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At the heart of the Caribbean-American community is a sentiment to never forget your roots. A new life filled with opportunity greets many who journey to the mainland United States, but they never forget those whom they love and cherish back in their homeland. This is a sentiment that I, as the daughter of Haitian immigrants, reflect on during this Caribbean American Heritage Month.
In 2010, only eight days into a new position as Chief Medical Officer to the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I was stunned by the news that a 7.0 earthquake had struck Haiti. My first response was to call my parents to see if they had made contact with our family in Haiti. My second response was to join the HHS team that was working on the disaster response. Upon arriving in Haiti to continue to aid in the recovery and rebuilding efforts, I was moved by the responsibility that I felt, not only as a federal official, but as a daughter of that land who wanted to undo the devastation that had been experienced by the people I loved so much.
Today, it is not a natural disaster but rather the Zika virus that is a public health crisis for the health and well-being of our families and loved ones here in the U.S. mainland, the U.S. territories, and in our beloved Caribbean nations. At HHS, we have faced other global health challenges, including the Ebola and Dengue viruses, and are working hard to provide the best resources to address this latest outbreak head on. Our top focus is to reduce the risk to pregnant women and women of childbearing age, as we have learned that Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
Another critical area is educating people, including those who plan to travel to countries and territories impacted by the Zika virus, on the facts about the disease and how they can protect themselves and their families. For example, we are working to make sure that travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika know that they should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks. These steps will prevent them from passing Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.
We’re taking steps to combat Zika now. In April, HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $5 million in funding to 20 health centers in Puerto Rico to further combat the Zika virus disease. Earlier this month, additional funding was awarded to health centers in American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands to fight Zika. Health centers are using this funding to expand voluntary family planning services, including contraceptive services, outreach and education, and to hire more staff.1 And to help increase public awareness across the nation, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is working with key partners and stakeholders to ensure that information on this global health issue reaches minority communities across the nation.
A newly created HHS OMH Zika Resource webpage consolidates a cross section of information on the Zika virus from the federal government, state resources and nonprofit organizations, including multilingual materials. OMH is also working in conjunction with other federal and local agencies to provide networks of promotores de salud, also known as community health workers, with culturally and linguistically appropriate materials to educate Latino and other minority communities about the Zika virus.
During this Caribbean American Heritage Month, let us empower our Caribbean-American brothers and sisters with information on how to protect ourselves from the Zika virus – both here and in the Caribbean. Similar to natural disasters, public health threats do not discriminate. In order to protect ourselves, sharing of information is instrumental to increase access to resources and services. It is a small step we can take to help educate the Caribbean-American community about how to maintain optimal health in the face of this health threat. We stand committed to working towards improving and strengthening the health of our nation and global community, and continue to stand as pillars of action and change in the United States and abroad.
For more information on the HHS Office of Minority Health visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov.
Find resources on Zika in English and Spanish
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As a former track and field sprinter, I still remember and admire my high school track coach whom we affectionately call “Mr. Z.” He helped me to experience some of sports’ great life lessons — leadership, teamwork, and perseverance — and a love of being fit and healthy. This June, sports fans have been served up a buffet of major events that exemplify all of these lessons: the NBA Finals rematch, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Centennial Copa America, the French Open, the U.S. Open golf championships, and of course, the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
However, June is more than a sports feast. It is also Men’s Health Month, which is an opportune time to remind men to live out their own passion for sports and other activities to help prevent illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Whether they are a former athlete turned Monday morning quarterback, or a weekend soccer warrior like my uncle, all men can turn their love of sports into a more active lifestyle. And staying physically active is even more important for men and boys of color, who fare worse across a broad range of health measures.
The leading causes of death for men of all racial and ethnic groups are heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries, such as falls, automobile accidents, and drug overdoses. Of these, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, including Blacks, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian American and Pacific Islander men, heart disease is second only to cancer. And, Native Hawaiian men age 65 and over have a higher risk of diabetes-related potentially preventable hospitalizations than white men.
In addition to health status, minority men face hurdles in accessing certain economic opportunities, which also impact health. A men’s health data brief published in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) examined various social determinants of health for adult males in the United States and found that black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native males generally fared poorly across most categories, including higher rates of poverty and lower levels of educational attainment.
However, there is hope. The President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative is working to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, including boys and young men of color. And because of the Affordable Care Act, 53.5 million men now have private health insurance that covers recommended preventive services at no cost, helping pave the way for millions of men to be as committed to regular medical check-ups as they are to their favorite sports team. The next game or match is an appointment we wouldn’t dare miss. Men should treat their health just the same and commit to annual check-ups with their health care provider and regular physical activity. Men and boys can get active by engaging in regular physical activity or by following U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s recommendation of walking at least 22 minutes a day. Even yard work, active chores around the house, or walking the dog all count as wins for your health, as well as score points with your family!
To learn more about Men’s Health Month and the Office of Minority Health’s resources and information on men’s health, click here.
