Go for gold with good sexual health practices  

Paris’s organizers are stocking Olympics Village with 300,000 condoms, which include external and internal condoms as well as oral dams. This practice dates back to 1988, when Seoul Olympics planners distributed condoms specifically to raise HIV and AIDS awareness.

RHHD’s Health Education team was thrilled to hear Olympics First Aid Coordinator Laurent Dalard talk about these measures as an attempt to “be very inclusive and [focus] on issues of consent and pleasure.” In fact, Bellamy Riley and Darcy Strayer are giving out some sexual health medals of their own:

  • Sneakiest transmission: they don’t call syphilis The Great Imitator for nothing. Syphilis symptoms can look like fever blisters or a popped pimple, and the bacteria can live in your body for a long time. Because of the higher transmission rates in places like Richmond and Henrico, the Virginia Department of Health now recommends testing for all sexually active 15-44 year-olds. It’s also important to get tested more regularly if you participate in activities that place you at higher risk.
  • Most effective prevention against HIV: PrEP is a true game-changer. When taken as prescribed, the medication can reduce your risk of getting HIV during sex as much as 99%. If you’re interested in learning more about PrEP, ask your healthcare provider, or visit VDH’s PrEP website to find a provider near you.
  • Best community partners: RHHD has so many medals to give out here! We’re lucky to work with organizations committed to sexual health and well-being, particularly for folks who have been historically underrepresented and underserved in HIV/STI prevention and treatment. Partners like Bremo Pharmacy, the Capital Area Health NetworkCrossOver Healthcare MinistryHealth BrigadeHope PharmacyMinority Health Consortium, and Nationz Foundation all make our medal podium for providing free or low-cost testing services across our region.
  • Most valuable player: YOU. We can each take charge of our own sexual health by testing regularly and learning how to keep ourselves and our partners safe. Review our list of testing resources to decide the location and appointment option that work best for you.

Congratulations to all our winners!

Making strides towards physical and mental health 

by Kiran Sabharwal

You may have heard that running is a mental sport. Richmonder Antoine Craig takes this literally! Between working as a mental health counselor and training for the US Track and Field Paralympic Team, he is invested in bettering the mental and physical health of our communities one step at a time.

RHHD sat down with Antoine ahead of this year’s Paralympics to chat about how to best take care of our mental health.

Take the first step, even if it feels intimidating. After losing his vision in 2010, Antoine focused on “just showing up and participating.” A friend asked him to run together with a shoelace tied between their hands. That track training led to road races and sprints until ultimately, he won silver in the 100m dash at the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers.

In 2021, Antoine switched gears to soccer. Although his first blind soccer game was “so fast and scary, something told me to stick with it,” and he was named to the first National Men’s Blind Soccer Team in 2022. He is currently back on the track, competing in the Track and Field Paralympic Trials this weekend!

It can be hard to know where to start when we encounter something new or overwhelming. One first step you can take if you’re experiencing struggles with mental health is to call 988. The national lifeline is open 24/7 to provided free, immediate help from a trained crisis worker and referrals to mental health resources.

Get expert support. Antoine credits his interest in mental health to early interactions with mental health professionals in middle school. After seeing “how cool they were,” he decided that counseling was the path for him. Antoine now works to change his clients’ relationship with therapy. Instead of viewing it in the negative, he says, “therapy is just like sitting with a friend that can help you navigate the challenges in your life.” He loves to steer people in the right direction and advocate for his clients.

From athletic training to mental health counseling, it’s all about “surrounding yourself with the right people.” It can feel like there is stigma around finding and receiving help, but connecting with mental health professionals can positively transform the way we view and take care of ourselves.

RHHD is proud to partner with mental health professionals like the teams at Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, Daily Planet Health Services, and The Hive, all of which are supported in part by the Health Equity Fund. These organizations are working to make sure that everyone in our region has access to mental healthcare when they need it.

“Create spaces for open conversations.” Whether it be on the track, the soccer field, or with mental health, Antoine notes that it is all about “creating spaces for open conversations.” This past year, he served as an ambassador for the US Association of Blind Athetes, advocating for more opportunities for all athletes to complete, regardless of disability.

