Category Archives: Alcohol
New Report on US Cancer Care Finds Significant Cost and Quality Challenges
A new report from the American Association of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) finds that several factors including an aging population and poor lifestyle habits in the United States have resulted in an increase in annual cancer cases at the same time many smaller oncology practices are closing because of financial pressures. "We're facing a collection of challenges, each one of which could keep cancer treatment advances out of reach for some individuals," said ASCO President Clifford A. Hudis, MD.
ASCO’s recommendations include:
- Support for novel cancer care delivery efforts.
- Development of new healthcare delivery and payment models to help ensure the viability of small community practices while encouraging high-quality care.
- Support for quality initiatives that will speed up dissemination of cancer treatment breakthroughs and changes.
Read more on cancer.
Spring Break Highlights Dangers of Binge Drinking
The average male Spring Breaker reports drinking 18 alcoholic drinks per day during the week-long festivity, while the average female reports up to 10 drinks, according to the American College of Health. Five or more drinks within two hours qualify as “binge drinking” for men and four or more qualifies for women. Each year 1,825 college students ages 18-24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, with alcohol poisoning among the biggest causes. Signs of alcohol poisoning include irregular breathing, vomiting, confusion and unconsciousness, and should be met with an immediate trip to the emergency room.
Among the other unintentional injuries:
- Assault — More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
- Sexual Abuse — More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- Injury — 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.
Read more on alcohol.
Mass Analysis Confirms Link Between Bullying, Suicidal Thoughts
A new review of 43 previous studies seems to confirm the link between bullying and an increase in suicidal thoughts, with cyber bullying linked the most strongly. The study appears in JAMA Pediatrics and included data on approximately 350,000 youths. Approximately half of students in grades 4-12 report being bullied within the previous month, with one-third saying they were bullies themselves. While the new analysis does not demonstrate causation, it does indicate a more complex connection, perhaps even showing that kids with suicidal thoughts in the first place are more likely to be bullied. Read more on violence.
Minimum Alcohol Prices Could Help Low-income, High-risk Drinkers
Setting a minimum price for alcohol would have a positive impact on low-income, high-risk drinkers, but little effect on low-income, moderate drinkers, according to a new study in The Lancet. British researchers at the University of Sheffield utilized a computer model to assess the impact of a 73 cents per unit of alcohol minimum on different demographics, finding it would have the greatest positive impact—reducing the amount of alcohol consumption—on the 5 percent of the population defined as high-risk drinkers. "Our study finds no evidence to support the concerns highlighted by government and the alcohol industry that minimum unit pricing would penalize responsible drinkers on low incomes,” said study co-author Petra Meier, director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group. “Instead, minimum unit pricing is a policy that is targeted at those who consume large quantities of cheap alcohol. By significantly lowering rates of ill health and premature deaths in this group, it is likely to contribute to the reduction of health inequalities." Read more on alcohol.
Smoking Linked to Most Common Type of Breast Cancer
Adding yet another health risk to the use of tobacco, smoking is linked to an increased risk for the most common type of breast cancer, according to a new study in the journal Cancer. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle conducted a population-based study of 778 patients, ages 20-44, with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer (the most common type) and 182 patients with triple-negative breast cancer; there were 938 cancer-free controls. They found that women who were current or recent smokers and had been smoking a pack a day for at least 10 years had a 60 percent increased risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. "The health hazards associated with smoking are numerous and well known. This study adds to our knowledge in suggesting that with respect to breast cancer, smoking may increase the risk of the most common molecular subtype of breast cancer but not influence risk of one of the rarer, more aggressive subtypes," said Christopher Li, MD, PhD. Read more on cancer.
Low Testosterone Drugs Can Double Heart Attack Risk in Some Men
Ads asking men about their “low T”—or low testosterone levels—have become so common of late that in 2013 sales of the testosterone gel Androgel exceeded those of Viagra. However, a recent study indicates that men under the age of 65 with a history of heart disease see their heart attack risk double shortly after beginning testosterone therapy. The joint study from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, the National Institutes of Health and Consolidated Research Inc. appears in the journal PLOS ONE. Researchers decided to perform this larger study after three smaller studies raised concerns about the connection. "We decided to investigate cardiovascular risks of this therapy in a large health care database since these previous studies were modest in size and only focused on men 65 and older," said the study's senior author, Sander Greenland, MD, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and a professor of statistics in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. "Our study allowed us to examine cardiovascular risk in men under the age of 65 and to replicate the findings in men over 65." Read more on heart health.