Ed. note: This was originally published on the womenshealth.gov blog.
Today, we'll change tomorrow. –The United State of Women Summit
That's right. With what we choose to do today — whether it's standing by our game-changing ideas or using our voices to stand up for our communities — we are helping build a healthier and happier generation of women and girls. As women, I believe it's our responsibility to stand together and build on what those before us have done so that we can continue to make strides toward improving the well-being of women and girls.
At the United State of Women Summit, convened by the White House, 5,000 people from across the country and around the world will spend two days (June 14 and 15) reflecting on the incredible things done by and for women and girls over the past few years, as well as discuss the steps we still need to take to improve their lives. The Summit will focus on six topics including health and wellness, violence against women, economics, entrepreneurship, education, and leadership. While day one of the Summit is by invitation only, key parts of the Summit can be accessed via webcast at www.theunitedstateofwomen.org. On day two, many federal agencies will host events that go into depth on some of the specific issue areas, including one here at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), entitled United State of Women: Healthy Women, Healthy Families. I am thrilled to be kicking off the HHS session, which will be focused on the positive impact the Affordable Care Act has had on women's and girls' health. You may view the live webcast at
The Affordable Care Act is truly the best thing to happen for women's health since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. The health care law has expanded coverage, made coverage more affordable, and increased the quality of coverage for women and all Americans. Need some examples?
Talk about progress! The Affordable Care Act has helped us reach a turning point in women's health, and the Summit is designed to acknowledge that. I hope you'll join us as we celebrate this exciting time. Here's how you can participate:
You can also watch the United State of Women video message to hear some of the most influential women talk about working together to help all women succeed.
Dr. Nancy C. Lee is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Women's Health and Director at the Office on Women's Health
Ten years ago, I was invited to participate in the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Summit in California to present Research Challenges for Small Populations: The Pacific Islander Case. The experience was transformative—I found myself in the midst of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) elders and leaders passionately committed to social justice and improving conditions for Pacific Peoples. The discussions that day confirmed the need to show that the health needs of small populations matter. And with that, I began a journey inspired by NHPI stakeholders to advocate for high quality disaggregated data—data that teases out granular information—on the NHPI population. Because information on subpopulations within the NHPI was inadequate at the time, we took up the challenge to create it. And in public health, it is important to collect detailed race and ethnicity data in order to identify health disparities and develop interventions.
Through funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, the Pacific Islander Health Study (PIHS), completed in 2012, provides the first representative epidemiological study on the health and healthcare utilization of two Pacific Islander subpopulations—Samoan and Tongan adults and adolescents residing in California. The PIHS showed that statistically reliable data could be collected on small populations and be comparable to data collected at the state and national level. The PIHS also showed that survey methods typically applied to large populations could also be successfully applied to small populations in a cost effective manner.
The PIHS applied a multistage cluster sample framework to collect data on two large Pacific Islander populations in California which could then be weighted to represent all Samoans and Tongans living in the state. By using validated questions drawn from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the results from the PIHS compare directly to state and national health patterns, providing an invaluable tool to accelerate health equity and eliminate health disparities. This survey method can now be applied to US-affiliated Pacific Islands.
PIHS results and methodology have appeared in peer reviewed journals and at numerous conferences and meetings, as well as a Harvard doctoral thesis. The 2nd edition of the PIHS study results will be released in June 2016. Key findings will be presented at three upcoming events:
To receive a notification when the Pacific Islander Health Study is released, visit the HHS Office of Minority Health website at minorityhealth.hhs.gov and sign up for OMH email updates.
Dr. Panapasa is a currently faculty research scientist in the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. She is the principal investigator for numerous projects, including the Pacific Islander Health Study and the assessment of federal data on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
Each year, about 5,000 people are diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease and at least 20 outbreaks are reported. Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of
lung infection (pneumonia) that people can get by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated with Legionella. According to the latest CDCVital Signs report, more effective water management might have
prevented most of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks that CDC investigated from 2000 through 2014. CDC advises building owners and managers to adopt newly
published standards that promote Legionella water management programs.
In 1976, CDC investigated the first outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Legionella bacteria grows best in warm water that is not moving or that
does not have enough disinfectant to kill germs, such as in hot tubs, decorative fountains, and showers. Most likely places for getting the disease are
hotels, long-term care facilities, and hospitals. Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks can also occur on cruise ships. Symptoms of the disease include cough,
shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, and headaches.
“Many of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in the United States over the past 15 years could have been prevented,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D.,
M.P.H. “Better water system management is the best way to reduce illness and save lives, and today’s report promotes tools to make that happen.”
Building owners and managers can follow these steps:
Healthcare providers can tell patients if they are at increased risk for pneumonia, including Legionnaires’ disease, and to seek care quickly if they
develop symptoms of pneumonia. They should also report Legionnaires’ disease lab tests to local public health authorities quickly, and test Legionnaires’
disease in people with serious pneumonia.
For more information, visit the Vital Signs Legionnaires’ disease web page.