National Public Health Week: Listening and Working Together for Healthier and Longer Lives

Ed. note: This blog was originally published on https://www.hhs.gov/blog/2018/04/02/national-public-health-week-listening-and-working-together.html

Every American deserves to live a long, healthy life, but we are falling short of that goal.  Life expectancy in the U.S. has declined for the second year in a row.  This decline marks the first time in half a century that American longevity has declined. This is a disturbing problem that faces us as we observe National Public Health Week, April 2-April 8. 

Each year, the National Public Health Week, organized by the American Public Health Association, is a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation's health. This week is an opportunity to raise awareness about public health and prevention.

My motto of “Better Health through Better Partnerships” is particularly well aligned with the theme for this year’s National Public Health Week—“Changing Our Future Together.” When we are addressing issues that are important to improving our nation’s health, we cannot operate in silos. Whether we are looking to improve our nation’s health outcomes, improve our national security, or enhance a community’s resilience, we need partnerships and collaboration. We can only change our future together.

Read more ...

April is National Stress Awareness Month

Learn 5 ways to de-stress and help your heart

  1. Stay positive. Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol.

  2. Meditate. This practice of inward-focused thought and deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Meditation’s close relatives, yoga and prayer, can also relax the mind and body.

  3. Exercise. Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk or play tennis, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only melts away stress, it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintains a healthy weight.

  4. Unplug. It’s impossible to escape stress when it follows you everywhere. Cut the cord. Avoid emails and TV news. Take time each day — even if it’s for just 10 or 15 minutes — to escape from the world.

  5. Find ways to take the edge off your stress. Simple things, like a warm bath, listening to music, or spending time on a favorite hobby, can give you a much-needed break from the stressors in your life.

Read more about national stress awareness month.

National Nutrition Month® 2018

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. 

"Go Further with Food"is the theme for 2018, and its importance is timely for many reasons. Whether it's starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast or fueling before an athletic event, the foods you choose can make a real difference. Preparing your foods to go further, by planning meals and snacks in advance can also help to reduce food loss and waste. This year's theme for National Nutrition Month® encourages us to achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer, but it also urges us to find ways to cut back on food waste. Learning how to manage food resources at home will help you "Go Further with Food", while saving both nutrients and money.

Be sure to revisit the Academy's National Nutrition Month® website, for tips on exercise, freezing, meals on a budget, as well as many more great ideas.

Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report

N.C. Flu-Associated Deaths*

Flu Weekly Report

North Carolina Influenza data:


New Flu Deaths 02/25/18-03/03/18


Total Flu Deaths This Season (starting 10/1/17)

*Influenza-associated Deaths –This number is based on reports submitted by providers to the North Carolina Division of Public Health. An influenza-associated death is defined for surveillance purposes as a death (adult or pediatric) resulting from a clinically compatible illness that was confirmed to be influenza by an appropriate laboratory or rapid diagnostic test with no period of complete recovery between the illness and death. Deaths that occurred on or after 10/1/2017 will be reflected in this report for the 2017-2018 season.


To avoid catching the flu, get vaccinated each year and practice good hand hygiene. To avoid giving the flu to others, stay home when you are sick, cough or sneeze into tissues and discard them properly, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an approved hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.

Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and psychotherapy.

Don't brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the "winter blues" or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.


In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

Spring and summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

Seasonal changes in bipolar disorder

In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), and fall and winter can be a time of depression.

When to see a doctor

It's normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can't get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.



The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body's internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body's level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Risk factors

Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men. And SAD occurs more frequently in younger adults than in older adults.

Factors that may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Family history. People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.
  • Having major depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
  • Living far from the equator. SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.


Take signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to problems if it's not treated. These can include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • School or work problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Other mental health disorders such as anxiety or eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if SAD is diagnosed and treated before symptoms get bad.


Special Hours of Operation for CommWell Health Clinics

CommWell Health locations will be open the following dates and times to make up for inclement weather closings and delays.


