Friday, July 10, 2009

Group B strep poses risk for newborns

Published Friday July 10, 2009
The Observer, La Grande, OR

Focus on Health
Tristin Mock, N.D.

Group B strep poses risk for newborns

Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterium that can cause serious illness and death in newborns.

Approximately one quarter of women in the U.S. are carriers of the bacteria. These women often do not have symptoms, but can pass the infection on to their children during the birth process.

Group B strep is the most common life-threatening infection in newborns. It can be avoided, but there is no vaccine to prevent infection. GBS is more common than rubella, congenital syphilis, and spina bifida, yet many people have never heard of it. In 2001, around 1,700 newborns were infected.

Group B strep can infect and be carried by anyone. GBS is not the same infection as strep throat. It’s usually found in the gastrointestinal tract (guts) and can then spread to the vagina and rectum. GBS is not a sexually transmitted infection.

Most women are screened for group B strep during the 35th to 37th week of pregnancy. Infected women generally have no symptoms, although some may have a bladder infection. If the mother tests positive for GBS she will need IV antibiotics during labor to prevent passing the infection on to her child. The bacteria regrow rapidly, so antibiotics before labor are ineffective. According to the CDC, “a C-section should not be used to prevent early-onset group B strep infection in infants.”

Group B strep can be contracted at times other than birth, although the birth process is the most common time for transmission. Pre-natal transmission often leads to stillbirth. Late-onset cases can occur in children more than one week old. GBS can cause babies to catch pneumonia, get meningitis (inflammation of the brain), suffer sepsis (blood infection), have lifelong handicaps or die.

If you’re pregnant, please talk to your healthcare provider about testing for group B strep. Not all babies born to infected mother’s contract group B strep, but it is devastating for those who do.

For more information about group B strep please visit or

Tristin Mock, N.D., is an Americorps VISTA volunteer with the Center for Human Development in La Grande.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Increasing Health Literacy: Two VISTAs in Rural Oregon

Viewfinder July 2009: Volume II, No. 4

Increasing Health Literacy: Two VISTAs in Rural Oregon

In newspapers and magazines across the country, articles covering the future of health care in America are prevalent. You can find articles like these in the Observer, the major newspaper for rural Union County in Oregon. But you will also discover another type of health care story. These stories focus on increasing health literacy for at-risk communities. Two VISTAs, Billie Jo Craigsmile and Dr. Tristin Mock, are behind this effort (read one of Billie Jo’s articles in the Observer), as well as many other activities to help the local population increase health awareness.

The task of informing the community about these issues is not an easy one. Billie Jo is in her second year of VISTA service, and much of her first year was researching the specific health needs within the community and the readiness of the community members for learning, developing, and implementing prevention programming. From this research, Billie Jo and Tristin are working on six social marketing projects: substance abuse, teens at risk for mental illness, household smoking, general communicable diseases, family planning, and immunization.

The research also shows that the readiness level of Union County is very low for many of these issues, to the point that many community members are in denial that problems even exist. The county has the lowest immunization rate in the state, and while teen pregnancy rates have been going down statewide, Union County’s rate has been increasing.

To take on these issues, Billie Jo and Tristin are using a six phase approach (problem description, market research, market strategy, interventions, evaluation, and implementation) for their social marketing projects. As part of this, they are reaching out to the community through multiple avenues. They are meeting with community groups, such as the Rotary and Kiwanis Club. They are holding presentations for teens, parents, coaches, and teachers. They are even reaching out to school bus drivers, as they recognize the positive connections many have to the students.

In addition, these VISTAs are also using opportunities and resources available to them. As word of the H1N1 (commonly referred to as the swine flu) made its way through the major media outlets, Tristin used this opportunity to talk with local leaders about general communicable diseases, as many were more willing to listen as concerns increased. Instead of creating a new social marketing campaign regarding family planning, she is adapting the efforts of a state-wide campaign for her needs in Union County.

In her second month, Tristin recognizes that her biggest hurdle is “Trying to figure out where you are going and how to get there is the hardest…looking, listening, and finding out what’s going on is very helpful.” Having already served in an AmeriCorps State/National program that included direct service of health care to an underserved community, she has a good understanding of how to approach these issues and build relationships with the population she is serving.

Billie Jo, having a VISTA year under her belt, is setting a goal of having her efforts complete by the end of year two so that in year three, continued implementation of the program will be in effect. To a point, she recognizes she is “territorial” about her project, and is really nervous about handing them over to her replacement next April (a mother of four, her protectionist nature has found its way into her VISTA project!).

Knowing their VISTA service will end before all of the goals for the social marketing projects are achieved, Tristin and Billie Jo are laying the foundation for their projects to be sustainable for years to come. They are creating user-friendly manuals and developing databases that contain the social marketing materials. Additionally, they have been engaged in agency education about their programs and are thinking about who they can train and hand the program over to in order to continue their success.

The Observer may soon be in need of something else to write about.
Related Posts with Thumbnails