.