City of York - Bureau of Health Newsletter
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January 2017

Prevent to Protect: Birth Defects Prevention Month

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health Statistics, in 2017 we will welcome almost 141,000 new babies statewide, about 5,000 of which are from York County!  The start of the New Year is also a time to bring attention to National Birth Defects Awareness Month and National Folic Acid Awareness Week, the second week in January.  We can all do our part to keep our community thriving and make sure our babies are born healthy by joining the nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes, and their impact.

While not all birth defects are preventable, there are a lot of ways a mother can reduce her risk of having a baby born with a birth defect.  The National Birth Defects Prevention Network is dedicated to encouraging all women and their loved ones to prevent infections to protect their babies by observing the following guidelines:
  • Properly prepare food.  When cooking meat, ensure it is prepared well done and avoid uncooked deli meats, which may contain harmful bacteria.  Always keep foods at recommended temperatures and prevent cross contamination of raw foods.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider.  Regular visits with a physician can help ensure all vaccinations are up-to-date.  They can also create individual treatment or prevention plans.
  • Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases.  Avoid pet rodents, live poultry, lizards or turtles, and pet waste, including cat litter, while pregnant.
  • Maintain good hygiene. Washing hands often with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent infection, especially before eating foods, after handling raw meats or eggs, touching pets, and changing diapers.
In addition to preventing infections, follow these tips to further reduce risk of birth defects and disease:
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.  This type of Vitamin B is essential for fetal brain and spine development and found in some foods, such as cereals, and vitamin supplements.  Ensuring the recommended dosage helps to reduce the risk of birth defects.  
  • Avoid harmful substances.  Alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and other drugs are proven to be extremely harmful to fetal development.  All of these should be avoided especially during pregnancy in order to prevent intellectual disabilities, fetal alcohol disorders, cleft palates, and many other types of disabilities.
  • Choose a healthy lifestyle.  Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight will greatly reduce the risk of chronic diseases for both mother and baby. Women who have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) pre-pregnancy are less likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Preventing gestational diabetes reduces the risk for both mother and baby developing Type II diabetes later in life.

Cervical Health Awareness Month

Cervical cancer affects about 12,000 women every year in the United States, and causes more than 4,000 deaths. Fortunately, there are measures women AND men can take to prevent cervical cancer and save lives.

It is important to know that the main cause of cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus, or HPV for sort.  HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.  The majority of infections will heal without any treatment, but in a small number of cases HPV can lead to serious health problems, such as cervical cancer, genital warts, and other types of cancers.

Most of the HPV infections that cause cancers could be prevented with vaccination. Parents are encouraged to have their children vaccinated around ages 11-12.  The vaccine is a series of 3 shots given over a period of 6 months, though new studies have found that even completing just 2 of the doses is effective.  Parents should talk with their health care providers about the HPV vaccine for more information.  The City of York – Bureau of Health is also offering free vaccinations for children that are York City residents, and are either uninsured or using Medicaid.  Please call 717-849-2299 for more information, to see if your children qualify, and to schedule an appointment. 
For everyone, the best way to prevent HPV infection is by practicing safe sex.  Using latex condoms can reduce the risk of contracting HPV, though HPV can still infect areas not covered by a condom.  It is important that all women be screened regularly by a healthcare provider, starting at age 21, by receiving regular Pap tests.  This test will look for “precancers,” cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. 

Winter is Here: Are You Prepared?

Winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous, but if you plan ahead, you can stay safe and healthy. Prepare your home and cars. Prepare for power outages and outdoor activity. Check on older adults.

Although winter comes as no surprise, many of us are not ready for its arrival. If you are prepared for the hazards of winter, you will be more likely to stay safe and healthy when temperatures start to fall.