Antoine is especially passionate about men’s health because “identity plays such a huge part in connecting people to care”. Less than half of men experiencing mental health issues seek help, in part because of the stigma surrounding men’s mental health issues. If we create spaces for open conversations, we can eliminate false stereotypes and encourage folks to take action for their mental health.

At RHHD we are taking big steps to continue our work supporting health in all our communities across Richmond and Henrico. The best way to support these efforts is to fill out the Community Health Assessment survey. This anonymous survey will help us to plan our outreach and provide the services and resources you need! Laura Bennett, the COO of Sportable, chose to support the CHA survey because “people with disabilities are underrepresented in healthcare, research, funding, and advocacy. ‘What gets counted counts’—we want people with disabilities to be counted and have their voices heard!”

We need input from every community in Richmond and Henrico! You can access the CHA online at rhhd.gov/2024-CHA or using a paper form at one of RHHD’s clinics, resource centers, or outreach tables at summer community events. The survey is available in English and Spanish.

What’s next for Antoine? He is competing in the US Paralympic Team Trials in Track and Field. (Insider knowledge – his favorite training spot is Forest Hill Park.) And you can follow his journey at the Trials on his YouTube page!

VDH Issues Recreational Water Advisory for the James River from Manchester Bridge to Osborne Landing Due to Sewage Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 17, 2024

Media contact for the recreational water advisory: Brookie Crawford, VDH,  brookie.crawford@vdh.virginia.gov

Media contact for the sewer main repairs:Rhonda Johnson, COR DPU, rhonda.johnson@rva.gov

 

VDH Issues Recreational Water Advisory for the James River from Manchester Bridge to Osborne Landing Due to Sewage Release
Public Advised to Avoid Contact with Contaminated Water

 

RICHMOND, Va. – Effectively immediately, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is issuing a recreational water advisory for the James River beginning at the Manchester Bridge (9th Street) in the City of Richmond and ending at Osborne Landing in Henrico County. For the safety of people and pets, VDH is advising that recreational water activities, such as swimming, wading, tubing, and whitewater kayaking (where submersion in the water is likely), should be avoided. The advisory is issued out of an abundance of caution due to an ongoing sewage release from a City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (COR DPU) sewer pipe.

On July 16, a sewer release near the Pipeline Trail, along the James River, was first reported to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and VDH. The situation is being actively monitored by both DEQ and VDH. The advisory will be lifted once bacteria levels are at levels acceptable for recreational contact.

The COR DPU is in the process of shutting down the pipeline and making assessments. Repairs will begin as soon as possible. DEQ is conducting water sampling along the James River to assist VDH in determining advisory updates. Additional samples will be taken once the sewer repair is complete.

To ensure public safety in this high-recreational use waterbody, the advisory extends from the James River at the Manchester Bridge (9th Street) in the City of Richmond to Osborne Landing in Henrico County (approximately 12 miles of the James River). Public access points to the James River in the impacted area include Great Shiplock Park and Chapel Island, Dock Street Park, Wharf Street/Intermediate Terminal, Ancarrow’s Landing, and Osborne Landing.

Activities, which are not likely to result in water submersion (boating, fishing, canoeing), may continue with proper caution to avoid contact with the water.

VDH has observed no evidence of impacts to drinking water at this time. The Richmond drinking water intake is upstream from the impacted site and remains unaffected.

Swallowing contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, or fever. Contact with contaminated water can also cause infections of the ears, nose, throat, and skin.

To prevent recreational water illnesses due to exposure to the sewage release event, people should:

  • Avoid contact with the waterbodies noted above and observe advisory signage posted at waterbody access points.
  • Avoid any area of the waterbody where there is water with a foul odor, dead or dying fish, or discolored water.
  • Promptly wash skin with soap and water if you cannot avoid contact with water in the vicinity.
  • Seek medical care and notify your practitioner of the waterbody exposure if you experience adverse health effects after contact with the waterbody.

For more information on recreational water safety, visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

 

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NOTE: The attached warning sign will be posted at water access points accessible to the public. If private landowners within the vicinity of the advisory would like to post the below signage at their water access points, they may print, laminate, and post the signage.

