Building Connected Communities in Observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

It’s a topic that many times goes unheard—sexual assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and organizers are working to bring attention to what’s considered a public health issue. This year’s theme, Building Connected Communities, is designed to encourage people to work together to support healthy, safe, respectful behaviors and environment. The idea is to motivate people to work together, support those who have been sexually assaulted and be aware of ways to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the community where individuals live and work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sexual assault is usually someone that the survivor knows, such as a friend, neighbor, or family member. Other statistics show that it’s common, with more than half of women and nearly 1 and 3 men reporting that they have been involved in some form of sexual assault.

Sexual assault has long term consequences that can lead to chronic illnesses, suicidal or depressive thoughts, and substance abuse. It’s impact not only hurts the survivor but the community.

The Virginia Department of Health has a list of resources and programs available to help survivors and individuals who want more information about sexual violence and sexual assault.

Virginia Joins Other States in Observing Black Maternal Health Week

Virginia will recognize Black Maternal Health Week from April 11-17. The General Assembly adopted the resolution during its recent session. Black Maternal Health Week is an annual observance designed to bring awareness to rising cases of adverse maternal and birth outcomes for people of African descent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2021, Black women living in the U.S. are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than White women. The report explains that 80 percent of pregnancy related deaths are preventable. Other statistics point to challenges with mental health, breastfeeding, and quality of care.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recognizes the importance of Black Maternal Health Week and supports maternal health related work in a variety of ways. Through Virginia’s Title V funded programs, VDH offers support to community-based organizations with a focus on serving Black women and their families during pregnancy and after delivery. These organizations provide a variety of services such as training doulas, offering families doula care, providing support during the loss of a pregnancy, and connecting families to resources that assist in addressing other social health-related concerns that impact their ability to thrive.

VDH also supports the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Team (MMRT). The MMRT provides an avenue to review the differences in health outcomes for mothers in the Commonwealth and suggests strategies to address them. VDH uses this data to develop work dedicated to improving outcomes for pregnant and birthing families in Virginia, with a focus on reducing the number of deaths of Black mothers.

Black Maternal Health Week falls during National Minority Health Month which is observed every year in April. The month-long observance builds awareness about premature death and illness in racial and ethnic groups, as well as encourages education, early detection, and better control of diseases.

2024 County Health Rankings Report Areas of Improvement in Virginia

(RICHMOND, Va.) – Earlier this week, the 2024 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R), a program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, released data highlighting health factors and measures for counties in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) remains dedicated to its vision of Virginia becoming the healthiest state in the nation, as the data points towards areas of development and opportunities for improvement.

The CHR&R has been an essential source of data, evidence and guidance for over a decade, expanding the nation’s understanding of the multiple factors that shape health. This year’s CHR&R data release provides communities with an up-to-date, localized snapshot of the most recent health data available. Most notably, CHR&R has discontinued ranking counties by their health outcomes, opting instead to provide an indication of how a county fares in relation to other counties in the state and nation. This approach eliminates the idea that one county must outperform another to attain the “top spot,” and instead encourages a collective effort to improve health.

Virginia scores at or above the national average for a majority of the measures, including examples such as the percentage of workers who drive alone to work (71%), access to exercise opportunities (84%), and the unemployment rate among the working-age population in Virginia (2.9%). Health outcomes and metrics are varied from county to county.

“Understanding how a county fares in relation to other counties allows for sharing best practices and innovative initiatives to help address common health challenges and to celebrate successes,” said Chief Deputy Commissioner for Community Health Services Susan Fischer Davis, M.D. “This is an exciting and valuable change that will greatly benefit health districts and citizens across Virginia!”

This year’s CHR&R data release also enables communities in each state to identify opportunities for improvement. In Virginia, areas of improvement include reducing the percent of adults with obesity and reducing the number of drug overdose deaths.

With data on more than 80 measures relevant to health, the CHR&R data offers important context about the community conditions that support good health and advance health equity. In addition to state- and county-level data, the CHR&R program’s What Works for Health database offers more than 400 evidence-informed strategies to help communities improve health. Each strategy is rated for its effectiveness and likely impact on health disparities.