Here are some items to consider for your Winter Home Emergency Kit:
  • Food – Make sure that it requires no cooking or refrigeration in case there is a loss of power. Don’t forget the babies and pets. Also make sure to have a non-electric can opener to open canned goods.
  • Water – At least 5 gallons per person, more if you are in an area prone to have long periods of cold temperatures.
  • Medicines – Extra medicine for anyone in the house on prescription medication.
  • Heat – Have an alternate way to heat your home during a power failure such as a fireplace, woodstove or a kerosene heater. Store enough wood or kerosene to get through a long term power outage.
  • Blankets
  • Matches
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlights or battery powered lanterns (don’t forget extra batteries)
  • Battery powered clock
  • Snow Shovel, if you live in an area with lots of snow
  • Rock Salt
  • Special needs items such as diapers
The following items should be kept in a car kit:
  • Extra food and clothing - We recommend energy foods that will keep over the months such as granola bars, nuts, raisins and trail mix. Also include bottled water. Clothing items should include wool hats, mittens, socks, waterproof jacket and hand warmers. Hand warmers can be purchased at your local sports store for only a few dollars and they can bring hours of warm relief to your fingers and toes.
  • Blanket - There are electric blankets that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter to keep you relatively toasty.
  • Flashlight - You may need to install chains or help other people who may also be stranded. You can also use it to signal for help.
  • Scraper
You are best to stay with your vehicle especially if you are parked in a safe spot and anticipate emergency vehicles to eventually come by.

Take these steps to winterize your home:
  • Winterize your home.
    • Install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows.
    • Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
    • Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks.
  • Check your heating systems.
    • Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly and ventilated to the outside.
    • Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
    • Install a smoke detector. Test batteries monthly.
    • Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
    • Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies and install a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check batteries regularly.
Where to get information:

City of York - Bureau of Health In the Community

Watch the Bureau of Health's Medical Director, Dr. Howie, announce his role as Executive Director of the York Regional Opiate Collaborative. Watch the video here.
Gung Ho Bikes donated nearly 20 bikes to Logos Academy students.  The bikes were delivered by Community Health Services Supervisor Craig Walt and Community Health Specialist Paige Nenstiel, above. 
Students at Logos Academy were excited to receive the bikes.  Thanks Gung Ho Bikes!

Notes from the Doc:
Dr. Matthew Howie

Happy New Year!

I hope you are enjoying a touch of winter and are busy making good on those New Year's resolutions. While I try each year to be realistic with my goals, I often seem to find myself going a bit too big. Yes, regular exercise will help me be healthier and manage stress more effectively, I tell myself. Despite the optimism I feel as the ball drops, soon I realize that I again have stretched a bit too far. So how about this year? Unfortunately, not very different (though I have exercised more than before).
Many of our goals at the Bureau are big goals as well - reducing the number of premature infants born in our community, improving the variety and quality of vegetables available to the residents of our city, and promoting healthy physical activity in our communities. One could make the observation that these goals are just as big, and likely to fail, as my personal goals for self-improvement. And if I alone was responsible for these goals, I am certain failure would soon follow. However, one of the key differences in the two efforts is the Bureau's programs are usually shared with like-minded partners in York who want to see the city healthier and more vibrant too.  This partnership allows for mutual support and encouragement when the going gets tough. This is essential when the task is large and you are not sure progress is being made. It has been my experience that this is the only way real, meaningful change occurs. 
Eventually I may learn the value of the well measured goal, allowing the smaller successes to build. Who knows?  In the meantime, the Bureau will continue to look for opportunities to partner with those in the City of York who are brave enough to think big and willing to do the hard work together to make a healthier York for all. 
Yours in health,
Dr. Matt

Dr. Matthew Howie, MD, Medical Director

Barbara Kovacs, MPA, Director
Clinician's Corner

December 2016 Communicable Disease Report

Preventing Falls Provider Pocket Guide

Algorithm for Fall Risk Assessment

C. Kim Bracey, Mayor
Copyright © 2015 York City Health Bureau, All rights reserved.

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101 S. George St., P.O. Box 509
York, PA 17405

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