DHSS News Promoting the health and well-being of Alaskans. June 2019

Ladies First

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we thought we’d also highlight Ladies First. Ladies First (formally Breast and Cervical Health Check Program, or BCHC) helps eligible Alaskans get breast and cervical health screenings. Enrollees can get free mammograms and pap tests. Ladies First also pays for diagnostic tests when needed, and helps women get referred for financial support if they need treatment. Alaskans ages 21–64 who meet Ladies First income guidelines​​​, who do not have insurance, who cannot meet their insurance deductible, or whose insurance does not pay for breast and cervical health screenings may qualify. To learn more, visit the website or call 1-800-410-6266.

Ladies First is federally funded through the CDC. 

Lead Prevention and Surveillance

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) is coming up Oct. 20-26, 2019.

Exposure to lead is more common in Alaska than many people realize. Our Section of Epidemiology last month published a Bulletin on the blood lead testing in Alaska over the past five years, Blood Lead Testing Among Children Aged <72 Months – Alaska, 2013-2018. During that time, 12,302 blood lead level tests were reported on 11,135 children; among all children tested, 146 (1.3%) had an elevated blood lead level (EBLL, ≥ 5 µg/dL). Nationwide, <1% of children are estimated to have an EBLL. While the number of children tested in Alaska quadrupled between 2016 and 2018, the proportion tested remains lower than in the U.S. overall.

In interviews conducted for EBLLs, the most common potential exposure sources identified were parent occupation or hobby, consumption of meat hunted with lead ammunition, living in a home built before 1978, and pica. Other potential sources were travel or immigration, fishing weights, lead ammunition, products containing lead, lead plumbing, and aviation gas.

Recommendations for providers are:

  • DHSS encourages health care providers to assess all children aged < 18 years, particularly those < 72 months, for exposure to lead and offer blood lead testing to those with any risk factors.
  • Health care providers should test all Medicaid-eligible children, regardless of risk factors, at ages 12 and 24 months, or before 72 months if not previously tested. Completion of a risk assessment without a blood lead test does not meet the Medicaid requirement.
  • Elevated blood lead levels must be confirmed with a repeat venous test at a certified laboratory.
  • Laboratories and providers performing blood lead testing are required to report all blood lead levels to the Section of Epidemiology within 28 days; health care providers must report EBLLs within seven days. 

To learn more visit Alaska’s lead surveillance program website. To contact them, email the Environmental Public Health Program or call (907-269-8000).


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