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News Release
Local work helping drive down infectious diseases, reports show - 05/09/19

May 9, 2018

Media contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, phd.communications@dhsoha.state.or.us

Local work helping drive down infectious diseases, reports show

Regional partnerships lead to improved health outcomes

PORTLAND, Ore. — Two new state reports show that Oregon’s public health system is making good on its pledge to reduce communicable diseases, by improving child immunizations and tackling rising rates of sexually transmitted infections.

The Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division this week published its annual Public Health Accountability Metrics Annual Report. It gives an in-depth look at how Oregon’s public health system is doing, compared to a year ago, on key health issues. The agency also released its latest Public Health Modernization Implementation report, which offers updates on how eight regional partnerships are using Oregon legislative funds in three areas of priority for the state’s push to modernize its public health system: communicable disease control; health equity and cultural responsiveness; and assessment and epidemiology.

"These reports show we are making progress on key health issues like childhood immunization and the rapid rise in sexually transmitted infections," said Oregon Public Health Director Lillian Shirley. The Accountability Metrics Report also looks at progress toward reducing tobacco use and prescription opioid mortality, and improving access to clean water and active transportation modes.

The Public Health Accountability Metrics Annual Report highlights improvements the state’s public health system has made to meet population health priorities the Public Health Advisory Board established in 2017. Similarly, the Public Health Modernization Implementation report describes movement by regional partners — local public health authorities, hospitals, coordinated care organizations, universities, nonprofits — to stem communicable diseases while emphasizing reducing health disparities.

Among the key findings in the Accountability Metrics Annual Report:

  • The Legislature’s 2017 Public Health Modernization investment improved immunization accessibility and quality by supporting local public health departments to strengthen partnerships with health care providers. The result is the percent of Vaccines for Children clinics in Oregon using AFIX, a program designed to improve childhood immunization rates, increased from 14 percent to 28 percent in one year. This surpassed a 25 percent participation goal.
  • Gonorrhea rates continue to rise "at an alarming rate," according to the report — from 107 cases per 100,000 population in 2016 to 121 cases in 2017. Some communities are using the modernization funds to bolster staff for gonorrhea case tracking and management. This led to improvements in these areas between 2016 and 2017, and allowed rates in Oregon to remain below the national rate of 172 per 100,000.
  • For many health outcomes such as gonorrhea rates, racial and ethnic groups were disproportionally affected. Differences in rates across racial and ethnic groups occur because of generations-long social, economic and environmental injustices that result in poor health. These injustices have a greater influence on health outcomes than biological or genetic factors, or individual choices.

The improvements in communicable disease and sexually transmitted infection rates in the Accountability Metrics Report track closely with what’s in the Public Health Modernization Implementation report, which touts successes in building staff and program capacity that led to such results as:

  • Lane County — 250 pneumococcal vaccines administered to hospitalized, at-risk adults.
  • Pendleton area — 3,600 condoms distributed between July and December 2018 to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Klamath County — five clinics newly enrolled to use the AFIX immunizations quality improvement program.
  • Marion County — 97 percent of gonorrhea cases received adequate treatment.

"These reports really are complementary in showing that the state’s modernization investment is leading to real outcomes that are improving health of people in Oregon," said Rebecca Tiel, chairwoman of the Public Health Advisory Board and director of public policy for the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS).

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