USDA: Americans Are Eating Healthier
A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that American diets improved between 2005 and 2010. The report, which relied on responses to the National Health Examination and Nutrition Survey, found that American adults are making better use of available nutrition information; consuming fewer calories coming from fat and saturated fat; consuming less cholesterol; and eating more fiber. Daily calorie intake declined by 78 calories per day between 2005 and 2010. The report also found declines in calories from total fat (3.3 percent), saturated fat (5.9 percent), and intake of cholesterol (7.9 percent). Overall fiber intake increased by 1.2 grams per day (7.5 percent). Read more on nutrition.
ACEP Emergency Care Report Card Gives Public Health a ‘C’
Public health and injury prevention received a “C” grade in the new "America's Emergency Care Environment: A State-by-State Report Card." The nation overall received a “D” in the American College of Emergency Physicians report, which looks at the conditions and policies under which emergency care is being delivered, not the quality of the care. Public health and prevention was one of five categories of 136 total measures used to grade the quality of emergency care, along with access to emergency care; quality and patient safety; medical liability and environment; and disaster preparedness. Read more on access to health care.
Mental Health Problems in Middle Aged and Older Adults May be Underreported
A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in JAMA Psychiatry finds than the number of people in middle and old age with mental health disorders may be higher than previously thought. The study was based on a survey of just over 1,000 adults who were part of a long-term longitudinal study. The participants were asked questions about mental health disorders and then were also given an assessment for the disorders by health professionals. The survey found that while the responders underreported mental health issues, they were fairly accurate when reporting physical health problems. Read more on mental health.
New Interventions Needed to Reduce Underage Drinking
Strategies recommended by the Surgeon General to reduce underage drinking have shown promise when put into practice, according to scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The approaches include nighttime restrictions on young drivers and strict license suspension policies; partnerships between college campuses and the community; and routine screening by doctors to identify and counsel underage drinkers. However, Ralph Hingson, SCD, director of NIAAA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research says that “while progress has been made in addressing underage drinking, the consequences still remain unacceptably high. We must continue research to develop new interventions and implement existing strategies that have been shown to be effective.” According to Hingson, new research areas could include more studies of the effects of alcohol on the developing brain, legal penalties for providing alcohol to minors and parent-family alcohol interventions. Preliminary NIAAA research also shows that interventions aimed at strengthening family relationships in the middle-school years can have a lasting effect on students’ drinking behavior. Underage drinking is linked to 5,000 injury deaths per year, poor academic performance, potential damage to the developing brain, and risky sexual behavior. Read more on alcohol.
HHS: Guides, Tools to Improve Safe Use of EHRs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a new set of guides and interactive tools to assist health care providers in more safely using and managing electronic health information technology products, such as electronic health records (EHRs). The resources—which include checklists, practice worksheets and recommended practices to assess and optimize the safe use of EHRs—are available at HealthIT.gov. Each guide is available as an interactive online tool or a downloadable PDF. The new tools are part of HHS’s plan to implement its Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan, released last July. Read more on technology.
Traumatic Brain Injury Linked to Higher Risk of Early Death
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is linked to a higher risk of premature death, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, analyzed the records of all patients born in 1954 or later in Sweden who were diagnosed with TBI from 1969 to 2009, finding an increased risk of dying among patients who survived six months after TBI compared to those without TBI, with the risk remaining for years afterward. In particular, the study found an increased risk of death from external causes such as suicide, injury and assault, also was higher. “Current clinical guidelines may need revision to reduce mortality risks beyond the first few months after injury and address high rates of psychiatric comorbidity and substance abuse,” wrote the study authors. Read more on mental health.
