Category Archives: Community

Why the Flu Vaccine?

Shirley Jewell

Why the Flu Vaccine?

By: Shirley A. Jewell, BSN, RN

Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) Immunization Program

(901) 222-9329

People have numerous questions concerning the flu and the need to be vaccinated. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older receive a flu vaccine every year, including pregnant women. According to CDC guidelines, it is recommended that pregnant women get a flu shot during any trimester of their pregnancy to protect themselves and their unborn child. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Below are some important questions and answers about the flu.

What is the flu?

The “flu” is a short name for influenza. It is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. The infection is caused by a virus. In the United States “flu season” can begin as early as October and last as long as May. It is highly recommended that you get vaccinated against the flu by October, if not as soon as possible.

How is the flu spread?

The flu is contagious. It spreads mainly when people sneeze or cough and droplets land in the mouth of people close by. Also you can get the flu if an object such as toys, doorknobs or used tissue has the virus on it and the person touches their eyes, nose or mouth after touching these objects.

A person can spread the flu to others 1 day before he or she is sick and as long as 5 to 7 days after becoming ill. Children and people who are very sick can spread the flu longer than 7 days after getting sick.

Is the flu serious?

The flu can be mild to serious. It can even lead to death. Anyone can become very sick from the flu but it is most dangerous for babies, young children, pregnant women and people 65 years and older. Also the flu can be serious for those with long term health problems such as asthma, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can be different depending on age.

The symptoms may include:

  • fever ( everyone may not have a fever with the flu)
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • cough
  • runny or stuffy nose

There may be vomiting and diarrhea in children

What can I do to protect myself and others from the flu?

The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. It protects not only you, but others from getting the flu.

Others ways to protect against the flu, along with the flu shot includes:

  • Cough or sneeze into the sleeve of your shirt or a tissue. Throw the used tissue away.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay away from people that are sick as much as possible
  • If you have the flu, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, without the use of fever medicine such as Tylenol. Leave your home only for emergencies and to get medical care.

For additional information, contact the SCHD Immunization Program at (901) 222-9329


Everyone Loves HUGS—Have you had YOUR HUG today?


Everyone Loves HUGS

By: Linda Busby,RN

Shelby County Health Department


Everyone Loves HUGS

Have you had your HUG today?

As we know there are many different kinds of hugs ranging from the polite hug to the never-ending rocking side to side embrace hug. And just as there are so many ways to hug there are endless reasons why hugs are wanted and needed. Today I want to share HUGS with you!

What is HUGS?

HUGS is an acronym which stands for Help Us Grow Successfully. HUGS is a home-based care coordination program developed by the Tennessee Department of Health. Home visitation provides a way to help decrease infant mortality. The Shelby County Health Department HUGS program provides assessment of family needs, assistance to seek solutions for these needs, and also includes client centered education.

In an effort to reduce the infant mortality rate one of the specific focus areas for the HUGS program is educating families on the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by providing a safe sleep environment for infants.

Who qualifies for these services?

  • Families living in Memphis and Shelby County
  • Prenatal/postpartum women
  • Children through 5 years of age
  • Parent/guardian of the client referred to the program.
  • Families who have experienced the loss of a child less than 2 years old (due to SIDS, prematurity, etc.) 

How does the HUGS program help a family?

A health care professional is assigned to each family. These services are provided at no cost to the families. The care coordinator encourages a healthy pregnancy to promote positive birth outcomes. Families are assisted in accessing health care and other social and educational services. Attention is placed on enhancing family strengths. Education is provided regarding pregnancy, growth, development, and parenting education. Emphasis is placed on SIDS counseling and ways to decrease the risk of SIDS.

Who can I contact if I am interested in the program or to make a referral to HUGS?

