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Updated: 3 days 13 hours ago

Step it up outdoors

July 17, 2017 - 11:11am

Physical activity can improve your health. People who are physically active tend to live longer and have lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Physical activity can also help with weight control, and may improve academic achievement in students. Walking is an easy way to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle, and parks are a great place to start.

Physical activity made easy

People of all abilities can benefit from safe and convenient places to walk, run, bike, skate, or use wheelchairs. The decision to walk is personal, but that decision is easier if community walkability is improved. It is important to connect places that people regularly use with sidewalks or paths that are safe and attractive, especially between schools, worksites, parks, recreational facilities that are within walkable distance of each other.

A walk in the park

Less than 40% of people in the United States live within one-half mile of a park boundary, and only 55% of youth have access to parks or playgrounds, recreation centers, and sidewalks in their neighborhoods. However, there is evidence that people with more access to green environments, like parks and recreation areas, tend to walk more than those with limited access. Well-designed parks and trails can promote physical activity and community interaction and provide mental health benefits, such as reduced stress.

Design matters

To help people be active, parks and recreation spaces can offer opportunities for various types of activity, such as walking, hiking and team sports. Programs can be designed to attract a wide range of visitors—age groups, cultures, and ability levels—throughout the year. Park programs can also help participants address barriers to physical activity, including physical limitations and safety concerns. Walking groups or buddy systems can help provide people with multiple opportunities to walk each week. Park entrances with universal access for multiple types of active transportation can promote biking and walking to and from the park.

In September 2015, the Office of the Surgeon General in the US Department of Health and Human Services released Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities (the Call to Action) to recognize walking as an important way to promote physical activity among most people. The Call to Action is intended to increase walking across the United States by calling for improved access to safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll, as well as a culture that supports these activities for all ages and abilities.

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Avoid Food Poisoning During Summer Picnics

July 10, 2017 - 9:37am

Brittany Behm, Public Affairs Specialist, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases

When I think about summer picnics, I think about family. I think about my cousins, aunts, uncles, kids running around, a pavilion, and an enormous buffet table loaded with delicious food. The quantity of side dishes and desserts is exceeded only by the number of dad jokes we’re forced to endure. Since I’ve been working with foodborne disease, I’ve made a point to share tips with family members who are preparing food so we can avoid getting sick from food poisoning.
Let’s enjoy National Picnic Month by taking a few simple steps:

Keep foods cool

Rates of food poisoning increase in summer months because bacteria grow faster in warmer weather. Eating food left in the Danger Zone (40°F to 140°F) for too long can make people sick.

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood chilled until ready to grill, in the fridge or in an insulated cooler, below 40°F.
  • Put leftovers in the freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking –or ONE hour if above 90°F outside.
  • Throw away any remaining perishable food that isn’t refrigerated.
Cook meat thoroughly

It’s important to cook food to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Never partially grill meat and finish cooking it later.

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked hot enough to kill germs. You can’t tell just by looking at it! (145°F for beef, pork, fish; 160°F for hamburgers and ground meat; 165°F for chicken or turkey).
  • If you’re smoking meat, keep the temperature inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F.
  • Keep cooked meats hot and out of the Danger Zone before serving.
Clean hands and produce
  • Wash fresh vegetables and lettuce. If you’re not sure whether water will be available to wash on site, rinse produce before packing for the picnic.
  • Wash your hands before handling any food AND after touching raw meat, poultry, or seafood. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.
  • Examine the grill surface carefully for bristles that might have dropped off the grill brush. They could get into your cooked food and hurt you if swallowed.
Separate raw from cooked

You never want bacteria from raw meat or seafood to contaminate other foods, surfaces, or utensils.

  • Throw away or thoroughly cook marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat or seafood.
  • Put cooked meat on a clean plate.
  • Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood away from cooked and ready-to-eat food and drinks.
  • Don’t use the same utensils on raw foods and cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

This summer, I’m going to work hard to try to avoid being one of the 48 million Americans who get food poisoning every year. Let’s raise a glass of iced tea to well-cooked burgers, rinsed veggies, and chilled fruit salad!

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Prepare to be patriotic!