Heavy Drinking During Middle Age Can Cause Earlier Memory Loss in Men
Heavy drinking during middle age can bring on earlier deterioration of memory, attention and reasoning skills in men, according to a new study in the journal Neurology. Researchers studied data on 5,000 men and 2,000 women whose alcohol consumption was assessed three times over a 10-year period before also taking three tests of memory, attention and reasoning, with the first test happening at the average age of 56. They found that men who drank at least 2.5 servings of alcohol a day experienced mental declines between 1.5 and 6 years earlier than the other participants. "Heavy alcohol consumption is known to be detrimental for health, so the results were not surprising...they just add that [it's] also detrimental for the brain and the effects can be observed as [early] as 55 years old," said study author Severine Sabia, a research associate in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London. Read more on alcohol.
The January 2014 VitalSigns report, a monthly report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on leading health indicators, looks at the failure of too many health care professionals to counsel patients on the risks of consuming too much alcohol and binge drinking. According to a recent survey cited in the new report, only one in six adults reports counseling by a health care professional during routine visits, and that number drops to one in four for binge drinkers, despite the fact that studies show that counseling could save lives and reduce health care costs.
Research by the CDC finds that having physicians ask patients about alcohol consumption and brief counseling could reduce the amount of alcohol consumed on an occasion by 25 percent. At least 38 million adults drink too much and most are not alcoholics, according to the CDC. Drinking too much includes binge drinking, high weekly use, and any alcohol use by pregnant women or those under age 21. And it causes about 88,000 deaths in the United States each year, costing the economy about $224 billion.
Significantly, alcohol screening and brief alcohol counseling are now covered by many health insurance plans without a copay as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
A review of studies by CDC researchers found that brief (6-15 minutes) intervention sessions were effective in significantly reducing weekly alcohol consumption. A patient survey conducted following brief counseling sessions found that patients reported:
- 3.6 fewer drinks per week for adults
- Binge level drinking was reported by 12 percent fewer participants
- Increased adherence to recommended drinking limits was achieved by 11 percent more participants.
“Drinking too much alcohol has many more health risks than most people realize,” says CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Alcohol screening and brief counseling can help people set realistic goals for themselves and achieve those goals. Health care workers can provide this service to more patients and involve communities to help people avoid dangerous levels of drinking.”
In a briefing for reporters today, Frieden said that for every one alcoholic in the United States there are about six people who drink too much, and many don’t realize that their drinking is excessive.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults who drink only do so in moderation, which is defined as up to one drink a day for women and two for men.
The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse recommends that health professionals discuss alcohol use with all patients and has a screening tool to help determine how much patients drink, assess problems associated with drinking and refer patients for specialized treatment if needed.
- Read a recent NewPublicHealth interview with Lori Butterfield, who produced the recent documentary, Lipstick and Liquor, about hidden drinking by too many women.
- The Guide to Community Preventive Services provides evidence-based strategies for helping to reduce alcohol consumption among individuals and in communities.
Study: Strong State Laws Can Help Curb Binge Drinking
Strong state laws can help curb binge drinking, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Binge drinking, defined as more than four or five alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period, is a factor in about half of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths each year. Researchers analyzed and graded 29 alcohol control policies across the United States, finding that those with the better policies were one-fourth as likely as those with poorest scores to have binge drinking rates in the top 25 percent of states. They also found that rates were 33 percent higher in states in the bottom quarter of grades than those in the top quarter. "Unfortunately, most states have not taken advantage of these policies to help drinkers consume responsibly, and to protect innocent citizens from the devastating secondhand effects and economic costs from excessive drinking," said study senior author Tim Naimi, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University Schools of Medicine and attending physician at Boston Medical Center. "The bottom line is that this study adds an important dimension to a large body of research demonstrating that alcohol policies matter—and matter a great deal—for reducing and preventing the fundamental building block of alcohol-related problems." Laws and policies that can help prevent binge drinking include limiting hours of sale, increasing alcohol taxes and holding those who sell alcohol legally responsible for harm inflicted by consumers who recently consumed alcohol, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on alcohol.
VP to Announce $100M to Improve Access to Mental Health Services
Vice President Joe Biden will today announce $100 million to improve access to mental health services across the country. The plan comes a year after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and Biden will make the announcement at a meeting of the families of the victims of the tragedy and mental health advocates. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide the funding. "HHS will soon issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction," said a White House official, according to Reuters. "Additionally, USDA has set a goal of financing $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years." Read more on mental health.
