Good afternoon, Doneen. Are you here?
Good. We'll start in a few minutes.
Dr. Lon Kightlinger our state epidemiologist is also here with me.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our Live Chat with Secretary of Health Doneen Hollingsworth, who will be joined by Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist.
To start with, South Dakota had no influenza cases reported last week and only six flu cases so far this season. Do you anticipate that this year’s flu season will be milder than normal?
WE expect influenza to hit this year as it does every year and we don't yet know how bad it will be. But everyone still has time for aflu shot.
Does the state have an ample supply of flu vaccine in case it gets worse?
Yes ample supplies in SD and nationally. No shortage this year.
Are there any indications that the flu strain that is most likely to hit this year is more or less virulent than in the past?
We are anticipating the same viral strains as last year. And the vaccine is a good match for those strains.
On another subject, after gonorrhea cases fell to a low of 226 cases in 2003, they have climbed to more than 500 cases this year. What are the reasons for the recent increase in sexually transmitted diseases?
Well, some STD's are up and some are down. For instance, HIV cases are significantly lower in 2011 than in recent years. However, in general, STD's are increasing because people are not monogam
ous or they are not practicing safe sex.
It's not something we are proud of, but the rate of STD infections in West River counties is more than five times the rate in eastern counties. Is there a cause for higher disease rates in western South Dakota?
There appears to be more rsiky behaviors West River.
What can the state do to reverse the trend of higher incidences of STDs?
The state has a role in helping control disease and in identifiying and treating cases., Aslo in making the information available. There is also a need for personal responsiblity.
It would seem that a trend toward more sexually transmitted diseases would be something that the Health Department's Health 2020 Initiative was designed to counter. Could you explain purpose of the Health 2020 Initiative?
The Health 2020 initiative is our strategic plan -- our roadmap for the future of public health. IThere are at least places where we address the issue in general -- 1) reducing rates of teen pregnancy and STD's among adoloescents and 2) identifiying and addressing current and emerging public health threats.
Thanks, Doneen. We have a question about the smoking ban.
As the public health agency, we certainly support measures to limit exposure to second hand smoke. The people of SD have made their wishes known very clearly in the 2010 election.
On the subject of the state's smoking ban, has there been any measurable improvement in overall health or utilization of health care resources since the smoking ban was enacted?
The ban has only been in place for one year. Tobacco has lasting impacts for years to come. Other states like Montana and Colorado have been able to show results in
studies. The bans in those states have been in place for several years.
Here's another question from a viewer.
That issue is also addressed in our strategic plan and it is a very important public health issue. We are working with schools, communities, and other partners to increase awareness of the importance of better nutrition and physical activity and less screen time. We are also working closely wioth child care facilities to provide support to them. Also the Game Fsih and Parks department is a great partner as we promote using the state parks.
Is that why the Health Department has schools report students' height and weight?
Tracking height and weight data of students helps us to track and measure the extent of the problem. The schools and the parents also receive this information so the data so they can address the issue locally and within the family.
The governor has a task force on infant mortality. Is there any progress to report about infant mortality in South Dakota?
Yes. The report and recommendations were presented to the Governor on Dec 15 and are availiable on our website. They highlight the need for early and regular prenatal care, less tobacco use, and safe sleep environments for infants.
You will be hearing much more about the infonat mortality recommendations and strategies in coming months as several
programs will be rolled out.
Will the report and recommendations on infant mortality be utilized in some way so that the parents are made aware of best practices?
You anticipated my question.
Absolutely. For instance, we learned that too many parents and caregivers are not aware of how important safe sleep environments are to their infant. We will be developing several means to help get this message out.
On yet another subject, there has been a delay in posting restaurant health inspections online. Can you tell us when the inspection reports will be available?
Inspection scores for 2010 and 2011 will be available by March or April 2012. By January 2013, we expect to have inspection reports and scores available online.
Additionally, a consumer can call or email the deaprtment for any restaurant score.
Does your department set reimbursement fees for Medicare and Medicaid programs?
Thanks, Secretary Hollingsworth. Do you have anything to add before we conclude our chat?
Get your flu shot! And listen to Governor Daugaard's state of the state speech where he will talk about health workforce issues among other issues. thanks
Thank you, Secretary Hollingsworth, for joining us today.