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National Public Health Week

Health Briefs for the area

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is recognizing April 4-11 as National Public Health Week by reaching out to communities and encouraging Virginians to "Live Stronger, Longer," through healthy living.

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Factors that contribute to chronic disease include the use of tobacco products, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, failure to utilize screening and early detection services, improper care of an existing health condition, as well as age, gender and race.

Adopting healthy behaviors such as eating nutritious foods, being physically active and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or help control many of the devastating effects of chronic diseases. These conditions can also be managed more effectively and with less serious consequences if they are detected early. The department of health strongly recommends Virginians to visit their health care provider regularly for physical examinations that include screening tests.

Chronic disease also negatively impacts the economy.

Individuals with chronic illnesses now comprise the national health care system's largest, most expensive and fastest growing service group. The medical care expenses of people with chronic diseases account for more than 75 percent of the nation's $1.4 trillion medical care costs.

The State Board of Health recently announced its plan make the prevention and control of chronic disease its top priority.

Chronic Disease Prevention Top Priority

The Virginia Board of Health has announced that the prevention and control of chronic disease, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, will be its top priority. The board has formally issued a set of public policy goals and objectives to help combat chronic disease in Virginia.

The State Board of Health, which provides leadership in public health planning and policy development, consists of 13 members appointed by the governor. Individual board members represent professions including medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine and also represent constituencies such as local government, hospitals, nursing homes, managed care health insurance plans, consumers and corporate purchasers of health care.

The board notes that people with chronic illness comprise health care's largest, most expensive and fastest growing group. For example, data from the Virginia Medicaid Program shows that annual per recipient expenses for adults diagnosed with various chronic diseases are, on average depending upon the specific condition, $2,300 to $23,000 higher than for Medicaid recipients as a whole. The direct medical expenses posed by chronic disease are immense, but the economic costs attributable to lost productivity are much higher.

Two types of chronic disease, heart disease and cancer, are the nation's leading official causes of death. The board identifies preventable risk factors such as tobacco use, poor diet and physical inactivity, as the nation's leading actual causes of death.

A number of specific public health policy objectives that the board plans to actively pursue are:

* Serve as the unifying voice for the prevention and control of chronic diseases in Virginia.

* Establish the burden associated with chronic diseases and frame the problem to be addressed.

* Develop strong working relationships with other governmental agencies and governing boards and with non-governmental lay and professional groups.

* Foster the development of public/private partnerships that will facilitate improved prevention and control of chronic disease.

* Encourage the creation of financial and non-financial incentives and disincentives that will spur progress in chronic disease prevention and control efforts.

* Work with partners to develop comprehensive state plans to guide program efforts that emphasize quality of care, prevention measures and improved outcomes.

* Focus on specific targets for change (e.g., population segments, organizations or environments), choose the best channels to effect such changes and select appropriate strategies for doing so.

* Establish systematic approaches for determining whether Virginia's comprehensive chronic disease program's objectives are being achieved.

* Support the National Chronic Disease Prevention Agenda established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information about the Board's chronic disease prevention and control initiative, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/commish/BOH.asp

Butterfly Days Promotes Foster Care Awareness

Butterfly Days is a community awareness project intended to educate Fairfax County residents about the more than 450 children in the foster care program.

The Fairfax County Department of Family Services Foster Care and Adoption Program invites school-aged children to participate in Butterfly Days by hand-decorating butterflies at the Springfield Mall on April 16 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The decorated butterflies will be hung on special butterfly trees to symbolize a new beginning for the children in foster care.

The goal is to raise awareness about the children and to encourage more people to consider joining those citizens who already serve as foster parents in our community.

It is free to participate and art supplies will be provided.

Representatives of the county’s Foster Care and Adoption Program will be available to answer questions and provide information on how to become a foster parent.

More information on Springfield Mall can be found at www.springfieldmall.com.

For more information about the Fairfax County Foster Care and Adoption Program, and to learn how you can help, call 703-324-7639, TTY 703-222-9452. Information is also available on the county Web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/service/dfs.