Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Mobile County Health Department's Tony Bondora featured in CityLeaders publication

MOBILE, Ala. -- Tony Bondora, MPH, works for the Mobile County Health Department as the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Coordinator and as the Alabama Baby Coalition Coordinator. An editorial he wrote was recently featured in City Lights, a newsletter distributed by citymatch, a national organization  of city and county health departments' maternal and child health (MCH) programs and leaders. The mission of CityMatCH is to strengthen public health leaders and organizations to promote equity and improve the health of urban women, families, and communities.

 Here's the editorial:

A young mother, whose baby recently died, sat nervously in front of me—her eyes anxiously darting around the room—wondering what would happen next? She had responded to my invitation to participate in a maternal interview, and she arrived on time. Knowing of her loss, I gave her my assurance that my goal was to help future women and their families avoid similar tragedies, but it seemed to go unnoticed. Bursting into tears moments later and revealing that she suspected her husband of killing her only child by smothering the infant in their bed, I knew in that moment that there was much more that I needed to learn about MCH.

In 2009, I was asked to join the inaugural class of the CityMatCH’s CityLeaders program. Honored, I accepted the invitation because I knew I needed more leadership training if I was to make a greater impact on MCH issues in my county.

My CityLeaders experience was unforgettable, and it gave me the confidence I needed to grow as an MCH professional. This program gave me the leadership training that many county-level MCH and FIMR programs lack. It became apparent that simply identifying MCH issues in my county was insufficient and that I needed to be able to inspire and lead others to make positive change in a more active way. Working with the mentor was my favorite part of the program. Realizing that senior MCH personnel working across the country were facing similar challenges that I was facing, helped me to better understand my own local challenges. Networking with other CityLeaders was invaluable and provided a much needed dialog about MCH challenges that was missing in my single person program at home.

I try to stay in touch with the friends and colleagues from CityLeaders when possible although it is not always easy. I feel it was a valuable program that instills the confidence and connections needed to succeed in MCH. I would recommend the program to anyone who is fortunate enough to attend.

I would like to think that I am now better equipped to handle MCH issues and to provide help and direction to parents like the young mother mentioned above and to use this experience to better understand MCH issues in my county.

ABOUT citymatch: CityMatCH was initiated in 1988 as a special project of the Boston Department of Health and Hospitals with the goal of improving the organization and delivery of services to urban families and children. Initial project activities centered on developing an information base on what major health departments across the United States were doing to address shared urban MCH problems such as increasing racial disparities in infant mortality, inadequate access to prenatal care, substance abuse in pregnancy, and interpersonal violence. The CityMatCH project, under the leadership of urban MCH program directors in cities across the county, evolved into a national organization in 1991.

Mobile County Health Department nutrition staff weigh and measure more than 500 students

  Mobile County Health Department Senior
  Nutritionist Dana Herazo, a Registered Dietitian,
  measures a sixth grader at a local middle school
  on Aug. 19, 2014.
MOBILE, Ala. --  While anecdotal evidence may abound, there are few studies adequately documenting nutrition and obesity issues among Mobile County children in recent history.

With that in mind, Mobile County Health Department Social and Nutritional Programs staff members visited three area middle schools this week to weigh and measure hundreds of sixth-grade students as part of an initiative with other agencies to determine the extent of obesity challenges facing area youth.

MCHD has partnered with Junior League of Mobile, the University of South Alabama and the Mobile County Public School System to conduct an assessment study to determine the outcome of evidence-based nutritional and fitness program intervention in sixth-grade students in Mobile County.

"We are working together to combat unhealthy eating," said Tabitha Olzinski, the Nutrition and Assessment Chair for Junior League of Mobile. "Middle school is a time when students really start making their own choices about what they want to eat. We want to help them learn about healhtier options."

The assessment will be created by compiling data taken from sixth-grade students and implementing evidence-based programs at three local middle schools. Data collection methods include pre and post participant surveys to gauge nutrition knowledge, demographics, nutrition choices and weight measurement assessments.

Junior League of Mobile will implement the nutrition and fitness program at two area middle schools to students who have permission from their parents to take part. JLM also will implement an evidence-based program called Planet Health through the JLM Kids in the Kitchen program at a third middle school.

Throwback Thursday: Mobile County Health Department offices originally U.S. Marine Hospital

If you aren't checking up on MCHD via Facebook, here's what you missed today, in what many describe as Throwback Thursday. #OlderthantheStatueofLiberty #mchdtbt #watchoutforghosts
Originally opened as the U.S. Marine Hospital, construction on the Greek Revival building began in 1838 in downtown Mobile, Ala., and was completed in 1842. Confederate and Union soldiers both were treated at the health center during the Civil War.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The Board of Health moved in a year later. It has served as the main offices for the Mobile County Health Department since that time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mobile and Alabama infant death rates improve in 2013, public health officials report

MOBILE, Ala. -- Alabama’s infant mortality rate of 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013 is lower than the 8.9 rate recorded in 2012, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. In 2013, there were 58,182 live births in Alabama and the infant mortality rate represents the deaths of 500 of these infants who did not reach their first birthday.

"Alabama's infant mortality rate has trended downward since 2007," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a news release. "Lowering the rate is a critical part of our efforts to improve public health in Alabama. We are encouraged by today's news, and we will work to continue efforts to reduce infant mortality in Alabama."

