Wash your hands, because it’s gross if you don’t! (And it might make you sick)

Given the news we recently heard that something like a quarter of all cooks don’t wash their hands, and the fact that we’re in the middle of flu season, it’s time for our annual plea and reminder about how important it is to frequently wash your hands. It’s truly one of the best things you can do (besides getting immunized) to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to others.

Let’s start with the basics. When should you wash your hands?

You should wash them after using the bathroom and when you are preparing food or are getting ready to eat. You should also wash up before and after caring for someone who is sick, after changing a diaper, after touching an animal, and after blowing your nose or coughing or sneezing into your hands.

Is there a right way to wash your hands?

Wash your hands

Wash your hands often with soap and water, but especially after going to the bathroom and before you eat.

This might seem like overkill, but to effectively kill germs and get clean, there are five steps to washing your hands: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, and Dry. You should use soap and water and vigorously rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, which also is the length of the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end, twice. Hum it while you scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails each time you wash to make sure you get rid the germs. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of Wendy Walther Davis: The ‘Why’ of the Work

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Like many department employees, Wendy Walther Davis, medical program specialist, sits in an unassuming office in the belly of an office building where the public does not tread. Also like so many employees, Wendy quietly goes about doing an enormously valuable job. She arranges medical transportation for Medicaid participants with urgent needs.

When we think of medical transportation, the conjured image is a van or ambulance picking someone up, dropping them off, and it’s done. But in Wendy’s world, figuring out how to transport someone is far more complicated, and sometimes life and death. “I don’t just work with transport companies,” she says. “I work with doctors, long-term care providers, government entities, participants, and the participants’ families. I genuinely care about these people. In fact, many of them feel like friends.”

Wendy Walther Davis is a medical program specialist in the Division of Medicaid.

Wendy Walther Davis is a medical program specialist in the Division of Medicaid.

Much of Wendy’s job entails working around obstacles to ensure patients get what they need within the timeframe they need it. On the day we caught up with her she was working to get a terminal patient out of state back to Idaho so they could spend their last days with their family. To accomplish this, she worked with the family to ensure hospice was in place when the patient arrived, worked with the out-of-state provider’s transportation team to make sure they were aware of the patient’s situation and ready in case he passed away during the trip. Although this is not a situation that would normally be attempt by Wendy and her team of providers, they were determined to try because it is “the right thing to do. No one should have to die in a hospital hundreds of miles from their family.” she says. Continue reading

Happy Season of Eating! Tips to avoid getting sick at your holiday gatherings

Thanksgiving starts what I like to think of as the season of eating — holiday parties with family, co-workers, and friends offer all kinds of treats! As we’re hosting and attending parties, however, it’s important to remember the basic food safety rules, both as a guest and as a host.

What is the most common cause of food poisoning?

There are more than 250 things that can cause foodborne disease, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, and things in your food that isn’t supposed to be there. Norovirus is the most common virus to cause food poisoning, while Salmonella is the most common and deadliest bacterial cause. E. coli, campylobacter, shigella, and listeria are also common causes.

Are some people at higher risk of food poisoning?

Yes! Pregnant women should avoid raw cheese because it can contain Listeria. People with suppressed immune systems need to be especially careful to avoid undercooked meats. But nobody’s risk is zero, which is why proper food handling is so important. Continue reading

Today is the Great American Smokeout. Are you ready to make a plan to quit?

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The Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21, which is Thursday, is one day each year when smokers are encouraged to make a plan to quit. The journey may be difficult, but it’s worth it. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. In Idaho, smoking kills more people than alcohol, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. More than 1,800 Idahoans die from smoking-related diseases annually, which is an average of four people per day. Quitting tobacco is the best decision you can make for your immediate health and for the rest of your life.

Why is it important to quit smoking sooner rather than later?

The benefits of quitting start immediately after you stop. After 20 minutes of not smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. A year after quitting, the extra risk of a heart attack you’ve gained from smoking drops by half. And after 10-15 years of being cigarette-free, there is a substantial reduction in your risk for cancer or heart disease from smoking.

What are some of the best methods to help a person quit?

Traditional nicotine replacement therapy has been scientifically proven to be an effective intervention. NRT, as it is called, helps a person kick the habit in a gradual, controlled way. Continue reading

Licensing and Certification partners with Idaho Healthcare Association for better training and education for members

Many of us have had the frustrating experience of putting in hours of work only to find out we are “reinventing the wheel” because another person, group, or company is doing the exact same thing. In 2018, the department’s Division of Licensing & Certification (L&C), and their partners, the Idaho Healthcare Association (IHCA), realized they were doing just this – unnecessarily duplicating their training and education efforts.

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They put their heads together and came up with an idea. Their solution was to hold an annual educational summit for individuals and organizations. The summit would offer training and educational resources that would address the training needs of those who work in 19 different facility types, with the goal of improving the quality of care for patients.

Among the facility types the division regulates are skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. The IHCA represents many of these facilities and works closely with its members toward its mission of “improving lives by delivering solutions for quality care.”

A big part of IHCA’s work includes providing education for their association members. Sensing an opportunity for collaboration, L&C joined forces with IHCA in the spring of 2018 to identify and develop resources and training opportunities for management, clinical, and direct care staff in these three facility types. The first Education Summit was held in November 2018.  Thirty-two individuals representing 11 organizations participated in the summit. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of Kathy Anderson, Vital Records Services, Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics

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Hidden away behind locked doors on the first floor of the PTC Building is the most interesting place. It’s full of information regarding births, deaths, marriages, and divorces in Idaho. The intimate details are fascinating, but they are also private and protected.

And that is a detail Kathy Anderson, a program manager with Idaho Vital Records, takes very seriously as she attempts to find solutions for customers and co-workers.

“Our Customer Service Unit processes all requests for copies of sensitive Idaho vital records, such as birth, death, stillbirth, miscarriage, marriage and divorce certificates,” she says. “The Legal Amendments Unit handles any changes that need to be made to those documents, which may be requested for a variety of circumstances, including inaccuracies or life changes.”

Kathy Anderson reviews a request for a vital record.

Kathy Anderson, left, reviews a request for a vital record.

She says that business is booming because of the number of people seeking certified copies so they can fulfill requirements for the new Star Card – Idaho’s REAL ID.  At the same time, someone interrupts her seeking help with a complicated birth certificate situation for a home birth. Usually, a doctor or hospital certifies a record of birth in Idaho, but this case poses unique challenges for the program’s Registration Unit in establishing a record of this birth and will require extra work in tracking down additional information.

The services provided by the Vital Records Services Program are a critical function of the state. In addition to the recent uptick in certificate orders and corrections because of the REAL ID Act, birth certificates are needed to enroll children in school, and death certificates are needed to help settle estates. Continue reading

eWIC makes it easier for families to make healthy choices at grocery stores

Families in the Idaho Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program now have a more convenient way to shop for healthy, WIC-approved foods. The WIC program has rolled out a digital payment innovation, which involves switching from paper checks to an electronic benefits system. The new system is called eWIC, and it distributes benefits onto a card that is used like a debit card.

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eWIC rolled out in southern Idaho on Sept. 12 and expanded to the rest of the state in October.

The digital program gives families in the WIC program a more convenient and efficient way to shop for healthy, WIC-approved foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, juice, baby formula, and baby foods.

“We’ve received some really positive feedback from moms who have started using the card. And when it’s paired with the WICShopper app, it really streamlines the customer experience as they purchase healthy foods,” said Cristi Litzsinger, director of Idaho WIC. Continue reading