Public Health New Mexico

KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting project provides in-depth, investigative and continuous coverage of public health in New Mexico, with an emphasis on poverty. For all articles and web exclusive content, go to publichealthnm.org 

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Just 26 miles east of Carlsbad, N.M., in the Chihuahuan Desert, the United States buries its radioactive waste. Mostly, that’s the clothes, tools and rags that come into contact with elements heavier than uranium on the Periodic Table. But about 4 percent of what’s dumped at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is more toxic and has to be stored in lead casks.

Obama's Budget Would Fund Navajo Water Project

Mar 4, 2014

President Obama’s $3.9 trillion budget could provide $2.4 billion to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. That’s an increase of about $33 million from the previous year.

The budget increase would go to education, social services, and Indian child welfare. It would also fund water projects in New Mexico.  

Deborah Martinez

Thousands of people with developmental disabilities in New Mexico have been waiting to receive the full spectrum of services available through a government program, some for more than 10 years.  The Tatz family is inching towards that benchmark, as they and their kids grow older.   

“I had back surgery," Lesly Tatz announced. Lesly's mom, Jill Tatz, explained, "She has had medical issues, and had open heart surgery at 18 months.” Her daughter has had numerous surgeries.

New Mexico Surpasses U.S. In Childhood Flu Vaccinations

Feb 27, 2014

The number of children receiving flu vaccines in New Mexico is higher than the national average, according to the state Department of Health.

During the 2010-2011 flu season, almost 60 percent of kids between the ages of five and 12 got vaccinated for flu. However, that number jumped to about 70 percent the following year.

publik15 via Flickr

The chaotic transition a state agency forced last year from 15 New Mexico-based health organizations to five Arizona companies had many problems, an annual audit has found.

Public domain image.

  The Department of Energy says preliminary tests indicate 13 workers were exposed to radiation during a recent leak at the nation's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.

The DOE said in a news release Wednesday that it has notified the workers of the positive results and will do further testing. They declined to comment further on the extent of the possible exposure until a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Udall Proposes Health Bills

Feb 26, 2014
Senator Tom Udall

New Mexico Senator Tom Udall has proposed two bills to address access to health care in rural communities. 

Every county in New Mexico, except one, has been designated by the federal government as having a health care provider shortage. And beyond a shortage, surveys show that over half of the doctors in New Mexico were at capacity and unable to take on more than a handful of new patients.

Preschool Obesity Rates Drop Nationally

Feb 26, 2014
Rita Daniels

Young children are beginning to show signs of lower obesity rates – 43 percent over ten years, according to a new Centers for Disease Control Study.  

The study doesn’t break down the decline state by state, but the news doesn’t surprise Judy Baron.  She’s a co-director of the Serendipity Day School for 2 to 4 year-olds in Albuquerque.

The audit the state used to justify suspending Medicaid payments to an Alamogordo health center last year appears to have included mistakenly flagged claims, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

That raises questions about the process the Human Services Department (HSD) used to ensure the audit was accurate before deciding to suspend Medicaid dollars to the Alamogordo organization.

Navajo Nation President: Tax Junk Food

Feb 24, 2014
jeffadair via Flickr

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly recently vetoed legislation that would increase taxes on junk food sold on the reservation but says he will support a new, tweaked version.

The bill would have added a two-percent tax to all junk food sold on the Navajo Nation, and was designed to encourage healthy eating habits while fighting problems like diabetes.

But how the tax will be collected, how business owners will be impacted, and what actually constitutes junk food all need to be hammered out before Shelly signs off, which he hopes will be this year.

Patrick Feller // Compfight cc

Among the governor’s goals in her 2014 State of the State Address: deal with the shortage of health care providers in New Mexico. Every county except one doesn’t have an adequate supply of physicians and dentists, according to the federal government. And about 170,000 more folks will be eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Though Gov. Susana Martinez has unrolled some plans to deal with the shortage, the Legislature wasn’t able to pass measures that would have boosted the state’s health care work force.

Wikimedia Commons: Jacob Lofman, PIX Incorporated, NYC, photographer

A 30-day legislative session—like the one that ended yesterday at noon—is mostly about hammering out a state budget. But other priorities sneak in, too, and 2014 saw a lot of public health-related bills. Here’s a look at the new laws and programs that made it out of Santa Fe alive.

Newborn Heart Disease Testing—HB 9

• Adds a test for congenital heart disease to the list of evaluations a newborn undergoes before being discharged.

Public domain image.

