Looking Ahead To 2017

road to 2017As we head into the New Year, I wanted to take a moment to discuss our journey toward becoming the healthiest state in the nation, the challenges we faced this past year and how VDH will keep working for you in 2017.

A critical challenge that faced us before and during 2016, and we’ll continue to face in 2017, is one that affects all Virginians. In November 2016, I declared Virginia’s opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency.  There’s still much we don’t know about this issue but there are steps everyone can take to protect themselves and their loved ones:  Know the signs of addiction and where to get help.  If you believe someone in your life is struggling with addiction, talk to them, consider obtaining the rescue medicine, naloxone, which is now available under a standing order I wrote and sent to all pharmacies in Virginia.  In addition, take the REVIVE! course on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose emergency. Visit VaAware.com for more information on all aspects of this emergent problem.  This is an issue that our entire nation will continue to face in the New Year.  Please know that no matter the challenge, VDH will be here promoting well-being and protecting health.

Also in 2016, a new public health challenge came our way in the form of the Zika virus. Our early attention to the virus and the efforts of many different parts of our agency helped to ensure Virginia did not see a locally transmitted case of Zika in 2016. But like many health challenges we face, Zika will be an ongoing one.  As we head into the colder months, be aware of the precautions to take before and after traveling to areas with Zika, especially if you are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant.  Stay tuned to our VDH webpage for more information as we approach mosquito season in 2017.

January is traditionally a time where we set goals for the New Year and focus on how to improve ourselves. I encourage you to take a look at Virginia’s Plan for Well-Being.  The plan is a call to action for all of us to create and sustain conditions that support health and well-being. There are many simple things you can do to help Virginia become the healthiest state in the nation.

  1. Make sure you and your families are up to date on vaccinations. Had your flu shot yet? It’s not too late ; )
  2. Read to your children
  3. Start that new exercise plan
  4. Try out healthy recipes you’ve had your eye on
  5. Quit tobacco

Here at VDH, we deliver 41 different services to Virginians every day, everything from vaccination clinics, outbreak investigations and family health services to emergency preparedness, HIV/STI testing, assuring clean drinking water in municipal waterworks and safe food in food service facilities. Throughout 2017, we’ll provide an inside look at some of the services that may not be as visible, but play an important role in keeping Virginia safe and healthy. Check back here often….

Finally, because we each have a role in protecting health and promoting well-being, I thank you for everything that YOU do to promote well-being and protect the health of all Virginians. On behalf of the VDH family, have a healthy and happy New Year.