For more information on the 2024 County Health Rankings, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org. For more information on public health resources throughout Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts.

Celebrating World Water Day 2024

On March 22, people around the globe come together to celebrate World Water Day. This special day reminds us of the importance of water in our lives and the need to protect such a precious resource. 

Water is essential for our survival. It keeps us hydrated, helps us grow crops and supports our ecosystems. However, access to clean and safe water is not guaranteed for everyone. Many communities face challenges such as pollution and shortage, which can have serious health consequences. 

The Virginia Department of Health recognizes the significance of World Water Day and works to ensure that all Virginians have access to clean water. Through water quality monitoring, public education campaigns and other efforts, we strive to protect the health of our communities. Shout out to our Office of Drinking Water! Check out their Drinking Water Viewer, a data dashboard that provides public water system information. 

Simple actions like turning off the tap water while brushing teeth or fixing leaks can make a big difference in preserving this vital resource. 

Together, we can work toward a future where clean water is accessible to all. Happy World Water Day!

March is National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month. The Virginia Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program is observing the Month by spotlighting staff and healthy recipes on social media and in an electronic newsletter.

This year’s theme is “Beyond the Table.” The idea is to focus on nutritious food and the environment. The theme was adopted to encourage healthy eating as well as to bring attention to food waste.

First, let’s talk about the benefits of eating healthy food. Good nutrition can lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes, improve your digestive system, boost your immunity, and help manage your weight.

Second, and in keeping with the theme for this month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says eating healthy food can also help cut down on waste. Below are some tips to get you started.

  1. Start small. Try planting a few herbs and leafy greens. Foods that are easier to grow.
  2. If space is tight, try container gardening in a sunny window patio or balcony.
  3. Try making compost a natural fertilizer, from vegetable peelings, fruit cores, coffee grinds, or leftover food scraps that don’t contain meat, dairy or cooked foods.

 

For more information on composting and food waste, see the video from the USDA.

For other ways to celebrate NNM:  50 Ideas to Get Involved in National Nutrition Month®️ (eatright.org)

It’s National CACFP Week! (March 10-16, 2024)

The USDA’s Child and Adult Food Care Program, (CACFP), provides nutritious meals and snacks to children and adults living in a variety of settings. Children who live at home, who are in preschool, who attend childcare centers, who participate in after-school programs and who live in shelters, benefit from the program. CACFP also provides healthy food to homebound adults and those living in adult care facilities. 

Founded in 1968, as a special pilot program known as the Special Food Service Program for Children, CACFP now serves nearly 5 million adults and children across the nation every day. Centers and sponsoring organizations receive cash reimbursement for serving meals and snacks to participants whose incomes are below 185% of the poverty level.

CACFP Week is observed in March, which is a National Nutrition Month®, an annual observance to promote nutritious food choices and encourage people to develop healthful eating and physical activity habits. This year, CACFP Week will be observed March 10-16, 2024. This year’s theme is “Eating the Rainbow.”

In 1968, Congress amended the National School Lunch Act to reach children in childcare programs. Throughout the CACFP’s more than 50-year history, the program has continued to update its nutrition standards in conjunction with the USDA meal patterns and dietary guidelines.

In celebration of the impact CACFP operators make in their communities, the nutrition programs at the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), with the support of community partners, are hosting a week full of virtual events specifically for program operators. These events, along with a social media campaign are intended to promote and recognize the integral role the CACFP plays in supporting the health and wellbeing of all Virginians. 

VDH and VDOE, along with their community partners will be posting to social media using #VACACFP, @CACFPVirginia and @VDOESNP. Follow VACACFP on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

To find more information about CACFP Week activities, visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/child-and-adult-care-food-program/cacfp-week-coming-soon/.

For a list of participating CACFP organizations committed to providing nutritious meals or for more information, please visit Child and Adult Care Food Program.