June 30, 2017 - 10:02am

The 4th of July is a day to celebrate Uncle Sam, enjoy the summer weather, and spend time with family and friends. Keep these five things in mind as you plan your 4th of July celebration.

Prevent fireworks injuries

Fireworks can cause death and injury, including burns, cuts, bruises, and foreign objects in your eyes.

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper, which often means they were made for professional displays and could be dangerous for consumers.
  • Make sure you and your family watch fireworks displays from a safe distance.
  • Call 911 immediately if someone is injured from fireworks.
Beat the heat

In hot temperatures your body may be unable to properly cool itself. This could lead to serious health problems.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher – the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels.
  • Stay in the shade!
Don’t let a stomach bug slow you down

The summer months typically see a spike in reports of foodborne illness. Keep the food safe at your 4th of July picnic or BBQ.

  • Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry and ready to eat foods, like raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs.
  • Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours – one hour if the outside temperature is over 90 degrees. Keep perishable food in an insulated cooler packed with ice or ice packs.
Prepare to take the plunge

Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1 to 4 years old than any other cause except birth defects.

  • Designate a responsible adult to watch all children swimming or playing in or around water. Drowning occurs quickly and quietly, so adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity while supervising children.
  • Teach kids to swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning.
  • Always swim with a buddy. Whenever possible choose swimming sites that have lifeguards.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.
Fight the bite

Bugs, including mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies can spread diseases like Zika, dengue, and Lyme disease.

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents that contain at least 20% DEET for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection.
  • Check yourself and your children for ticks. Ticks are easy to remove.
You can find more tips for a safe and healthy summer on the CDC website. Happy 4th of July!

Teaching skills that save lives

June 26, 2017 - 2:08pm

We observed CPR and AED Awareness Week at the beginning of June. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Stacy Thorne, a health scientist in the Office of Smoking and Health, who is also a certified first aid, CPR and AED instructor.

Stacy Thorne, PhD, MPH, MCHES

Stacy has a history of involvement in emergency response and preparedness activities at CDC. She is part of the building evacuation team; a group of employees who make sure that staff gets out of the building in case of a fire; or shelters in place during a tornado. When she learned CDC offered CPR and AED training classes to employees, she couldn’t think of a better way to continue volunteering, while helping people prepare for emergencies.

Stacy became a CPR/AED instructor in 2012. She felt these were important skills to have and wanted to stay up-to-date with the latest guidelines. She said, “You have to get recertified every two years, so if I was going to have to take the class anyway why not teach and make sure other people have the skills to save a life.”

Practice makes perfect

Stacy teaches participants first aid, CPR, and AED skills and gives them an opportunity to practice their skills and make sure they are doing them correctly. The class covers first aid for a wide-variety of emergency situations, including stroke, heart attack, diabetes and heat exhaustion. Participants learn how to:

  • Administer CPR, including the number of chest compressions and the number and timing of rescue breaths
  • Use an Automated External Defibrillator, more commonly referred to as an AED, which can restore a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Splint a broken bone, administer an epinephrine pen for allergic reactions, and bandage cuts and wounds

In order to receive their certification, all participants must complete a skills test where they demonstrate that they can complete these life-saving skills in a series of scenarios.

Lifesaving skills in action

Stacy shared, “The most rewarding part of teaching is meeting the different people who come to take these classes and hearing the stories of how they have used their skills.” One of her students recalled how she used her CPR skills to save someone while she was out shopping. Her instincts kicked in and when she was able to get the person breathing again the people watching applauded.

Another student reflected, “While I hope I never am in a situation where I need to perform CPR, the notion that I am now equipped with these life-saving skills is reassuring and helps me feel prepared if I should find myself in that scenario.” Stories like these show how important it is for everyone to be trained in first aid, CPR, and how to use an AED. You can spend six hours in training, and walk out with a certification that can save someone’s life.

Always on alert

As the mother of a 6-year old daughter, Stacy is constantly on alert for situations where she might need to use her skills. The closest she has come to using her skills was when her daughter was eating goldfish crackers while laying down and started gagging; she was at the ready to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Her role as an instructor made Stacy feel confident that she could use her first aid, CPR, and AED skills in an emergency.

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