40K-plus patients screened for hepatitis C

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/13/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a Cherokee Nation Communications release, the tribe’s Health Services has screened more than 40,000 tribal citizens for hepatitis C after becoming the first tribe in the country to launch an elimination project two years ago with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker declared Oct. 30 as Hepatitis C Awareness Day in the CN as tribal and Health Services officials gathered for a proclamation signing ceremony.

The release states the tribe’s goal is to screen 80,000 patients between age 20 and 65 for hepatitis C during a three-year period. In October 2016, the tribe had screened 23,000 patients.

“When this program started in 2015, we had high hopes for what it would mean for the long-term health of Cherokee Nation citizens,” Baker said. “The positive results have been beyond even our highest expectations. We have treated and cured more than 680 people with a 90 percent success rate. That success is allowing people once afflicted with the hepatitis C virus to live healthier and happier lives. The Cherokee Nation Health Services staff has collaborated with international infectious-disease experts to create and sustain this modern health care blueprint. It’s not often a disease can be completely eliminated from a citizenry, but it’s something we are achieving in the Cherokee Nation with our hepatitis C efforts.”

Of those screened, about 1,200 patients tested positive and more than 680 patients are either currently being treated for hepatitis C or have been cured.

“The Cherokee Nation is demonstrating to other communities across the United States how to effectively test and treat those living with hepatitis C and prevent new infections, so that someday the threat of hepatitis C will be eliminated,” Dr. John Ward, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, said.

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, usually through the transfer of blood. Most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles, through unlicensed tattooing or because they had a blood transfusion before 1992. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for about 70 percent of people who become infected, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection, according to the CDC.

Dr. Jorge Mera, Health Services’ Infectious Disease director, said the project continues to gain momentum with his office looking more at prevention of hepatitis C and the potential increase from the opioid crisis happening throughout the United States.

“Our efforts now need to be directed at preventing hepatitis C, which in the United States today is driven by injected drug use,” Mera said. “Prevention strategies include expanding our medication-assisted treatment program for opioid addiction. We are also beginning a serious discussion about needle- and syringe-exchange programs.”

Health Services has partnered with the CDC and the Oklahoma Department of Health to track and share knowledge. For more information about the elimination project or to get screened, visit http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Health/HealthCentersHospitals.aspx.