World Birth Defects Day 2024

For some parents, the birth of a baby takes on a different emotion because their child is born with a birth defect. A birth defect is a health condition that happens before birth, and it can cause death or change how a baby lives and functions. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), birth defects are common. In the United States approximately 120,000 pregnancies end with a child having a birth defect.

Sunday, March 3 has been set aside as World Birth Defects Day #WorldBDDay. The Virginia Department of Health wants to remind readers that the Virginia Congenital Reporting and Education System, also known as VaCARES surveys and reviews birth defects in children under the age of two. Hospitals are required to report cases of birth defects to the surveillance system in hopes that the work will lead to changes. The goals of the birth defects surveillance program are as follows:

  • Collect data to evaluate possible causes of birth defects.
  • Improve the diagnosis and treatment of birth defects.
  • Establish a mechanism for informing families of children with birth defects and their physicians about available health resources.

 

For more information on birth defects, resources for parents and the surveillance program visit the Virginia Department of Health.

Rare Disease Day 2024

As an organization committed to public health, Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recognizes the significance of Rare Disease Day. This day is observed on the last day of February every year. Rare Disease Day serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by individuals and families affected by rare diseases. It also highlights the importance of research, advocacy, and support for those living with these conditions.

Rare diseases collectively affect millions of individuals worldwide. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are over 7,000 identified rare diseases. New ones are still being discovered. While each disease may only affect a small number of people, the total impact is immense. Millions of individuals are living with these conditions across the globe.

One of the biggest challenges associated with rare diseases is limited understanding and awareness. Because of their rarity, many rare diseases are overlooked or misdiagnosed. This can lead to delays in appropriate treatment and care. Plus, the small patient populations make it difficult to research and develop effective therapies.

Our goal is to ensure that all Virginians have access to the support and services they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives, regardless of medical condition. On Rare Disease Day, we stand in solidarity with those affected by rare diseases. Patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, and researchers all work tirelessly for the same goal. This is a day to celebrate the resilience and strength of individuals living with rare diseases. Learn more at the NIH Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center: https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/

February is American Heart Month

As we settle into 2024, it’s a good time to consider new habits for a healthier year. February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and its partners encourage you to think about making a few simple changes to your daily routine so that can help you reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • Choose healthy meals and snacks.  Include a lot of fruit and vegetables in your diet, and choose foods lower in sodium and saturated fat. Try some heart healthy recipes and check out the MyPlate resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Make physical activity a regular part of your day.  Adults should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, running, bicycling a week. Learn more about ways to increase your physical activity throughout the day on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity page.
  • Take steps to quit smoking by contacting Quit Now Virginia, which offers free telephone or web-based counseling services and also offers Text2Quit support, self-help materials and referrals to local resources. 1-800- QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or learn more at the Quit Now Virginia Website.
  • Check your blood pressure.  Read more about ways to prevent and manage blood pressure. Here are some helpful tips for talking with a doctor to manage and check your blood pressure.

The CDC has awarded VDH two multi-million-dollar grants to address heart disease in the Commonwealth, named the CDC National Cardiovascular Health Program and the Innovative Cardiovascular Health Program. The two grants will establish the Virginia Cardiovascular Health Program, implemented and managed by the Office of Family Health – Division of Prevention and Health Promotion. The Virginia Cardiovascular Health Program unites state and local partners to implement and evaluate CDC evidence-based strategies to improve blood pressure control, reduce disparities in cardiovascular disease, and connect communities at high risk for heart disease and stroke to clinical and social services. For more information, https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/heart-disease/

Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records Announces Top Baby Names of 2023, Other Interesting Virginia Birth Data

What to name the newest member of the family? It can be a nerve-wracking decision for new parents. Something out of scripture? A favorite singer or film star? A sports player or a Disney character? Virginia parents are choosing diverse names for their newborns. Today, the Office of Vital Records in the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) unveils its lists of Top 15 baby names for children born in the commonwealth in 2023, perhaps providing some inspiration for stressed-out parents-to-be.