2/23/18        0800 - 5:00            McGee’s Medical 
2/23/18        0800 - 4:00            McGee’s Dental 
2/23/18        0800 - 5:00            NG Dental 
2/23/18        0800 - 5:00            OIB 
2/23/18        0800 - 5:00            Four Oaks 

2/24/18        0800 - 5:00            NG Medical
2/24/18        0800 - 5:00            Salemburg Medical
2/24/18        0800 - 5:00            Shallotte 
2/24/18        0800 - 5:00            Bolivia 
2/24/18        0800 - 5:00            NG Dental 
2/24/18        0800 - 5:00            Penderlea Dental


2/26/18        0800 - 5:00            Harrells 


3/02/18     0800 - 5:00                Smithfield 
3/02/18     0800 - 5:00                NG Dental 
3/2/18        0800 - 3:00               Penderlea
3/2/18       0800 - 1:00                Tar Heel


3/3/18        0800 - 1:00                Tarheel


3/07/18      0800 - 5:00                  Tarheel 


3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   Tarheel 
3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   Smithfield 
3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   McGee’s Medical 
3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   McGee’s Dental 
3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   Salemburg Dental 
3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   Dublin Dental 
3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   OIB 
3/9/18        0800 - 5:00                   Four Oaks 
3/10/18     0800 - 5:00                    NG Medical
3/10/18     0800 - 5:00                    Salemburg Medical
3/10/18     0800 - 5:00                    Harrells 
3/10/18     0800 - 5:00                    Shallotte 
3/10/18     0800 - 5:00                    Bolivia 
3/10/18     0800 - 5:00                    NG Dental 


3/16/18     0800 - 5:00                     Smithfield 
3/16/18     0800 - 5:00                     NG Dental
3/16/16     0800 - 5:00                     Salemburg Dental 
3/16/18     0800 - 5:00                     Penderlea Dental


3/17/18     0800 - 1:00                      Tarheel Bangi


3/21/18     0800 - 5:00                      Tarheel 

3/23/18     0800 - 5:00                      Smithfield (Frieda)
3/23/18     0800 - 5:00                      Tarheel
3/23/18     0800 - 5:00                      NG Dental (Sherrill)
3/23/18     0800 - 5:00                      Dublin Dental (Baez)




2/9/2018 Update

After a long deliberation today between the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Budget Resolution has been signed by President Trump approved by Congress and signed by President Trump!


The budget resolution included a two-year funding extension for Community Health Centers! This means Community Health Centers are fully funded through 2019.


  Congratulations to each one of you, CommWell Health Eagle Advocates – colleagues, Board members, partners, friends and family - who called, emailed, posted on Social Media, peacefully demonstrated and brought awareness to the community! The call to advocacy was made, and you responded! Your hard work and dedication carried us all to the finish line and presented North Carolina as one of the top advocacy states in the nation with most calls and messages to Congress! Read More




All People Matter

Save Your Health Center!

Call Congress and Sign Our Petitions TODAY!


The Situation:

  • Due to Congressional inaction, every Health Center in America now faces a major funding cliff.  
  • The Community Health Centers Fund expired on October 1, 2017.
  • This fund accounts for 70% of all federal grant funding for Health Centers.  
  • These cuts will go into effect after April 30, 2018 if Congress does not act.
  • Over 27 million patients will be impacted and many will lose access to quality, affordable care.

If Congress does not act before April 30, 2018…

National Impact

  • Closure of some 2,800 Health Center locations
  • Elimination of more than 50,000 jobs
  • A loss of access to care for some 9 million patients.  
  • In North Carolina alone, over 280,000 patients will lose access to care.

For CommWell Health (CWH)

  • CWH operates 16 primary medical, dental and behavioral health practice locations in southeastern North Carolina.
  • CWH serves over 24,400 patients annually.
  • CWH employs 262 colleagues across Bladen, Brunswick, Johnston, Pender, Sampson, and Wayne counties.  
  • With a budget of over $22.5 million, CommWell Health is a significant contributor to local economies and infrastructure.  
  • A 70% reduction in the CommWell Health budget would return us to pre-2003 funding levels, at a time when the organization operated three practice locations and employed less than 70 FTEs.  
  • CommWell Health is one of over 1,400 examples of Community Health Centers nationwide.  There is no question this funding cut will impact local economies, patients and families!

What are we asking?  Call Congress and sign our petitions NOW!

We are asking that Congress act NOW to extend the Health Centers Fund on a long-term basis with at least current funding levels in place. Having certainty NOW is very important to our ability to plan, to recruit, and to continue offering care to our communities without disruption.

To demonstrate your support for a long-term fix to the CHC cliff, we are asking all members of the community to contact Congress in support of Community Health Centers nationwide.