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Head off heat-related illness

The past few weeks of major heat risk have led to increases in hospitalizations for heat-related illness. VDH’s Heat-Related Illness Dashboard shows that there can be serious visits to the emergency room or to urgent care for people dealing with heat-related illness.

It’s important to know which heat-related symptoms should lead you to hydrate or seek air conditioning, and which should prompt you to get immediate medical care. If we all know the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, we can work together to take care of our friends, families, and neighbors during extreme heat.

On the Radio: La importancia de tener vacunas antes de entrar a la escuela 

On the Radio: “La importancia de tener vacunas antes de entrar a la escuela”

by Kiran Sabharwal

RHHD’s own Maria Maldonado and Adranae Mena are radio celebrities! Maria, who serves as a Henrico Community Health Worker and a host of Radio Poder 1380, was joined by Sr. Richmond CHW Adranae live on air a few weeks ago. This amazing equipo sat down with Radio Poder 1380, a Spanish-language station broadcasting to families across the Richmond area, to share information about another important component to school-readiness, required school immunizations.

Kids catching up on their required childhood vaccines and all students entering 7th and 12th grade are required to receive immunizations to keep them and their classmates safe!

Wondering how to get your kiddos ready for school this fall? Maria and Adranae shared some helpful tips: 

  • No esperemos a ùltimo dìa. Don’t wait until the end of the summer! Make an appointment with your primary care physician or call RHHD to make an appointment now.
  • Puede llamar 804-205-3501. To schedule an appointment at an RHHD clinic, call 804-205-3501 or find more information about upcoming immunization events at rhhd.gov/childhoodvax. You can also find appointments closer to you with our pharmacy partners at Hope and Bremo—just visit rhhd.gov/hope-appointment or rhhd.gov/bremo-appointment to schedule convenient options.
  • Son gratis. RHHD is offering immunizations required for entry into Richmond and Henrico County Schools without charge to all RPS and HCPS students across the region.

With summer nearly halfway over, it’s time to schedule an appointment now for your student to receive all required immunizations. Get your student ready for another healthy school year by making an appointment today!

Maria and Adranae broadcasting live from the studio!

Become a de-tick-tive 

Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew don’t always go looking for cases—sometimes, the cases find them. And no one likes finding ticks, but some days, you forget your insect repellant, your long pants, or your regular tick check, and then there you are, an amateur acarologist.

If you find a tick on yourself, your kiddos, or on a pet, the case isn’t closed! You can still take steps to stay healthy and protect others:

  • Remove the tick safely and completely. Tweezers are best for this fiddly job, and you’ll want to make sure to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Save and identify your tick. If you’ve been binging CSI or true crime to stay out of the heat this summer, put those skills to use! Use our handy graphic below to figure out what kind of tick is responsible for your bite. That info will be useful if you start to feel sick later.
  • Ready to join Team Tick? Join forces with other tick inspectors and send ticks removed from humans to VDH. The Virginia Tick Survey helps us learn more about the kinds of ticks biting humans and where different tick types hang out.

How will YOU prepare?

Summer is no vacation for RHHD’s Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP & R) team. During the summer, these experts are huddling up with colleagues in agencies across the commonwealth to review shelter plans and check on equipment like CHEMPACKs. They also run tabletop exercises to rehearse responses to unexpected events.

EP & R Coordinator Ed Porner explains that RRHD is part of the team of Emergency Support Functions that leap to action in Richmond and Henrico during an emergency. These organizations work together if there’s an immediate nearby event—weather-related or otherwise—that requires evacuation. Ed says the recent South Hill fertilizer warehouse fire is exactly the type of event these teams train to respond to quickly and safely. The organizations also plan for mass dispensing events that would get vaccines or other supplies to residents quickly.

Organizations responsible for emergency response run a series of drills and exercises throughout the summer to rehearse their planning. CDC Public Health Associates Program Fellow Amanda Tedesco says these drills can be a tabletop exercise, where everyone gathers to talk through a plan; a functional exercise, where experts practice using specific tools and equipment; or a full-scale exercise. Full-scale exercises this year will focus on dispensing vaccines so that the skills responders learned during mass COVID-19 vaccination stay up to date. With the support of RHHD’s capable crew of Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers, emergency response organizations will administer more than 500 flu immunizations in the coming months, helping to keep our communities healthy and our emergency response skills sharp.

