An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Latest research helps us better understand vaccine confidence among Idahoans

At certain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, Idaho conducted research to help us understand current awareness and understanding of COVID-19, safety precautions, and the COVID-19 vaccine. Recently, the state conducted a survey with 300 Idahoans who are currently unvaccinated. We wanted to understand if they will choose, at some point, to get vaccinated and what would be the reason. And, if they are choosing to not get vaccinated, what has led them to that personal decision?

Some highlights of the survey results include:

  • Many people are in the “wait and see how things go” mindset. This means people will decide, in their own time, when they will get the vaccine. They are not against getting vaccinated, but they may be looking for a trigger (travel, school starting, etc.) or time and convenient access to the vaccine because of their busy lifestyles.
  • Many people also indicated they wanted to wait for a year or so to see how things were going.
  • Most unvaccinated people are not concerned about getting COVID-19. They do express some concern about and the possible side effects of the available vaccines. (Note: Some more common side effects are swelling, redness, and pain at the injection site; fever; headache; tiredness; muscle pain; chills; and nausea. Serious side effects are extremely rare.)
  • For those who are likely to get the vaccine, convenience is a major concern. Idahoans also indicated a preference for getting the vaccine at a pharmacy.
  • Those likely to be vaccinated in the future are concerned about time off work for the appointment OR if they experience side effects. (Note: Gov. Brad Little took this concern to heart and has set the example for other leaders in Idaho. He gave state employees four hours of paid leave if they have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine or if they will be doing so in the future).
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It’s hot out! Stay cool, hydrated, and informed

Idaho and the Pacific Northwest are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures this week, with high temperatures in the triple digits in many parts of the state, and several agencies, including the National Weather Service and some of Idaho’s local public health districts,  issuing excessive heat warnings and advisories. Heat-related illnesses are a very real possibility, but the good news is that they are preventable. You will need to stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed.

What are some signs of heat-related illnesses?

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, heavy sweating, a pale appearance to the skin, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, and headaches. If things get worse to the point where you have a very high body temperature, are not sweating, and are experiencing hallucinations or disorientation, or you pass out, you may have heat stroke. Call 9-1-1 right away and take immediate steps to cool down.

Who is most at risk for heat-related illness?

People at the highest risk are babies and children up to age 4, people 65 and older, as well as anyone who is overweight, sick, or on certain medications. People without air conditioning, athletes, and outdoor workers are also at high risk of heat-related illness. Children are particularly at risk in the heat – their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults. But everyone can get sick in the heat if they’re not careful, especially if they’re doing strenuous physical activities in high temperatures. When it’s hot out, you might consider checking on any high-risk family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool.

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DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward Goal 4 – Strengthening the public’s trust and confidence in the Department of Health and Welfare

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is in the final stages of developing our next five-year strategic plan. As we add the final touches on our vision for the future, we have also taken the opportunity to reflect on the journey behind us. As we review tasks in our final week of the current 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan, we are proud to share our accomplishments, and also some of the lessons we have learned from the challenges we have faced and how those have shaped our next strategic plan.

Today’s post is the final post in a four-part series highlighting the department’s progress toward our mission and the goals we have committed to. In this blog post, I am highlighting some of the key achievements over the past year as part of Strategic Goal 4: Strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the Department of Health and Welfare.

Objective 4.1: Create consistent, respectful experiences for customers throughout their journey by developing and implementing a customer experience strategy that improves the customer’s experiences in key moments. The strategy will be measured by the Customer Effort Score* and improved by 10 percent by July 1, 2024.

  • DHW staff from across divisions worked together to improve the customer experience of families applying for Katie Beckett Program. The purpose of this program is to help children with severe disabilities receive care in their home rather than in a nursing home or other institution. There is now an improved website experience to assist families in the application process, informational materials for providers to help families through the process, and improvements made to processes within DHW and the assessment processes administered by independent contractors.
  • The cross-divisional team working on the Katie Beckett Program customer experience project created and distributed a survey in June 2020 to DHW customers who participated in the level of care assessment to determine the Customer Effort Score (CES). With this survey, they established a baseline CES of 3.11. This baseline was used to show whether the changes made to the application process have been helpful for these Idaho families, with a target of improving the score by 10 percent. When the survey was conducted again in March 2021, the new CES was 3.54, a 13.8​ percent increase from 3.11. Although this increase is great news, we will continue to work to improve this experience for those we serve.
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COVID Q&A: Free, at-home COVID-19 tests are available in Idaho by dialing 2-1-1

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is offering free at-home COVID-19 tests to Idaho residents.

Why is DHW offering the free tests?

The department was able to purchase the tests last year and were using them in conjunction with local public health districts and community partners. As the demand for testing has decreased, DHW staff worked with the test manufacturer, VAULT Medical, to develop a more convenient process that would make it easier for people to be tested in their own homes., We want to remove as many barriers as possible to testing so we can identify cases and continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.

How do I get a test?

