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.

1101_eWICcard

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

Don’t wait: Now is the time to get your yearly flu shot!

101719FightFlu

The flu season in Idaho can last from October to May, and it typically peaks in January or February. Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can be a serious illness, even for otherwise healthy people.

Let’s start with the basics: Who should get the vaccine?  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine every year. But it’s especially important that people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and people older than 65 get vaccinated because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications. Anyone who lives with or cares for babies or other people who are at high risk for complications should also get vaccinated.

How long does protection from the flu vaccine last?

It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine to be fully protected, but it will last throughout the season if you get it now. It’s important to remember that the vaccine reduces your risk for influenza, but it doesn’t eliminate it. While your body is building immunity, you could still get sick if you are exposed to the virus. Continue reading

You might think you are safe from getting hepatitis A, but are you really?

Let’s take a moment to reflect on your day. How many times did you wash your hands today? Did you wash them before eating? How about after using the bathroom? What about the food you ate today? Did you prepare it yourself, or did someone else prepare it? Did that person wash their hands before preparing your food?

Depending on how you answered these questions you may have put your liver at risk for getting hepatitis A.

Idaho has seen a 950% increase of hepatitis A cases reported this year . . . 950%!  And Idaho is not alone in the increasing hepatitis A cases; 26 other states are also experiencing an outbreak with no signs of slowing down.

So, you might be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? Is this really something I need to be worried about?” The answer is yes. Continue reading

Vaping is unregulated and unsafe — get the facts

Featured

Description of what's in water vs. what's in a vape cloud.

We are in the midst of a national investigation of vape-associated lung disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments (including those in Idaho), and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette product use. We all have a lot of questions about vaping, and I hope we can answer some of those today, but the bottom line is that vaping is unregulated and it’s not safe.

I hear a lot of people being skeptical of the outbreak and the messaging around whether vaping is safe. Many say they have vaped for years and aren’t sick. Can you explain why that might be?

That is what this public health investigation is trying to learn. We do not yet know the specific cause of the lung disease. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product or substance that is linked to all the cases. This investigation is how public health officials are gathering as much information as possible about each of the cases so they can figure out what it is about these cases that is different and causing disease.

How does an investigation like this work?

Essentially, when a sick person visits a clinic with symptoms that align with the case definition for this outbreak, the medical professional will notify the state health department and will give officials data and information about the patient. That report triggers a response from an epidemiologist, who will contact the patient and interview them about the products they have used, how often they use them, their health status, and anything else that might be relevant to the investigation. As information is gathered, public health officials can see what is similar in all of these cases and eventually be able to determine a cause. Continue reading

Suicide prevention in Idaho: Everyone has a role to play

Even though completed suicides are statistically rare, Idaho continues to have some of the highest rates in the United States. Death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans ages 15-34 and for males up to age 54. That is very concerning, but it’s also important to know that most people who make an attempt don’t want to die, they want the pain to go away. Providing care and hope to someone having suicidal thoughts can help save a life. There are things you can do to help.

What are some of the warning signs that someone might be thinking about suicide?

Warning signs include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or completing suicide
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves by searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Having consistent nightmares
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Increased aggression, anger, or irritability
  • Change in sleep habits – either too much sleep or too little
  • Extreme mood swings

Continue reading

Idaho WIC begins transition this week to an electronic benefits system

The Idaho Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program is switching from paper checks to an electronic benefits system, called eWIC, which will distribute benefits onto a card that is used like a debit card.

eWIC will roll out in southern Idaho starting Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, and will expand to the rest of the state in October. eWIC will give families a more convenient and efficient way to shop for healthy, WIC-approved foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, juice, baby formula, and baby foods.

Current WIC participants will be transitioned from checks to an eWIC card during their regular monthly appointments using a phased approach. New participants will be issued an eWIC card at their first visit.

“We are excited to offer eWIC cards to Idaho families. Using the eWIC card in conjunction with the WIC shopper app will streamline the customer experience of purchasing healthy foods,” said Cristi Litzsinger, director of Idaho WIC.

Continue reading

If a disaster strikes, do you have a plan?

Living in Idaho, it’s easy to think that we don’t have to worry as much about big disasters as residents in other states do. But earthquakes, wildfires, and flooding are real possibilities here, and with September being National Preparedness Month, it’s a great time to think about putting together a go-kit, making a family emergency plan and making sure you’re informed when disaster strikes our state.

What might a disaster plan include?

Your family will probably not all be together when a disaster strikes, so you should create a plan for how you will contact each other and where you will meet if something happens. FEMA has a great template for a family emergency communication plan. And at ready.gov, you can find help with planning for emergency shelter, an agreed-upon evacuation route and understanding emergency alerts and warnings. Once you have your plan, practice it with your family to make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. Continue reading