Alabama Department of Public Health

The Alabama Department of Public Health has announced the state's teen birth rate has reached a historic low.

Officials say the teen birth rate in 2011 fell to a low of 20.9 per 1,000 women ages 10 to 19. State health officials say the figure translates to about 6,700 births to teen mothers.

State health officials say babies born to teenage mothers account for about 11.3 percent of all births in the state. The 2011 rate is a 58 percent decline from the state's peak in teen births in 1973, and a 32 percent decrease since 2000.

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State Health Officer Don Williamson says Alabama's flu season started earlier than a year ago and there are more cases. But he said it's not out of line with some of the busiest years during the last decade.

A program designed to help Alabamians lose weight is kicking off its seventh year.

The state Department of Public Health is encouraging four-member teams to start forming for Scale Back Alabama. The teams will weigh in the week of Jan. 19-25 and weigh out the week of April 6-12. The winners will be announced April 26.

There is no charge to enter. Teams where each member sheds at least 10 pounds are eligible for a random drawing where the first prize is $4,000, the second prize $2,000 and the third prize $1,000.

Alabama's public school students are taking part in a new physical fitness assessment this year, replacing a series of tests that had not been updated since their parents were in school.

Citing a need to refocus on the fitness of the state's children, the new Alabama Physical Fitness Assessment rolled out this fall in public schools. The tests are required for all students in grades 2 through 12 and replace the old President's Challenge Fitness Test, which was adopted in 1984.

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Alabama's top health officer says state Medicaid is facing a major funding shortfall.

The director of the Alabama Department of Public Health, Dr. Don Williamson, says federal changes will add $30 million to the state's Medicaid funding needs for 2014.

The Anniston Star (http://bit.ly/TdPa3M ) reports that state officials didn't know about the additional cost when voters approved using $437 million from a state fund to plug the Medicaid budget in September.

The public now has access to some of the information reported by Alabama hospitals about healthcare-associated infections.

The Legislature passed a law in 2009 requiring hospitals to report infection information to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Now, the department has started putting that information online at: http://www.adph.org/hai

The online reporting is beginning with a few types of infections, including surgical site infections of the colon and abdomen and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

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Alabama health officials have contacted four of the six additional Alabamians who received injections of steroid medicine from a specialty pharmacy linked to a meningitis outbreak. The state's deputy director of medical affairs, Dr. Tom Miller, said Wednesday that two are fine. Two are showing symptoms and will be seen by their physician to see if the symptoms are ordinary or something more serious. The Department of Public Health is trying to reach the other two patients. The six live in Alabama, but were treated in Florida.

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