Emergency response experts in Richmond and Henrico know their work will impact Virginians beyond these two communities. VCU’s Siegel Center is listed as a statewide shelter in the event that coastal Virginians need to evacuate from a hurricane, for example. “Siegel can accommodate anywhere from 800-1000 people if needed, but the logistics and the set up for that, as you can imagine, is tremendously big. So there’s a lot of planning and exercising that has to happen with that,” Ed explains.

For Ed and Amanda, part of this work involves training the brain to think ahead about the kinds of events we don’t always like to consider. “There’s a lot going on under the surface that people don’t see until they need to care about it,” Ed says. “They need to think about what they need to be successful in an emergency. We tend not to have a lot of those conversations until it becomes an impact. But the person who has low mobility who is going to need to get out of the house, those are the kinds of things we all need to prepare for.”

All of us are important partners in the work Ed and Amanda do, and they encourage us all to take simple steps to get ready for emergencies. “I try to share the urgency,” Amanda explains. “Climate change is affecting vector borne diseases, the strength of hurricanes, extreme heat. We have to be more prepared, and people can see those impacts.”

Ed and Amanda share some strategies for building your own emergency preparedness plans:

  • Think of emergency response as a muscle. Amanda grew up in a military family—she was taught from a young age to locate a good meeting point at baseball games and other big events in case her family was ever separated. “You can build off practices like that,” she says, and scale up to larger preparedness strategies.
  • Identify the questions that will be most important to you. Ed says that “The enormous lists of preparedness get kind of gargantuan, but there are lots of things you can do to extend your resilience.” Preparedness questions most relevant to you will depend on where you live, who you live with, and what things you’ll need most in case of an emergency. As your list of questions grow, Ed suggests “just nibbling at it little by little” so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
  • Take a small step today to boost your emergency preparedness. Two actions that feel especially important to Amanda are keeping some cash on hand in case outages impact credit card usage and having a well-stocked emergency kit in her car. You can buy or build your own kit with a few simple items—and there are also suggestions for planning on a budget!

With people like Ed and Amanda focused on the big picture of our communities’ emergency response, we are in safe hands. We can all take steps to make their jobs easier and our loved ones safer during a crisis! And if you want to get even more involved, learn how to connect, train, and volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps. Ed says, “we couldn’t do half of what we do without them!”

Stay tuned here for more preparedness tips throughout the summer.

RHHD Analyst Authors Paper on Urban Heat Exposure

RICHMOND, VA – Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD)’s own Peter Braun served as lead author on the paper “A Heat Emergency: Urban Heat Exposure and Access to Refuge in Richmond, VA,” which was recently published in GeoHealth, a transdisciplinary open access journal.

Braun is a built environment policy analyst with RHHD. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, built environment can generally be described as the human-made or modified structures that provide people with living, working, and recreational spaces.

GeoHealth publishes high-quality original research articles and commentaries across the intersections of the Earth and environmental sciences and health sciences. From Braun’s article’s Plain Language Summary:

While human-caused climate change is driving average global temperatures to rise, some communities and neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia experience hotter temperatures than others. This is largely due to a historical lack of government investment in Black and low-income neighborhoods. Hotter, less resourced neighborhoods experience more heat-related health emergencies like heat stroke and heat exhaustion. This study found significant relationships between the location of heat-related illness Emergency Medical Services data from Richmond, Virginia and areas which are measurably hotter.

The research group that Braun worked with also looked at the relationship between the locations of heat-related illness Emergency Medical Services responses and built refuge locations like libraries, cooling centers, and bus stops. They found that many of the heat-related illnesses in the study period occurred within a short walking distance of cooling centers and in close proximity to unsheltered bus stops. The research group included faculty and staff from University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, and staff from Virginia Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services.

“Spending just a few hours at a cooling center can help prevent heat-related illnesses, but a lot of Richmonders might not know these cooling centers exist or they might not have a safe way to get there,” said Braun. “In some neighborhoods, if you have to walk down a street without sidewalks or shade from street trees or if you have to wait at a bus stop without a shelter, you’re going to be exposed to extreme heat.”

