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Topic: public health

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April 4, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Ignore Jenny McCarthy. Local measles cases prove importance of getting vaccinated

Were you in King, Whatcom or Pierce counties this past weekend? Did you go to the Kings of Leon concert? Or downtown Seattle?

I hope you’ve got your measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot. Because this press release from King County is a powerful reminder that not getting vaccinated could really endanger public health:

A person who was confirmed with measles traveled to several Western Washington public locations while contagious. Most people in our state are immune to measles, so the public risk is low except for people who are unvaccinated. The woman traveled to Seattle for a Kings of Leon concert at Key Arena on March 28, when she also was at the Best Western Loyal Inn and the Wasabi Bistro. The next day, she was at Beth’s Café, Aurora Suzuki, Starbucks at First and Pike, and the Pike Place Market.

The Washington State Health Department has posted the full details of the unidentified woman’s time in each location. State officials also report one confirmed measles case in San Juan County. Between March 21 and 22, a traveler going through SeaTac was also diagnosed with the disease, which is highly contagious.

This undated photo shows a child with a classic day-4 rash with measles. (Photo courtesy of CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice)

This undated photo shows a child with a classic day-4 rash with measles. (Photo courtesy of CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice)

The lesson? Protect your kids. Protect yourself. Get immunized. Read an Aug. 31, 2013 Seattle Times editorial, too, about the state’s embarrassing seventh place ranking among states where parents demanded vaccine exemptions for their kindergarten-aged kids.

In 2000, CBS News reports measles was close to being eradicated. Today, there are two measles outbreaks in New York City and Orange County. No surprise: many of the victims are unvaccinated children. I can’t stop thinking about those parents who refuse to protect their kids from deadly illnesses because they’ve been led to believe vaccines cause side effects such as autism. This  misguided belief places the rest of the community at risk.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician and author of the Seattle Mama Doc blog, has some answers to explain the madness.


Comments | Topics: Autism, measles, public health

December 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM

A disturbing look at where, how people likely to die in King County

Data can track how people these days are likely to die in King County. We now also know some of the leading causes of death are more prevalent in some parts of the region than others.

King County public health officials should be commended for mounting an ambitious effort to leverage data, dollars and services to produce healthier communities.

Earlier this month, the county convened more than 100 advocates and experts from the health, human service and community development sectors at a hotel in SeaTac. Their goal? To raise awareness of the challenge before them and to discuss a common path forward.

Just glance at the county maps below (from the presentation slides shown at the forum), and the health disparities between north and south King County become startlingly clear. (Note: The red areas signify where death rates are highest; blue signifies where the rates are lowest. Darker shades represent the best and worst outcomes.)

Source: King County Public Health

Source: King County Public Health

Source: King County Public Health

Source: King County Public Health

Seattle-King County Public Health Director David Fleming and King County Department of Community and Health Services Director Adrienne Quinn are leading the county’s efforts to do something about addressing these (often preventable) health disparities. Their message is common sense. Now is the time for advocates to break down silos and start forming new partnerships. Government can’t solve every problem or fund every solution, but it can collaborate with the private sector more effectively and direct investments into local communities that “have the most to gain.”

Closing the gaps means connecting public health with community development. It means taking steps to change environment and human behavior (see the chart below). It also underscores the need for affordable housing to be strategically located near jobs, health service providers, fresh food, transit, parks, libraries, schools and other amenities that are common characteristics of healthier, more affluent communities.


Comments | Topics: disparities, king county, public health