The director of Iowa’s Department of Public Health is leaving for China today (Friday). Doctor Mary Mincer Hansen says a delegation of Iowans who visited China eight months ago discovered the Chinese were very interested in public health issues. “When they came back and talked to me then I said this would be a wonderful opportunity to go over there and talk to the people in China about some of the great programs we have here in Iowa related to public health,” Hansen says. Hansen and her staff have put together a brochure and a power-point presentation and she’ll speak to officials from two Chinese provinces. “I hope, then, to talk to them about our great programs, our experts here and see if they would be interested in having us come over there as consultants regarding their major issues,” Hansen says. Asian bird flu is the major heal concern in the region Hansen will be visiting. Hansen says the Chinese are trying to ensure that strain of the flu doesn’t become “pandemic.” The world hasn’t seen a pandemic since the 1960s, and Hansen says that may be because of better public health measures. Hansen says good exercise and good nutrition can boost your immune system and make you better able to fight off the flu. The concern with Asian bird flu, though, is that it is being transmitted from birds to humans. Hansen says luckily, Asian bird flu isn’t easily being passed from human to human yet. “But that is why we’re watching very closely. When that happens, we really need to be very vigilant,” she says. Hansen says professionally, it’s “very exciting” to be able to see another country’s public health system up close and to be able to share what Iowa is doing. There are over four-hundred experts on staff in the Iowa Department of Public Health, and Hansen says they oversee about 175 different public health programs ranging from the licensing of substance abuse programs and monitoring chickens to determine when mosquitoes carrying West Nile are in the state. Hansen leaves for Chicago this morning, where she’ll board a 15-hour-flight to China. She’ll meet up with Governor Vilsack and a trade delegation visiting South Korea and China, then return in about a week.
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