Call the Idaho CareLine by dialing either 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588 to get the free test. The only personal information required is a name and mailing address. It may take a couple of days to receive it, so if you are having severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Idaho’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Christine Hahn, recognized nationally for her work

Congratulations to Dr. Christine Hahn

I’d like to offer a heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Christine Hahn, Division of Public Health medical director and state epidemiologist. As you likely know, her leadership, expertise, and guidance during the pandemic has been critical to Idaho’s success in slowing the spread of COVID-19. In acknowledgement of her extraordinary contributions as Idaho’s epidemiologist for nearly 25 years, she was presented Thursday with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists Pumphandle Award, which is a coveted, annual award for outstanding achievement in the field of applied epidemiology.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter that describes some of Dr. Hahn’s career highlights:

“Although an infectious disease physician by training, Dr. Hahn has not limited her work to infectious and communicable disease epidemiology. She has provided expertise for an impressive wide variety of epidemiologic investigations in Idaho ranging from studying blood lead levels of children living in the Bunker Hill Superfund Site area of Idaho (to collaborating on the Idaho Cancer Cluster Analysis Work Group to study brain cancer clusters in Idaho. Dr. Hahn is responsible for implementing two public health programs in the last 5 years: Idaho’s Expanded Access Program created to make Epidiolex© available to children suffering from seizures as part of FDA clinical trials and Idaho’s Drug Overdose Prevention Program to address the opioid crisis.”

We are grateful for her dedication to public health, and we are lucky to be able to work so closely with her during this pandemic.

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Project Filter offers a year’s worth of diapers and wipes to moms (and others) who quit tobacco

What is the Diapers and Wipes Program?

The Diapers and Wipes Program is offered through the Department of Health and Welfare’s Tobacco Prevention and Control program – Project Filter – which helps people quit tobacco. Anyone who wants to quit smoking, vaping, and chewing for good, and who lives with a baby can apply. Those who are eligible will receive up to 12 months’ worth of free diapers and wipes at the same time they change their lives for the better by quitting tobacco.

Who is eligible?

Pregnant women, and moms and anyone who lives with a baby less than a year old who wants to quit. This includes dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings – as long as they all live in the same home as the baby.

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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working to reduce Idaho’s suicide rate

DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward Goal 3 – Help Idahoans become as healthy and self-sufficient as possible

As the department continues to develop our next five-year strategic plan, we have also been able to take a few moments to reflect on the journey behind us. We are proud to share the work we have accomplished, despite the challenges over the past year.

Today’s post is the third in a four-part series highlighting the department’s progress toward our mission and the goals we have committed to in our strategic plan. In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the key achievements over the past year as part of “Strategic Goal 3: Help Idahoans become as healthy and self-sufficient as possible.” This includes work on one of our most urgent priorities: reducing suicide in Idaho. We are also engaging in two areas of groundbreaking preventative work that will help Idahoans live their best lives decades down the road.

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Rabies in Idaho: Would you know what to do if you find a bat?

Idaho public health officials have gotten reports of two rabid bats in Bonneville and Payette counties, which are Idaho’s first for this summer. Would you know what to do if you found a bat that might be carrying rabies?

What should I do if I find a bat?

The most common ways people encounter bats are after a pet brings one into the home or a bat enters a home through a small opening or open windows or doors. If you can safely avoid the bat, open windows and close doors to the rest of the house, leave it alone and it will likely go away on its own. If you find a bat outside, avoid it and leave it alone and make sure pets, livestock and others also avoid it. If you are bitten or scratched, seek medical attention. Teach children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.

What if I wake up in there is a bat in the room I was sleeping in?

If you wake up to find a bat in the room and are not be sure whether you might have been bitten or scratched as you slept, a healthcare provider should be consulted immediately. Bats have very small teeth, and it’s difficult to tell outright if you have been bitten or scratched.

What is normal bat behavior?

Bats are generally most active at night. You might see a bat during the day, but that doesn’t mean they are sick. Bats migrate into Idaho every spring, and sometimes they just need to rest along their journey and hang out on the side of a building or a tree. Just leave them alone and they will go on their way when they are ready.

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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on protecting our children, youth, and vulnerable adults

DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward Goal 2 – Protecting children, youth, and vulnerable adults

As the department continues to develop our five-year Strategic Plan, which we will submit to the Division of Financial Management in July, we have also been able to take a few moments to reflect on the journey behind us. When we look over the completed tasks and challenges overcome over the past year, we feel we have cause to celebrate how far we have come in helping Idahoans to live their best lives.

Today’s post is the second in a four-part series highlighting the department’s progress toward our mission and the goals we have committed to in our Strategic Plan. In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the key achievements over the past year that have been accomplished as part of Strategic Goal 2: Protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults. In a difficult year, the importance of this goal has never been more apparent. Our staff have worked diligently to make sure that Idaho’s children, youth, and vulnerable adults are protected – especially during such a challenging time for all of us.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A year of progress toward affordable, available healthcare that works

DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward ensuring affordable, available healthcare that works

Each year, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), along with all other State of Idaho agencies, submits a five-year Strategic Plan to the Division of Financial Management. Our Strategic Plan is our roadmap. We use it as a tool to define and share who we are as an agency, what our goals are, and how we plan to get there. We are currently in the process of making our final reflections on our 2021 – 2025 plan, as we work toward the publication of our 2022 – 2026 Strategic Plan in July.

Over the past year, we have worked hard to take our roadmap one step further in our mission of strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. We have reimagined our Strategic Plan as a “living” document – imagine, rather than the old days of a printed MapQuest page, we are now in the age of a GPS Google Map that follows our progress in real time and allows us to problem-solve and find new opportunities as we move forward on our journey.

The department’s leadership team has led this effort towards a living Strategic Plan by never letting the dust settle; we take our plan off the shelf each week to review our progress as a department, and we work as a team to set and achieve ambitious accountability targets throughout the year.

In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight and celebrate some of the key achievements over the past year that have been accomplished as part of the first of our four strategic goals. Throughout June, I will continue this reflection with blog posts focusing on our second, third, and fourth strategic goals.

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