1. Call Congress

  • Dial 1-866-456-3949 (the National Association of Community Health Center’s Advocacy Hotline) and listen to the message prompt and enter your HOME zip code to be connected to your Members of Congress. If you’ve already called and heard the message you may enter your zip code as soon as the message begins to skip ahead to Congressional selection. The system will give you options for which Member of Congress to connect with – you may press option 1, 2 or 3, each corresponding to a different Member.
  • Use the following script to share with your congressional representatives:


Hello my name is  . We are asking members of Congress to act now and reauthorize funding for Community Health Centers before April 30, 2018.  If Congress does not act before then, Community Health Centers will face a 70% funding reduction.  Millions of infants, children, youth and adults will lose access to low cost, quality care.  Please act now and reauthorize Community Health Center funding!

  • Remember you can enter your zip code as soon as you hear the recording to choose your Member of Congress.
  • You can call every day!

2. Click these two links below and sign our petitions on Change.org and on the White House Website.  Then share on social media!




patentNCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home™ standards emphasize enhanced care through
patient-clinician partnership

Newton Grove/Spivey’s Corner, NC—The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) announced that CommWell Health of Newton Grove/Spivey’s Corner has received NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Recognition for using evidence-based, patient-centered processes that focus on highly coordinated care and long‐term, participative relationships.

The NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home is a model of primary care that combines teamwork and information technology to improve care, improve patients’ experience of care and reduce costs. Medical homes foster ongoing partnerships between patients and their personal clinicians. Each patient’s care is overseen by clinician-led care teams that coordinate treatment across the Community Health Care System. Research shows that medical homes can lead to higher quality and lower costs, and can improve patient and provider reported experiences of care.

“NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition raises the bar in defining high-quality care by emphasizing access, health information technology and coordinated care focused on patients,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “Recognition shows that CommWell Health has the tools, systems and resources to provide its patients with the right care, at the right time.”  Pam Tripp, CEO of CommWell Health stated “It is the values of CommWell Health lived out by our Eagle Colleagues and their teamwork, and dedication that has lifted all of our practices to this level of Eagle Quality for our patients”.

To earn recognition, which is valid for three years, CommWell Health demonstrated the ability to meet the program’s key elements, embodying characteristics of the medical home.  Karen Smith, Senior Director of Quality and Performance Improvement announced that CommWell Health was recognized at CommWell Health of Smithfield, Shallotte, Newton Grove/Spivey’s Corner, Salemburg, McGee’s Crossroads, Tar Heel, Harrells, Penderlea, and Bolivia.   NCQA standards aligned with the joint principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home established with the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Osteopathic Association. To find CommWell Health clinicians and their practices with NCQA PCMH Recognition, visit http://recognition.ncqa.org.  To learn more about NCQA visit NCQA.org.

CommWell Health is a not-for-profit community health center with 15 private practice locations in Bladen, Brunswick, Johnston, Pender, Sampson and Wayne County. CommWell Health offers primary medical, dental, behavioral health services, on-site pharmacy, lab, x-ray and a variety of health coaching, education services and specialty services.  Your Community, Your Wellness, Your Health, Because All People Matter.  Visit www.commwellhealth.org or call 1-877-WELL-ALL (1-877-935-5255) for more information about CommWell Health and the services offered and to make your appointment today!

A Cause With “National Significance” – HRSA

hrsaAn article from HRSA (Health Resources & Services Administration)

Commwell Health of Dunn, N.C. serves some 25,000 patients in six counties south of Raleigh. It has been providing HIV screening since 1990 and became a Ryan White grantee in 1998 -- making it one of the oldest community-based primary HIV care practices in the state. The SPNS Team, from left: Chief Behavioral Health Officer Janet Stroughton, with Michaella Kosia, Lisa McKeithan, Bahby Banks, Mirna Allende, Shalonda Pellam and Stephanie Atkinson." “A lot of our patients were living in cars. They were couch-surfing. They literally had no place to live.

Lisa McKeithan of Commwell Health in Dunn, N.C., was momentarily overwhelmed describing her team’s work with itinerant patients. The HRSA-funded rural health center was one of the nine grantees in the SPNS homelessness initiative.

Homeless adults living with HIV — and further stressed with mental illness or substance abuse — have long been much harder to keep in care than the broader HIV-positive population of some 1.1 million Americans, half of whom receive health services through HRSA-funded Ryan White clinics nationwide. But their success rate markedly increases when they are adequately housed, results from a HRSA HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB) outreach project show.