Linda Busby, RN

HUGS Supervisor

Phone: 901-222-9703

Fax:  901-222-7976


Lifting Health through Collaboration

A Step Ahead Foundation

Lifting Health through Collaboration

By: Kellie Spilman, MPH

A Step Ahead Foundation

“In a country as great as this one, a child’s zip code should never be what determines his or her opportunity,”

– Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz

Memphis has been called many things. Home of the blues, birthplace of rock and roll, grind city — all nicknames we’re proud to put on display to any non-Memphian who dares speak ill about our beloved town. Exciting new developments, successful basketball teams, and a growing food culture have led our city to a boom in Memphis pride. We’re happy to embrace that pride — and we should. We have a lot of reasons to be proud.

We can’t let that pride in our culture blind us to an area where we tragically need improvement: our health. Memphis has been called the least healthy city in America — and for good reason. Our city falls within the bottom five American metro areas for indicators in infant mortality, diabetes, obesity, homicide, illegal drug use, heart disease, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV. Close to half of the children in Memphis are living in poverty, and rates of asthma, obesity, teenage pregnancy, and gang involvement for these children are significantly higher than their more fortunate peers.

In order to improve the health of all of our residents, we need to start from day one. Infant mortality is a tragedy no one can ignore. Infant health is connected to educational, health, and economic outcomes later in life. We need to band together to take care of our most vulnerable fellow Memphians — and there are ways we can do this that are proven to make an impact. We need to start by providing women with the tools they need to plan their children: babies born from an unplanned or teenage pregnancy are at higher risk. We need to help families access education about infant nutrition and best practices. We need to make sure parents have a way to access medical care for their families so that they can work with their doctor to determine the best plan to keep their families healthy.

Thankfully we have organizations in Memphis that can help with all of these things – and they deserve our pride just as much as our restaurants and sports teams. So let’s cheer for March of Dimes and the Early Success Coalition, organizations working to improve the health and lives of our babies. Let’s tell all of our friends about A Step Ahead Foundation, which provides free birth control to any woman in Shelby County (and not just any birth control, the most effective, top of the line birth control – IUDs and implants). Let’s celebrate our amazing network of community clinics who are providing care to our most vulnerable citizens. These organizations are something to be proud of, and as we help lift Memphis up, let’s not forget our most valuable assets.

Benefits of Social Support of Breastfeeding

Shenika Holmes

Shine Bright like a BF STAR: Benefits of Social Support of Breastfeeding

By: Shenika Holmes, Public Health Intern (BF STARS)

Shelby County Health Department

Hi, my name is Shenika Holmes, and I am a proud supporter of breastfeeding!

How many children do I have? Zero.

Am I expecting? No.

Yet, I am a young, African-American woman in the child bearing years of 15-35 from a neighborhood in Memphis- Shelby County, Tennessee characterized by low socioeconomic status, high rates of infant mortality and low breastfeeding rates. This snapshot of me is not just to further introduce myself but to shine light and even challenge us, warriors of public health, to dually engage the “soon-to-be mothers” as well as the “could-be mothers.”

This summer, I worked with the Shelby County Health Department, Community Health Bureau, and Maternal Child Health Section in accomplishing start-up operations for the BF S.T.A.R.S (Breastfeeding Sisters That Are Receiving Support) Program. BF STARS aims to reduce disparities in breastfeeding in Shelby County through professional and peer lactation support. My time with the program has allowed me, a “could be mother”, to gain more knowledge about breastfeeding and its importance to a baby and its mother.

Breastfeeding is a natural, nutritionally balanced and cost effective way to feed a baby and also provides greater health benefits for the mom and baby such as:

  • Reducing risk of cold and infections
  • Promoting healthy brain development and cognitive skills
  • Reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and obesity
  • Lowering the risks of respiratory conditions such as Asthma and Allergies
  • Improving Mom’s postpartum weight
  • Providing a positive emotional and mental benefits, to include the decreased likelihood of depression

My biggest take away from my experience is that a greater antidote to the present disparities of breastfeeding could lie within support and support systems reflective of BF S.T.A.R.S. Support aids in dispelling breastfeeding myths, buffers stress and increases the success of the breastfeeding experience when faced with barriers.