In Mobile County, 54 infants died before their first birthday, at a rate of 9.7, in 2013. That figure represents an improvement from 2012 when 60 Mobile County infants died before their first birthday, at a rate of 10.9, health data shows.

Tony Bondora, who studies infant deaths in Mobile County, noted several factors associated with the issue here. “Obesity is over represented in all of our infant fetal deaths. The average age of the mother who lost an infant also is increasing,” he said. “The average age is now 28, as compared to an average age of 24 just three years ago.”

About 60 percent of infant deaths in Mobile County are to African American mothers, Bondora said. “Receiving quality prenatal care is still a problem with about 20 percent of the mothers in this population. And low birth weights and preterm births continue to be the number one risk factor for an infant death in Mobile County.”

While disparities in pregnancy outcomes by race persist statewide, the 2013 infant mortality rate for black infants statewide was at its lowest level ever, 12.6. In contrast, the infant mortality rate for white infants increased from 6.6 in 2012 to 6.9 in 2013.

The percent of births to teenagers in 2013 in Alabama was the lowest ever recorded, 9.3 percent, (5,420 births) and the percent of births to teens less than 18 years of age was also a record low, 2.6 percent (1,524 births). Infant mortality among babies of teen mothers was higher (12.5 per thousand live births) than among adult mothers (8.2). The infant mortality rates among teens and adults by race are as follows: white teens, 8.8; black teens, 18.6; white adults, 6.7, black adults, 11.8.
Research indicates that babies born before 37 weeks of gestation face a higher risk of health problems. The percent of births at less than 37 weeks in Alabama has been trending down steadily to 11.8 percent of all live births in 2013. This compares to 13.4 percent in 2005.

“Alabama hospitals and the medical community have worked diligently to decrease elective early term deliveries at 37 and 38 weeks gestation which helps produce better birth outcomes,” said Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer. “Other factors that improve our infant mortality rate include increased levels of prenatal care and better family planning with the advent of long-acting reversible contraceptives.”

Low birth weight infants, defined as those weighing less than 2,500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces) were almost 20 times more likely to die than infants of normal weight. Ten percent of births in 2013 were of low weight.

The lifestyle of the mother, such as smoking, has an impact on the unborn child. The percent of women smoking during pregnancy increased slightly from 10.7 percent in 2012 to 10.8 percent in 2013. The infant mortality rate of mothers who did not smoke was 7.9; for smokers the rate was 13.2.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Malaria victim from Mobile, Ala., hospitalized, recovering, health officials said

MOBILE, Ala. – The Mobile County Health Department has confirmed that a teenage girl who traveled this summer to the Republic of Uganda in East Africa contracted malaria. She has been hospitalized since Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, and is recovering.

This is the first reported case of the disease in Mobile County in at least two years, health officials said.

Dr. Bernard Eichold, Health Officer for Mobile County, advises those who plan to travel outside the United States to take all necessary steps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness prevalent in more than 100 countries worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are grateful the young woman is responding to treatment,” said Dr. Eichold. “It’s important, when traveling internationally, to take the proper precautions by getting all required and recommended vaccines and other treatments beforehand.”

About Malaria

Malaria is not a contagious disease spread from person to person like a cold or the flu, and it cannot be sexually transmitted, according to the CDC. It can’t be spread from casual contact with the infected, such as sitting next to someone who has the illness.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain mosquito which feeds on humans. Those who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death can usually be prevented.

About 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. The vast majority of cases in America are in travelers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria transmission occurs, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Like MCHD on Facebook and never miss another Throwback Thursday #tbt

MOBILE, Ala. -- We selected Mobile County's Health Officer, Dr. Bernard Eichold, to feature in our very first Throwback Thursday post on Facebook, Aug. 14, 2014.

If you haven't already, head over to Facebook and like the Mobile County Health Department's page. Family Health also has a page on Facebook, as well as the Aura Wellness Center. You never know who's going to be featured next. #MCHDTBT

Get to know Dr. Linda Davenport: Family Health provider at the DIP Health Center in Mobile

Dr. Linda Davenport joined the Family Health staff this spring. She is accepting
new patients at the Dauphin Island Parkway Health Center in Mobile.

MOBILE, Ala. -- Dr. Linda Davenport is one of Family Health's newest providers, joining the Mobile County Health Department staff earlier this spring at the Dauphin Island Parkway Health Center. She worked as a nurse for 15 years before entering medical school at the University of Michigan. At the time, her children were 4 and 8.

"Some people didn't remember me from medical school classes, but they always remembered my son because he stayed so quiet," she said. "They couldn't believe he was so well-behaved."

Now, her son is preparing to enter medical school, following in his mother's footsteps.

In 2007, after spending decades weathering winters in Michigan, where some say it's only cold 11 months of the year, Dr. Davenport decided she'd had enough of the snow. She looked for a job in the Southeastern U.S., finally settling in Thomasville, Ala. When the hospital there where she worked unexpectedly closed, she and her husband eventually looked for a new home on the Gulf Coast.

What has impressed her about MCHD, she said, is the variety of services offered to the public, from adult care to dental, optometry and even laser hair reduction. "I've never worked for a Health Department that offered so many choices to the public," she said.

Empowering patients to improve their quality of life is something she loves to do. "When I meet someone who has a poor health status, it's nice to be able to help them get to where they need to be. I love it when they come back and tell me their blood pressure is under control for the first time in years. It's a good feeling."