Health

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/15/2017 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will sponsor a Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair on Dec. 7 in the hospital’s Conference Room 1. Hospital officials said the fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to assist their Native American veteran patients in applying for eligibility for health care services through the VA. “We will have Claremore Indian Hospital benefit coordinators and representatives from the VA and Disabled American Veterans to assist with the application processes,” Sheila Dishno, Claremore Indian Hospital patient benefit coordinator, said. “Please make plans to attend and bring your financial information (income and resource information) and DD-214 (military discharge) papers.” If already enrolled, call 918-342-6240 or 918-342-6559 so a hospital official can update your file.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
10/25/2017 08:00 AM
OAKS, Okla. – On Oct. 5, with the help of the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses, 50 northeastern Oklahoma rural fire departments received new portable automated external defibrillators to aid in medical emergencies. The AEDs will increase life-saving capabilities for first responders to treat sudden cardiac arrest by sending electric shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm. The Oaks Fire Department was one of the recipients of an AED. OFD Chief and CN citizen Vince Osburn said his department is thankful for the donation and that it helps “tremendously” by replacing a 10-year-old AED the department was using. The AED is used on adults, infants and children who undergo sudden cardiac arrest. “If you can get the defibrillator there within five minutes, you can live a little longer. You’ll have a better chance of making it through that cardiac arrest,” Osburn said. “It’s (not) like it used to be when we was waiting 30, 35 minutes on a cardiac arrest or waiting on an ambulance to get here. We had to take care of it.” Osburn said to buy a piece of equipment such as the AED would “take a lot” out the OFD funding, which is also used for other equipment and upkeep of the station. The AED is not the only CN donation the OFD uses. It also uses a CN ambulance and receives yearly fire-operation funding from the tribe. Osburn said his department is thankful for what the CN has done for it. “All these guys, they’re very appreciative of the Cherokee Nation (of) anything they do (whether) it’s the operation money, equipment or just being here with the ambulance. People don’t realize how important this ambulance is here. If it (wasn’t) for the Cherokee Nation we’d be sitting here waiting 30 minutes doing CPR, no AED and no ambulance. We’d be waiting that long,” he said. The AEDs were purchased by the CNB employee-driven fundraising campaign called “Heart of a Nation.” “Heart of a Nation” officials partner with CNB and the tribe’s Health Services annually to raise funds to purchase necessary medical equipment. This year’s focus was AEDs. “Our rural firefighters, as it occurred to us, help so many people. Many of these rural firefighters are our people but more significantly they’re out in our communities and they’re saving lives and protecting,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. Hoskin said many rural fire departments in the jurisdiction run on “shoestring budgets.” “They’re doing good in these times, particularly with Oklahoma’s fiscal problems, just keeping their engines running, keeping the lights on, just very basic things. We thought if we could help them with some additional resources that would be good,” Hoskin said. CN and CNB officials plan to continue raising funds and donating AEDs to every jurisdictional fire department in the next three years. One AED costs nearly $900 and there are approximately 130 fire departments in the jurisdiction. “We looked at the cost of the AEDs and what we could do in terms of fundraising, and we said over a three-year period we could get all of the rural fire departments in all the 14 counties,” Hoskin said.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
10/24/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Community Health Promotion program is working to promote preventative health in communities in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. As part of the tribe’s Public Health and Health Services, the CHP program informs Cherokees about taking preventative health measures so that in the long run chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease will be at a minimum among them. “Our program strengthens community health efforts to help communities prevent disease and promote healthy living. We strive to make healthy living easier,” Julie Deerinwater, Public Health program coordinator, said. The program aims to accomplish this via sub-programs, partnerships and resources in the communities. Approximately 20 public health educators are trained and located throughout the CN to implement strategies to improve community health. “We focus more on large groups of people and programs. We focus on…things that impact environments,” Deerinwater said. “Those educators are kind of the boots on the ground and they establish the local partnerships. So they’ve worked with schools. They’ve worked with community coalitions a lot, and they’ve worked to establish partnerships with businesses.” The CHP program also works with schools on reviewing and revising tobacco-free campus policies and creating healthier food options. Woodall Public Schools is an example of a community-based preventative health partnership in which students have learned to plant a garden and learn about healthier food options. The school received a Healthy Leadership Award and classroom garden kits to further educate students on growing healthy food. Sonya Davidson, Public Health educator, works with WPS in implementing food nutrition at the school by collecting pre-and-post body mass index information on students. She said with the award, students must choose to focus on physical activity or nutrition. “We provide them with funds to either implement physical activity or the nutrition component, and we come back at the end and reevaluate everything to see how implementing those programs affected the children,” Davidson said. Monica Howe, WPS garden and food nutrition organizer, said she’s seeing students become more conscientious about their food choices. “I know that they’re more aware of good food choices when they say the word ‘junk food’ and they know it’s not exactly the best choice for them.” WPS has also implemented a tobacco-free campus policy. “Once those are implanted and in place, it really protects not only those students but the staff and a lot of our community members that utilize those school buildings for other community events because they serve as community hubs. So with tobacco-free environments, you’re really protecting people from second-hand smoke,” Deerinwater said. CHP programs offer other preventative health services such as the Comprehensive Cancer Coalition. The coalition is part of the Oklahoma Strategic Tribal Alliance for Health and it meets monthly to discuss goals for a five-year cancer control plan. Margie Burkhart, Public Health supervisor for primary prevention, said the coalition is divided into groups to cover different areas for cancer control such as prevention, screening and early detection, tobacco use and exposure, quality of life, data and evaluation and media. “The community coalitions have been the link to kind of align plans. So a lot of the health issues we see in the communities, they’re the same issues that coalitions are working on that affect us all,” Deerinwater said. Deerinwater said some people may not understand what community health or public health is. “While the health care services focus on getting the individual healthy and helping them, they may be sick and getting them better. We are out in the community and Cherokee Nation values preventative services,” she said. “We’re really trying to help shape our communities to where it makes healthy living easy so that our citizens can have a healthy quality of life.” For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeepublichealth.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeepublichealth.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/19/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Health Services is introducing a program to educate patients on alternative ways other than antibiotics to heal common illnesses. According to recent information released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotics are often misused for illnesses such as influenza and the common cold, and like other medications, they could have side effects. According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the United States and across the world. The CDC states the main driving factors behind antibiotic resistance are the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Using the CDC guidelines, the tribe will more closely monitor antibiotic prescriptions and the use of antibiotics by patients throughout all CN health facilities. Leadership at Health Services’ nine health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital is also working to further educate staff on the proper use of antibiotics. “We strive to educate our citizens and our doctors about the possible dangers of over prescribing medications and of building antibiotic resistance,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “Throughout Cherokee Nation Health Services, we treat more than a million patients per year, and it is so important that we stay vigilant and educated when prescribing.” In 2012, Hastings Hospital began the antibiotic stewardship program within its inpatient care, and this year the program will expand to the tribe’s nine health centers, positively impacting the health and treatment of even more CN citizens. “Antibiotics can be a life-saving or life-threatening intervention depending on how they are used,” Health Services nurse practitioner Whitney Essex said. “We are committed to improving patient outcomes by using antibiotics responsibly.” The CN operates the largest tribal health system in the country. In fiscal year 2016, the tribe had more than 1.1 million patient visits. For more information, visit <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/index.html" target="_blank">https://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/index.html</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/18/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Public Health officials are conducting a health survey among CN citizens in northeastern Oklahoma as part of a partnership between a team led by CN epidemiologist Dr. Ashley Comiford and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The survey aims to describe health behaviors of CN citizens living within the 14 counties of the tribe’s jurisdiction. The results will be used to address serious health problems among Cherokees related to chronic diseases and to help to improve public health services and programs within the CN. The survey is being conducted over the phone and approximately 3,400 CN citizens will be surveyed. CN citizens will be randomly selected from a list of adults and asked to take 20 to 30 minutes to complete the survey. Responses are confidential and survey participants will not be named or identified on any reports. Participants will be compensated for their time. Participation in this survey is voluntary and does not affect the benefits and services received at CN. The CN Institutional Review Board has approved the project, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, call Comiford at 918-453-5000, ext. 7076 or Dr. Sohail Khan at (918) 453-5602.