A community of healthier babies really starts with healthy, empowered mothers and women.

For more information about breastfeeding, please contact the Shelby County Health Department’s Clinical Services Section at 901-222-9847.

Vision of Health: Aspirational and Achievable

Yvonne Madlock

Yvonne Madlock

Director, Shelby County Health Department

After 20 years in this role, today is my last day of service as the Director of the Shelby County Health Department.

I want to take this opportunity to share several thoughts related to infant mortality reduction and community health improvement.

As a public health practitioner and leader, as a mother and as an African-American woman committed to Shelby County, my adopted home, improving infant mortality in this community has been a major focus and a personal and professional goal throughout my career.

I am extremely proud and grateful for the significant improvements that we, as a community, have made in increasing the likelihood that babies born in Shelby County are born healthy and live to see their first birthdays.

From a place known for having one of the worst rates of infant mortality, Shelby County is now known as a place where change can happen and a vision of health can be achieved. This is possible because of sustained focus and strategic work by a broad cross-section of people, agencies and organizations committed to accomplishing a single common goal.

We have reduced the number (and rate) of babies who die in our county from 183 (rate of 12.8) in 2004 to 127 (rate of 9.2) in 2013. Preliminary data indicates we have sustained that decline in number and rate through 2014. As a community we have demonstrated and seen we can work together to achieve what may have seemed to be impossible.

Yet, we still have much to do. I believe our ongoing work to create a shared vision of health (a vision that includes physical and emotional well-being, prosperity and safe, vibrant and attractive communities for all our residents and visitors) must both become more focused and at the same time must expand to a broader horizon.

We have at least two major challenges:

1. Eliminating the racial disparities that exist in the health of our babies and children.

2. Creating a community where all children are valued and nurtured by adults in all communities.

We must focus now on reducing the threefold disparity in rate of deaths between black and white babies and work to change the fact that the actual number of black babies who die in Shelby County is almost 8 times greater than the number of non-Hispanic white babies in Shelby County. Changing this reality means working just as hard and with as much commitment and focus to change the day to day reality of persons in our community who live in poverty, in sub-standard homes and located in unsafe neighborhoods and whose children are not experiencing success in school.

Just as we have been able to assure that infants are born and stay healthy, it’s important that we work just as hard to protect our babies and assure that they are healthy in mind, body and spirit as they progress through childhood and adolescence into young adulthood.

Supporting families (of all shapes and sizes), strengthening parenting skills, creating positive role models for children, investing in early childhood and strong educational opportunities for all children to prepare them for full and meaningful employment — all of these are key to healthy communities and a bright future for all of us in Shelby County.

Let me thank each of you who has done so much to help Shelby County improve its infant mortality rates. You have demonstrated that vision of health is not only aspirational but achievable.

Lets use the lessons and successes of our infant mortality reduction work to guide and inspire us to secure this future for us all.

BONUS BLOG: Violence as a Public Health Issue

Violence--Monster Under Bed

Violence as a Public Health Issue

Shelby County Health Department Joins Forces to Fight the Real Monster under the Bed

By: Angela P. Moore

Community Health Planner, Shelby County Health Department

Like many children, you may have been afraid of the “monster” under the bed. Your parents would make you look under the bed to find that nothing was there and that would ease your fears so you could fall soundly asleep.

Violence is no imaginary monster but a very real menace to you and your child’s safety and development. It is more than a “police problem” but a public health risk, and those who are perpetrators, victims, and/or witnesses may experience the side-effects from this risk. Juanita White from the Binghampton Development Corporation painted a great picture of how violence affects us physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially in the latest post on the IMRI blog. Because of these effects, we cannot shy away from this issue but collectively address it.