Kids Who Watch Violent Movies Also Exposed to Other Risky Behaviors
Exposing kids to violent movies can also expose them to other examples of potentially harmful behavior, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. "Parents should be aware that youth who watch PG-13 movies will be exposed to characters whose violence is linked to other more common behaviors, such as alcohol and sex, and that they should consider whether they want their children exposed to that influence," said study lead author Amy Bleakley, a policy research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center. The study analyzed nearly 400 top-grossing movies released from 1985 to 2010, finding that 90 percent included at least one act of violence that involved a main character, and that a main character used tobacco, consumed alcohol or engaged in sexual behavior in 77 percent of the films. Read more on violence.
Study: Children, Teens Exposed to Far Too Many Alcohol Ads on Television
Children and teens continue to see too many television ads for beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks, with the industry failing to follow its own voluntary standard covering the number and frequency of ads, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The voluntary standards call for alcohol companies not to advertise during programs when more than 30 percent of the viewing audience is likely to be younger than 21. However, using data from 25 of the largest markets in 2010, the study found that nearly one in four of the alcohol ads on the most popular programs for viewers aged 12-20 violated the voluntary standards. Alcohol contributes to an estimated 4,700 deaths among underage youth in the United States each year, with studies showing that exposure to alcohol marketing increases the likelihood of underage drinking. "Underage drinking harms teens, their families and their communities," CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD. "Exposing teens to alcohol advertising undermines what parents and other concerned adults are doing to raise healthy kids." The findings appeared in the latest CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Read more on alcohol.
Kaiser Family: Most Americans Support Global Health Efforts, Although Don’t Fully Understand It
A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that while the majority of Americans support the current U.S. efforts to improve public health in developing countries, there remain misconceptions about the levels of U.S. spending and how it is allocated. The 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health was conducted in August 2013, through a random phone survey of 1,507 adults. According to the survey, 31 percent of Americans says we spend too little and 30 percent say we spend enough. However, the average American also believes foreign aid accounts for 28 percent of the federal budget, when in reality it is approximately 1 percent. Most people polled also don’t realize that most of the aid goes toward specific program areas, and is not simply a blank check to be allocated by the recipient country. Read more on global health.
About 10 Percent of Americans, 25 Percent of Adults Suffer from Arthritis
About 10 percent of Americans have arthritis, with half of them so severely affected that they can’t perform normal daily activities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report found that about 52.5 million adults—or about one quarter of all U.S. adults—had some form of arthritis; experts expect that number to climb to 57 million by 2030 as the population grows older. However, there are other possible explanations for the increasing problem. "The increase in arthritis definitely has to do with the aging of our population, but it's also potentially linked to the obesity epidemic," said the study's lead author, CDC epidemiologist Kamil Barbour. Read more on aging.
Lipstick & Liquor, a recently released documentary, takes a close-up look at a secret that is killing women and harming their families. Excessive alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death among women between the ages of 35 and 55. Excessive drinking among women is also a contributing factor in one-third of suicides, one-fourth of accidental deaths and one-half of traffic deaths. Significantly, drinking is more likely to reach advanced stages before it is discovered.
The film, which will launch on iTunes and Amazon.com in December, shares the stories of four women and their struggles with alcoholism. The goal of the film, says Lori Butterfield, the film’s writer and producer as well as a senior vice president of creative content for Home Front Communications, is to help women everywhere shake off the stigma associated with women alcoholics, and to provide understanding and insight into the struggle to stay sober. The documentary includes expert commentary from medical researchers, addiction specialists and authors who shed light on the conditions impacting the increase in alcohol use and abuse among American women.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Lori Butterfield about the film.
NPH: How did the documentary come about?
Lori Butterfield: My interest in raising awareness began with a story about a woman named Diane Schuler. In the summer of 2009, Diane made headlines after killing herself and seven other people while driving the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway in Westchester County, New York. The toxicology report showed that Diane had been drinking and yet her husband and other family members came out very publicly and said, “Oh she would never do that, she was a wonderful mother, she was a perfect wife.” And I remember thinking at the time, how could someone hide their alcoholism so well that their own family had no idea? That story really stuck with me.
