Health department gets swine flu help

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Most people in Colorado will be able to get vaccinations for the H1N1 swine flu later this year.

The federal government gave $5 million to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to strengthen its infrastructure ahead of the expected delivery of the vaccine. Part of the federal money will go directly to state hospitals so facilities can prepare for flu-related activities.

The first shipment of the vaccination is expected to arrive in Colorado by mid-October. Likely groups to be vaccinated include school-age children, children in preschool or daycares, adults younger than 65 with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and health care workers. The H1N1 flu vaccine will be given in addition to regular seasonal flu inoculations.

“It’s going to be important for residents to pay attention to public health messages this fall and winter, because there will be a lot of information about the two types of flu vaccines that are expected to be available,” said Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer at the state’s health department.

While seasonal flu vaccinations will be available at the usual sites, delivery and vaccination sites for the swine flu are still being determined.

Public health departments and schools are on the likely list of vaccination sites so far. In addition, public health officials expect the swine flu vaccination — unlike seasonal flu — will be given free of charge.

“Getting your normal seasonal flu vaccination is as important as ever,” Calonge said. “We don’t want members of the public to get distracted by discussion of the H1N1 virus and forget to make plans to receive their annual flu vaccination.”

This summer, there have been outbreaks of H1N1 flu at a Pueblo-area Boy Scout camp, the U.S. Air Force Academy and a summer youth camp at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has awarded $1.4 million to Colorado from a public health emergency response grant to strengthen the public health work force, increase lab capacity, strengthen disease surveillance activities, plan large-scale mass vaccination, develop public guidance, purchase antivirals and other pandemic-related purchases, and to address gaps in public health preparedness.

PPRM lobbies for reform

Health care reform must include access to comprehensive reproductive health care — and women’s access to essential community providers must be protected.

That was the message delivered last week in Washington, D.C., by members of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

“More than 127,000 patients throughout Colorado, New Mexico, southern Nevada and Wyoming count on us for basic, preventive health care every year,” said President and CEO Vicki Cowart. “We know firsthand the importance of health care reform, and that is why we are taking our case to lawmakers. More than 93 percent of what PPRM health centers do is preventive and primary care.”

The group, along with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, visited nearly 250 members of Congress to let them know that basic care — contraception, Pap tests and other cancer screenings — should be covered in any health care reform bill.

“Women must not be worse off after health care reform than they are now,” said PPFA President Cecil Richards. “That means we need common sense proposals that give women access to comprehensive reproductive health care and the opportunity to go to their provider of choice.”

More women are turning to Planned Parenthood as a source of affordable health care.

Six of 10 women use the health clinic as their sole health care provider, according to a Guttmacher Institute study.

Americans wary of reform

Americans are unsure whether the current proposals in Congress will provide solutions to problems with the U.S. health care system.

“By a 50-42 margin, Americans oppose the House of Representatives’ bill introduced July 14,” said Dr. Ward Casscells, vice president of external affairs and public policy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the group that conducted the poll. “This bill would call for most employers to sponsor health plans and would also create a Medicare-like plan for those under 65 who have no other health plan. The increased costs would be covered by increasing income taxes on people making more than $280,000 and families making more than $350,000.”

Most Americans are unwilling to pay higher taxes, and they favor more innovative approaches that would use the savings from improving care and curtailing waste and fraud to pay for health care for the uninsured.

The survey also revealed that 84 percent of those who are currently insured are satisfied with their health care. For those without insurance, only 46 percent had some level of satisfaction with their health care. Almost 80 percent agreed that rising costs are hurting American businesses.

And 48 percent oppose an expanded role for government in health care, while 44 percent support it. About 46 percent agreed that a public plan is needed “to keep insurance companies honest.”

“These survey results establish the clearest and most up-to-date understanding of how Americans as a whole feel about their health, health care and most importantly, the future of health care in America and the legislative options in front of them,” Casscells said.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.