The ASTHO Take: A Week in Public Health News (November 20)

November 20, 2015|3:04 p.m.| Virgie Townsend

Must-read news for leaders in public health.

  • Three More State Health Agencies Achieve Accreditation

On Monday, the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) announced that three more states have become accredited: the New Mexico Department of Health, Ohio Department of Health, and Rhode Island Department of Health. They join the previously accredited ASTHO member agencies in California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

“The Ohio Department of Health is honored to be recognized for achieving national standards that reflect our commitment to operate at the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness in our work to protect and improve the health of all Ohioans,” Ohio Department of Health Director Rick Hodges said in a statement. “With accreditation, we are demonstrating the agency’s accountability and credibility to the public, funders, elected officials and partner organizations.” 

According to PHAB, 45 percent of the U.S. population is now served by health departments that meet PHAB's national standards for delivering quality programs and services.

To support member health agencies as they pursue accreditation, ASTHO provides technical assistance and resources on accreditation preparation, national performance standards assessment, and quality improvement.

  • WHO Finds Global Misunderstanding of Antibiotics as Resistance Grows

New results from a 12-country WHO survey reveal a high prevalence of misconceptions about antibiotics that help fuel resistance, with large majorities confused about the basic definition of antibiotic resistance and the seriousness of the issue.

The survey queried 10,000 people in 12 countries. Sixty-four percent of respondents say they believe that medical experts will fix the antibiotic resistance issue “before it becomes too serious,” and 57 percent report that there’s nothing they can do to help prevent resistance. Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents believe that antibiotic resistance refers to an individual patient’s body becoming resistant to antibiotics, not infections becoming resistant to antibiotics. Sixty-four percent erroneously believe antibiotics can treat colds and flus.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognize it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today. It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world,” says Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. “Antibiotic resistance is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in medicine.”

The results coincide with Get Smart Week, which runs from Nov. 16-22 this year. The annual Get Smart Week campaign raises awareness of antibiotic resistance and promotes the judicious use of antibiotics, such as through stewardship programs. In honor of Get Smart Week, CDC hosted a Twitter chat on the issue, sharing tips on how to improve antibiotic prescribing and insights into why antibiotic guidelines are often ignored.

WHO also recently released “How to stop antibiotic resistance? Here's a WHO prescription,” with advice for healthcare providers, patients, farmers, governments, and other stakeholders on how they can play unique roles in addressing antibiotic resistance.

  • For First Time, FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Animal for Human Consumption

FDA announced on Thursday that it has determined that a genetically engineered (GE) salmon is safe for the environment and human consumption. The AquAdvantage Salmon has been genetically altered so it grows to market size more quickly than non-GE farmed Atlantic salmon.

“The FDA has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty regarding the AquAdvantage salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” said Bernadette Dunham, director of the agency’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, in a statement.

Some environmentalists and food safety advocates have objected to the decision, raising concerns about the impact of GE salmon on natural habitats. The Center for Food Safety stated in a press release that it plans to bring a lawsuit against FDA to challenge the approval.