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Latest News for the Arkansas Prevention Research Center


New Public-Private Partnership Aims to Improve Health of Arkansans

More than one-third of Arkansans are obese, according to the 2017 report from Trust for America’s Health, “State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America.” Reducing the state’s obesity rate has been a major focus for public health organizations and policy makers over the last decade, with numerous strategies and initiatives in place to increase physical activity and the consumption of fruits and vegetables. While some of these efforts have increased healthy behaviors, nearly all have failed to curb weight gain among the population. From 2004 to 2016, the state’s obesity rate increased from 25 to 35.7 percent. Recognizing the urgency of obesity and its effect on the health of Arkansans, in 2015 the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute convened representatives from more than 20 organizations to develop a new plan to encourage and enable healthier lifestyles in Arkansas. From these discussions, Healthy Active Arkansas (HAA) was born.

HAA, a public-private partnership endorsed by Governor Asa Hutchinson, features nine priority areas, modeled after the Institute on Medicine’s 2012 report “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.” Each area is designed to support the single, overarching goal to increase the number of children, adolescents and adults who are at a healthy weight. These priorities include:

  • the physical and built environment
  • nutritional standards in government, institutions and the private sector
  • nutritional standards in schools—early child care through college
  • physical education and activity in schools—early child care through collegeHealthy Active Arkansas
  • healthy worksites; access to healthy foods
  • sugar-sweetened beverage reduction
  • breastfeeding
  • and marketing.

Since its launch in 2015, HAA has established a Board of Directors, an Executive Committee and priority leads for each of the nine focus areas. The initiative recently received 501 c-3 non-profit status. Major partners of HAA include the: Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Minority Health Commission; Baptist Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

Major first-year accomplishments for the priority areas include establishing 2-year goals, determining key stakeholders and establishing partnerships, and identifying and filling gaps in data and community resources.

“What makes Healthy Active Arkansas a promising and unique initiative is the blending of the public and private partners,” Marisha DiCarlo, PhD., Director of Health Communications at the Arkansas Department of Health and Interim Executive Manager of Healthy Active Arkansas, said.

“Just like obesity has no single cause or single solution, we recognize there is no single organization that can tackle all the factors that contribute to obesity. We hope that by bringing together the knowledge and resources of our public and private partners, and leveraging the work already being done in the nine priority areas, we’ll make greater strides in reducing obesity,” DiCarlo added.

For more information about Healthy Active Arkansas, or to learn about partnership or research opportunities, please contact DiCarlo at Marisha.DiCarlo@arkansas.gov.

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Suicide Prevention is a Priority in Arkansas

In 2015, 571 Arkansans died by suicide—more than double the rate of homicides that occurred that year. Suicide is preventable. By working together to ensure people recognize the signs, to raise awareness on suicide, and to promote support services, we can prevent suicides and save lives.

Suicide Prevention LifelineThe Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) goes through a strategic planning process every 4 years, and during this process physicians, scientists, and healthcare professionals from across the agency come together to review health statistics and trends, in order to develop impactful strategies based on recent evidence. The current ADH strategic plan has a section dedicated to addressing components of depression, substance use and suicide. There was no way to ignore the significance of the mind-body connection and the effect of mental, emotional, social, occupational, spiritual, and environmental factors on physical health. Because of this, AHD identified mental health and community wellness as a priority focus area.

Agencies like ADH, as well as partner organizations across the state, are dedicated to reducing the frequency of suicide attempts. As the agency designated by the Arkansas General Assembly to combat this issue, ADH has a Suicide Prevention Program that works to raise awareness and deliver education focused on intervention and prevention of suicide in our state.

This program promotes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), that provides free and confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The ADH Suicide Prevention Call Center, expected to be operational in October of 2017, will allow ADH staff to answer these Lifeline calls in Arkansas and provide additional information on local resources. Anyone can be struggling with suicide, and every struggle experienced is different. Tailored resources for youth, disaster survivors, Native Americans, veterans, loss survivors, LGBTQ+, attempt survivors, the deaf/hard of hearing and Spanish speakers can be found at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

ADH has been fortunate to receive the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Suicide Prevention Grant. This funding allowed for the implementation of educational programing for community gatekeepers, such as teachers, school counselors, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Departments, and Clergy. It also helped provide school counselors and administrations with resources like model school policies for prevention and assistance to youth who return to school following an attempt. ADH is also developing Arkansas specific programs, like collaborating with the Community Mental Health Center in Saline County and Saline Memorial Hospital to implement a school-focused suicide attempt follow-up program that they plan to pilot in the Benton School District. ADH offers a variety of trainings, like SafeTALK and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), that offer basic knowledge of suicide prevention and intervention skills. These trainings help create suicide prevention networks within Arkansas communities. For more information on any educational programs or resources offered, please call 501-683-0707 or visit the ADH Suicide Prevention Program. 

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What is the Arkansas Department of Health doing to prepare for Emergencies and Disasters?

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is the state agency with regulatory authority over health and medical services that fall under local and state government organizations. The ADH Preparedness & Emergency Response Branch trains to prepare for and respond to all kinds of emergencies.

Under the Emergency Support Function #8, ADH personnel and Emergency Operations Center liaisons lead a state-level coordinated response to provide guidance and coordinate public health and medical disaster situation response functions needed at the local level.

ADH Preparedness & Emergency Response Branch personnel consistently maintain a heightened readiness level, deploy personnel and sustain the ability to provide a coordinated public health response to natural and man-made hazards within the state. The expertise of practitioners within the Branch ranges from planners, trainers, exercise coordinators, technical hazard specialists, health physicists, communications specialists, finance and administration experts, operations specialists and professional leaders.

The Nuclear Planning and Response Program Section leads the preparedness efforts in the five-county Emergency Planning Zone to manage, coordinate and evaluate off site response to any potential radiological emergency at Arkansas Nuclear One.Be ready Make a Plan

The Public Health Preparedness Planning Section coordinates an all-hazards response to include mass fatality incidents, biological, chemical and radiologic attacks. The Section coordinates and maintains logistical systems, supply caches and volunteer staffing.

ADH can access a database of volunteers through the System of Emergency Response Volunteers (SERV) and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). During an emergency, assistance from these volunteer groups can be requested by local health and emergency management personnel. Both groups provide an opportunity for the public to volunteer and provide medical and administrative support during public health preparedness, health promotions and education and response efforts. Last fall, the Public Health Emergency Managers at ADH ensured a constant state of readiness for all-hazards and maintained a heightened response status for support to states impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. ADH personnel provided preparedness and response services to the citizens of Arkansas and to several regions of the United States. During the response to Harvey and Irma, the Healthcare Preparedness Program Section and the Emergency Operations Section led ADH’s coordination to receive hospital evacuees from South Texas. The ADH Emergency Operations Center was activated to Level 3: Increased Preparedness and maintained Patient Reception Alert Status for two weeks as Harvey and Irma’s impacts continued.

The ADH Preparedness & Emergency Response Branch stresses the importance for you and your family to create your own Family Disaster Plan and to be prepared in case of an emergency. This may include communicating with your neighbors, ensuring that your emergency supplies are fully stocked, making sure your critical documents and items are protected, developing a communication plan for your friends and family and possibly getting your First Aid/CPR certification. Remember: The person who is most responsible for your safety and well-being is you!

For more information about how you can be prepared, visit ADH Preparedness and Emergency Response.

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