The City of Richmond offers cooling refuge at the following locations:

·         Monday – Saturday

  • Department of Social Services Marshall Plaza: 900 E. Marshall St., Suite 160, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Department of Social Services – Southside Plaza: 4100 Hull Street Road, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

 

Henrico County provides cooling refuge at several recreation centers and at all Henrico Public Libraries.

GRTC bus service is zero-fare this summer and all GRTC buses are air-conditioned.

RHHD raises awareness on heat and heat-related illness through social media, internal and external newsletters and messaging, and by providing alerts to community health workers who serve vulnerable populations. For more tips on how to stay cool this summer, please see this recent post on the VDH blog.

RHHD invites Richmond and Henrico residents to sign up for RHHD’s weekly newsletter to receive more information on heat and heat related illness.

 

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Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) are sister public health agencies serving our connected communities. Our mission is to protect health, champion equity, and partner to address local needs.

rhhd.gov | henrico.us/health | RCHD Facebook | HCHD Facebook | IG: @richmondcity_hd

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Grill Safe

by Kiran Sabharwal

From Fourth of July bashes to pool parties to backyard cookouts, July is full of opportunities to fire up the grill and gather around good food. This National Grilling Month, we sat down with RHHD Environmental Health Supervisor and Fourth-Of-July-Cookout-Expert Kirsten Dobson. Kirsten is one of the many folks at RHHD who inspects area restaurants. Between life on the job and at home with her family, she’s invested in making sure people stay safe when they eat.

Kirsten says it’s important to prepare and store food properly to eliminate pathogens and bacteria in raw proteins or refrigerated items, especially in hot temperatures outside. When you grill or eat outside, take it step-by-step:

First, cook all your non-proteins on the grill. Kirsten’s fun grilling rec? Try tossing an avocado on the grill alongside your corn or peppers!

Second, grill the burgers, chicken, and hot dogs. Cooking meats second prevents any contamination of vegetables and non-proteins.

Third, switch utensils as you “go from raw to ready-to-eat” and if you’re switching between proteins. Using the same tongs when you move raw meat to the grill and when you flip an almost cooked burger could contaminate the food. You can also clean utensils with a bleach and water solution.

Fourth, get your meat thermometer up and running! A probe thermometer that measures temperature internally will give you the most accurate reading. Different proteins need to be cooked to different temperatures in order to be safe.

Once you’ve successfully pulled your proteins off the grill, follow the Four Hour Rule with all food. Be sure to keep hot foods warm in a crockpot and refrigerated foods cold with ice. Any dishes left out for four hours should be thrown away to keep guests safe.

At your outdoor celebrations this season, be a food-safe host. Check out CDC’s Food Safety site for more summer grilling hints and guidelines to keep all your food party-ready!

Swim Safe

One solution for the heat? Take to the water! RHHD’s teams are promoting health by land and by…well, river, in our case.

The Environmental Health team inspects marinas and pools to make sure that the water we want to jump into all summer long is as safe as possible. Environmental Technical Specialist Jay LeReche has been conducting marina inspections for more than ten years at locations including Rocketts Landing,  Richmond Yacht Basin, and Kingsland Marina.

As someone who spends a lot of time on the James himself, Jay says that clean waterways boost tourism and keep residents active and connected to nature. We all have a part to play in keeping the James—and other water sources—safe:

  • I boat! Jay says each of Richmond and Henrico’s marinas have carefully inspected pump-out facilities that help boat owners dispose of sewage safely. You can also take steps to reduce waste that occurs during refueling or cleaning your boat—let’s keep paint chips and oils out of our river!
  • I fish! Did you know that the Department of Wildlife Resources has special recycling stations for getting rid of old fishing lines? Keep an eye out for these instead of throwing old line into the trash, which can impact wildlife and swimmers.
  • I prefer the pool! RHHD primarily inspects hotel pools, but Jay says anyone managing a pool can practice water safety by testing the water quality daily for pH levels and chlorine.

Whatever your preferred method of spending time near the water, you can benefit from more water safety tips at Healthy Swimming RVA.