UPDATE 7:20p 02/21:

Department of Energy officials say radiation levels detected in and around the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository are consistent with a leak at the southeastern New Mexico facility.

Carlsbad field office manager Jose Franco said Thursday that readings from sensors above and below ground indicate the radiation is coming from waste stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. But officials won't know what caused the leak until they can get underground to investigate. That could be weeks.

What Is Public Health?

Feb 20, 2014
cdc.gov / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 2/20 8a:  What is public health?  Maybe the term makes you think of vaccinations or controlling and preventing diseases like diabetes and influenza.  But the field is much larger than that.  

Call 277-5866 in Albuquerque or toll-free 1-877-899-5866.

Lawmakers Ban Texting While Driving

Feb 19, 2014
Centers for Disease Control

A bill that would prohibit texting while driving now heads to Governor Susana Martinez's desk for approval after clearing the legislature.

E-mail, instant messages and internet surfing all fall under the bills scope.

John McPhee is with New Mexico Department of Health. He says distracted driving is a growing problem across the country.

UPDATE Feb. 19, 2014, 10:17 a.m.: SB 55 is awaiting a vote by the Senate.

Today was Disability Rights Awareness Day at the Roundhouse, and a bill calling for a plan for the state's troubled waiver program is stuck in committee awaiting a hearing. 

UPDATE Feb. 19, 2014, 10:35 a.m.: This measure is in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

The state Senate approved a bill last night that creates temporary funding for more than two dozen rural hospitals. 

Bryant Furlow / New Mexico In Depth

When he learns that signing up for Medicaid will mean he can visit a nearby hospital in Española instead of traveling to Santa Fe for urgent care, the Native American man sits back in his chair, eyebrows arched. Then he smiles.

“Cool! Oh that’s good,” the gray-haired, middle-aged man from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo says.

Natalia Jacquez

Maria Cabrera owed $57,000 dollars after she suffered a heart attack and ended up in an Albuquerque hospital.

“Once I was out of the hospital, I got completely in debt,” Cabrera said. “The debt was so large that I don’t even know what’s going on.”

A large amount of that debt was cut down through financial assistance, but she says the debt collectors are still calling, and she’s unclear of just how much she owes. 

Bill Would Expand PE To Include JROTC, Other Activities

Feb 12, 2014
Albuquerque Public Schools

UPDATE Wednesday, Feb. 19, 10:59 p.m.: SB 122 passed the House and Senate.

Think physical education means just basketball or track?  Not necessarily, if lawmakers decide to change high school graduation rules and allow school districts to choose other activities to meet the PE requirement. That proposal received a unanimous “high five” from the Senate earlier this week.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

According to new figures released by the U.S.

CDC/NCHS

Meet Karla Castañeda. She’s 22, is a single mother, and recently went back to school. Her son is eligible for Medicaid, but she is not because she makes too much money, and her job doesn’t provide her with insurance. To get coverage, she turned to New Mexico’s insurance marketplace

Lawmakers Advance Ban On E-Cigarette Sales To Minors

Feb 6, 2014

  UPDATE Feb. 19, 2014, 10:10 a.m.: This measure was approved by the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

  State lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday evening that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.  

Department of Energy

UPDATE 5:30p 2/6: Work has resumed at southeastern New Mexico's nuclear waste repository. But officials say they don't yet know what caused the truck fire that forced an evacuation of the underground site.

A spokesman says an investigation will be conducted at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where low level waste from the nation's nuclear weapons plants is stored in salt beds.

The site was evacuated and six people were treated for smoke inhalation after a truck hauling salt caught fire Wednesday.

UPDATE Feb. 19 11:07 a.m.: The dental therapists bill and medical malpractice act and the NMSU mental health nursing program, are stuck in committee.

puroticorico via Flickr

KUNM Call In Show Thu.

Wiki Creative Commons

UPDATE Feb.

AG Releases New Portion Of Health Audit

Jan 24, 2014

A state-hired auditor found $1,873 in questionable Medicaid payments to a health-care provider cleared of fraud last week by the state's top cop, according to a portion of the audit released Wednesday.

Using a statistical formula, the auditor then extrapolated from that $1,873 figure to come up with approximately $612,000 in potential Medicaid overpayments by The Counseling Center in Alamogordo, the document shows.

Debora Cartagena, CDC

According to the American Lung Association, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas all received Fs for their tobacco prevention efforts. That’s primarily because the states aren’t spending amounts recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Texas got the worst grades in the Southwest, including an F for smoke-free air and restrictions.

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