In 2013, the Shelby County Health Department began a community-driven process called Mobilizing Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) developed by the National Association of County and City Health Officials and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Within this process, the health department and its community partners compiled community health information and collected input from ~2000 community residents. As a result, one key health issue for the county that community residents and organizations identified was Violence as a Public Health Issue. Below are a few facts from the effort:

  •  Community residents ranked violence as the 5th most important health issue out of 18 topics.
  •   67% of community residents felt that both crime and violence were “major problems” in their community.
  •  58% of community residents felt that their community was an unsafe place to live.
  • The violent crime was higher in Shelby County than Tennessee and the 2013 national standard.
  •  Domestic Violence was higher in Shelby County than in Tennessee.

After the selection of Violence as a Public Health Issue as a priority for the county, community partners began meeting in January 2015 to align existing work and build upon partnerships and initiatives centered around Youth Violence and Youth Safety. The result of this partnership will be published within the Shelby County Community Health Improvement Plan to be released in the coming months.

To supplement the great work that community partners are doing across the county, Shelby County Health Department also receives Training and Technical Assistance from American Institutes and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health department is one of only 12 sites participating in this initiative across the nation to enhance existing Youth Violence Prevention coalitions and develop an even more comprehensive community-involved plan.

Addressing violence prevention is no easy task; however, as we as a community continue to increase collaboration, communication, and coordination, we will face the real monster under the bed so your child rests easy.

For more information on the Community Health Improvement Plan and next steps in Shelby County Health Department Youth Violence Training and Technical Assistance Initiative, please contact Angela Moore at

Mama, I Don’t Feel Good


“Mama, I Don’t Feel Good”

By: Juanita White

Community Building Manager, Binghampton Development Corporation

I work in Binghampton. It is in the heart of the city. Close to the zoo. The Children’s Museum is nearby. The Green Line, a walking and biking trail, runs right through it. Cars drive down Tillman, the heart of Binghampton, as people come into the city from the suburbs or as they leave the city for them. It is an interesting place. Until the bullets ring out.

On pretty days when the sun is shining and children play in the park somebody might fire a gun at someone else. Did you know that? And people run. People lock their doors. Others run to look. Those of us who work here look out of the window or go to the door to peer out.

Or it might disturb your sleep at night. It happens when children are sitting in their classrooms, trying to learn. Police come. Sometimes. Sometimes not. You see, this happens here. Not a whole lot, but enough that people are used to it. “They are always shooting,” is what the people say. Night and day.

But somewhere in Binghampton a child feels bad after this happens. Whether it is Binghampton, or South Memphis, or Frayser or Bartlett or Collierville-a child gets sick when there is violence. Know how I know this?

When you are stressed or upset does your head ache? When you are scared do you get sick to your stomach? Does the sight of a dead animal in the street make you want to throw up? Imagine experiencing these things in your neighborhood a lot-enough that it makes you sick. Imagine a child in a home, or on a street or in a neighborhood where this happens. Imagine that child trying to sleep, to concentrate in school, to play peacefully with friends.

Studies show that children exposed to violence-in the home or in the neighborhood- have many problems. According to one study in Wisconsin preschool-aged children who witness intimate partner violence (violence between couples) may develop a range of problems, including headaches and abdominal pain. They also can display behaviors such as bed-wetting, thumb sucking, and sleep disturbances.

When the violence happens in the neighborhood children become depressed. They are scared. They worry. They act out in school because they are fearful. A child may begin to think that violence at home and in the community means that the world is unsafe and that he or she is unworthy of protection. Community violence is also linked to anxiety and depression.

After a recent murder in Binghampton a teenager told me about what he saw. He and his friends were coming from the movies and saw the police cars so they went to the scene to see what happened. “I saw the dude and his heart was hanging out. I saw his guts.” He shook his head and made a face, a not so pleasant face. I wonder if he wanted to vomit when he saw that. You think he sees that image over and over? You bet.

Is this what we want for our children?

October is Domestic Violence Month. We will host a conference Friday, October 2, 2015 to hear more about domestic violence and its effects on children. Maybe we can work together to do something about this. Join us. Email for more information.