Moreover, by “taking the clinic where they are” — in converted buses, if necessary, as a Yale University team showed — people without a home can get the regular treatment they need to keep their HIV and other disorders in check, nine grantees involved in the project report.

In one of the most hopeful advances in years, HIV viral suppression rates have increased from 69 to 83 percent among patients “who walk through the door to get health care at least once in a year,” said Dr. Laura Cheever. Associate Administrator of the HIV/AIDS Bureau and a practicing Johns Hopkins clinician, she addressed researchers on June 27 at HRSA headquarters.

Special Projects of National Significance are funded through HRSA's Ryan White program and provide care to some 8,700 patients at high risk of dropping out of treatment. The program also seeks to pioneer new methods -- including the use of social media -- to increase service integration and expand the population of patients who are virally suppressed. From left, Adan Cajina, SPNS Supervisory Health Scientist; HAB Associate Administrator Dr. Laura Cheever; and long-time SPNS Health Scientist Jessica Xavier spoke with grantees at a conference on homeless patients on June 27. A second meeting the next day focused on ways to better serve transgender women of color.">

But people experiencing homelessness have rates of new infection as high as 16 times that of the general population.

5-year SPNS project overseen by Boston University was to find ways to reduce the infection rate and barriers to care among more than 1,300 homeless patients with HIV and co-occurring disorders in eight major American cities, from New Haven and Jacksonville to Portland, Ore. and San Diego, and in six largely rural counties outside Raleigh, N.C.

In so doing, they broke new ground.

Employing networks of street-level navigators, linked to community partners — from health care providers to landlords — researchers sought out chronically homeless, hard-to-find, marginalized people, said Serena Rajabiun of Boston University, in a kind of  “mobile medical home.”

Communicating in e-mail “huddles,” by cell phones, text-messaging and landlines, teams created open access clinics that linked primary and behavioral health care, grantee officials said — including big blue buses roving the streets of New Haven.

They moved beyond the clinic walls,” Rajabiun said, with a case manager heading each team.

The people they found — on the streets of Dallas and Houston; Pasadena and San Francisco — were chronically disadvantaged: 62 percent were homeless; 33 percent hadn’t had medical care in six months or more; about a third were “unstably housed,” at least a dozen were fleeing domestic violence and more than four in 10 had experienced sexual assault or physical injury.

Among the most common problems: 75 percent had a mental health condition, in addition to HIV.

“We’re seeing some increase in retention in care and viral suppression rates, even among people who are still experiencing homelessness,” Rajabiun reported.  “We are seeing a reduction in unmet need in terms of substance use, mental health and housing.”

In particular, a study of more than 900 patients found them healthier and more likely to have a home one year after enrolling in the project.

The volume of homeless patients declined from 84 percent at the start of the project to 36 percent within 18 months.  As it did, greater numbers received regular health care, she said.

Most importantly, rates of viral suppression increased from 51 to 82 percent in one year.

We met them where they were,” said Maurice Evans, a navigator in Portland with the Multnomah County, Oregon Health Department HIV Health Services Center. “We treated them as human beings. We were able to form bonds and relationships with them — and they trusted us because we were leading them to where they wanted to go.”

Said Dr. Cheever: “You found the other people that we are desperately interested in … We have huge gaps in our knowledge about these people and how to effectively reach them,” which is the key to achieving further reductions in new infections and the spread of the disease.


Read the SPNS Fact Sheet (PDF – 356 KB) from HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau.

Learn more about CommWell Health.

See a directory of SPNS initiatives underway by the University of San Francisco Center of Excellence for Transgender Health and its eight partner grantees.

Last Reviewed: July 2017

CommWell Health

1-877-935-5255 | Contact Us

6114 U.S. Hwy 301 S, Four Oaks, NC 27524

This link leads to the machine-readable files that are made available in response to the federal Transparency in Coverage Rule and includes negotiated service rates and out-of-network allowed amounts between health plans and healthcare providers. The machine-readable files are formatted to allow researchers, regulators, and application developers to more easily access and analyze data.

Joint Commission’s Gold Seal Certification NCQA HRSA FTCA DEEMED

CommWell Health Has Earned the Joint
Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and Primary
Care Medical Home Certification
(Certified Patient-Centered Medical Home)