Topping the list of the most popular names for boys in 2023 was Liam, while Charlotte was the most popular for girls, as it was in 2022. In 2022, there were 95,583 babies born; while the numbers for 2023 are still being counted, the Office of Vital Records estimates there were a similar number of births last year.

“It’s always fun to see what the most popular baby names will be in Virginia,” said Seth Austin, state registrar and director of VDH’s Office of Vital Records. “The inspiration for a name can come from so many different places, and no matter the inspiration, these new babies’ names will be central to their identity as they grow up and do great things in the world.”

Following Liam in popularity among Virginia parents in 2023 were Noah, James, Oliver, William, Lucas, Henry, Theodore, Benjamin, Levi, Elijah, Luke, John, Michael, Gabriel. Charlotte was followed by Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Amelia, Evelyn, Ava, Isabella, Elizabeth, Mia, Eleanor, Harper, Sofia, Luna, Abigail for girls in Virginia in 2023. And for your consideration, may we suggest “Virginia” as a suggestion as a little girl’s name if you’re expecting in 2024?

Office of Vital Records data also indicate the most popular 2023 baby names for the largest ethnic groups in the state: Asian, Black, Hispanic and White.

  • Among Asian babies born in 2023, Noah and Olivia were the most popular names. Lucas, Muhammad, Ethan and Alexander fill out the Top Five list for boys; Ava, Sophia, Sophie and Charlotte complete the Top Five list for girls.
  • For Black babies born in Virginia in 2023, Noah and Ava remained the most popular names from 2022. Amir, Josiah, Elijah and Legend round out the Top Five for boys, while Naomi, Nova, Serenity and Autumn fill out the Top Five for girls.
  • Liam and Mia remain the top names for Hispanic boys and girls born in Virginia in 2023, as they were in 2022. Lucas, Muhammad, Ethan and Alexander fill out the Top Five list for Hispanic boys’ names, while Ava, Sophia, Sophie and Charlotte complete the Top Five list for girls’ names.
  • James and Charlotte were the top names for White babies born in 2023, followed by William, Oliver, Henry and Liam for boys and Olivia, Emma, Amelia and Sophia for girls.

Half a century ago in 1973, VDH data shows that Michael and Jennifer were the most popular names for baby boys and girls born that year, retaining their top spots from 1972. James, Christopher, John, Robert, David, William, Brian, Jason, Kevin, Charles, Matthew, Richard, Thomas and Mark complete the Top 15 for boys’ names in 1973. Among girls in 1973, the rest of the Top 15 include Angela, Kimberly, Melissa, Amy, Michelle, Stephanie, Lisa, Heather, Mary, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Tammy, Crystal and Karen. Information about popular names in each of the 50 states going back to 1960 is available from the Social Security Administration by using its Popular Names by Decade tool.

Office of Vital Records data also reveals other interesting information about 2023 births.

  • The most births occurred in August with 8,426 babies delivered, but July 7 saw the greatest number of babies born on a single day – 332.
  • Fridays are the busiest day of the week in Virginia delivery rooms: 14,231 babies were born on a Friday in 2023; Sundays, on the other hand, are the slowest days of the week, with only 8,768 born on a Sunday in 2023.
  • There were 2,620 sets of twins born in Virginia in 2023, while there were 76 sets of triplets born in the state.
  • And on New Year’s Day 2023, 178 new Virginians came into the world.

The Office of Vital Records is Virginians’ one-stop shop for any number of personal records requests including birth and death certificates, and marriage and divorce records. The Office’s headquarters is located in Richmond at 2001 Maywill Street, Suite #101, Richmond, VA 23230; it is open to the public Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The vital records call center — (804) 662-6200 — is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The public may also apply for a vital record, pay for it, and receive updates on the request’s fulfillment online using this tracking tool.

The public may also access Office of Vital Records services through their local health district offices and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices. Use this Health Department locator tool to find your local health department office; please call ahead to ensure your local office offers the services you need to access. Use this DMV office locator tool to find a DMV office near you; DMV offices are open for walk-ins and appointments.