Then, in November of that year, I was overseeing a video project for an Ad Council campaign about “Buzzed driving” [see recent Buzzed Driving campaigns from the Ad Council]. That’s when I read a very startling statistic. It said the number of DUI arrests for women had shot up more than 30 percent in the last decade while the rate for men was actually going down. And I also read that binge drinking for women was on the rise, so something was happening, but I wasn’t quite connecting the dots.
Study: 40 Percent of Antibiotics Released from 1980-2009 Withdrawn from Market
Safety concerns, lack of effectiveness when compared to existing drugs and weak sales led more than 40 percent of the antibiotics released between 1980 and 2009 to be withdrawn from the market, according to a new study in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics. The rate was three times as high as that for any other type of drug. “This study raises the question whether or not money would be better spent on higher quality antibiotics, rather than a larger quantity” and whether “approving a flood of new lower-quality antibiotics might actually trigger much higher levels of resistance,” said author Kevin Outterson, JD, LLM, professor at Boston University School of Law and co-director of the Boston University Health Law Program. Antibiotic use can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to a strain. A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that as many as 50 percent of prescriptions for antibiotics are either not needed or prescribed inappropriately. Antibiotic-resistant infections sicken more than two million Americans each year, killing more than 23,000 in the process. Read more on prescription drugs.
Locations of Drinking Can Influence Types of Partner Violence
Where and when a person drinks can affect the type of partner violence that can follow, according to a new study from the journal Addiction. The study looked at six drinking locations: restaurants, bars, parties at someone else's home, quiet evenings at home, with friends in one's own home and in parks/other public places. Researchers from the Prevention Research Center in California and Arizona State University found that men drinking in bars and at partners away from home and women drinking in parks/other public places were linked with an increased rate of male-to-female violence. They also found that men drinking during quiet evenings at home was associated with increased female-to-male violence. The findings could help prevent partner violence by encouraging people in risky relationships not to drink in particular places/situations, which could prove more effective than counseling people simply to drink less. Read more on alcohol.
Multiple Myeloma Group Hopes Opening Records to Hundreds of Patients Will Advance Research
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation's (MMRF) Researcher Gateway is opening global online access to genetic and research data on hundreds of patients in an effort to help identify biological targets for future treatments, improve enrollment in studies by pairing them with the right patients and enhance researcher collaboration. The MMRF Research Gateway is a $40-million program funding by the foundation and drug company partners. The main component of the effort will be the Commpass study which will enroll 1,000 new multiple myeloma patients and monitor them throughout the course of the disease; cancer tissue banks typically include only one sample per patient. "There is going to be new information generated there that you would never get unless you followed patients through first relapse and second relapse and beyond," said George Mulligan, director of translational medicine for Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s oncology unit, which is one of the co-sponsors. "The size of it in patient numbers and the breadth and richness of it on a biological level, it's going to grow over time and mushroom into something that's going to be really special.” About 86,000 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year, with about 20,000 of those from the United States. Read more on research.
CDC: Excessive Alcohol Consumption Costs States Billions
Excessive alcohol use cost states and the District of Columbia a median of $2.9 billion in 2006. On a state by state basis, those costs range from a low of $420 million in North Dakota to a high of $32 billion in California, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Binge drinking—five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women—was responsible for about 70 percent of that; an estimated 18 percent of U.S. adults report binge drinking. “Excessive alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, and the economy,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “In addition to injury, illness, disease, and death, it costs our society billions of dollars through reduced work productivity, increased criminal justice expenses, and higher healthcare costs. Effective prevention programs can support people in making wise choices about drinking alcohol.” Read more on alcohol.
Poll: After Jolie’s Mastectomy, More Women Inclined to Discuss Issue with Doctors
In the wake of actress Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she underwent a preventative double mastectomy, more women have decided to seek medical advice on that procedure or ovary removal, according to a new poll from HealthDay. The survey found that 86 percent of women knew about Jolie’s decision and 5 percent would speak with their own doctors about the issue. That translates to about 6 million U.S. women. Jolie’s decision was made because she carries a mutation in a gene called BRCA1, which increases her risk of developing breast cancer to about 60 percent and her risk of developing ovarian cancer to as much as 40 percent. The U.S. averages are 12 percent for breast cancer and 1.4 percent for ovarian cancer. Still, doctors stress that genetic testing is only recommended for women deemed at “high risk,” which includes those with a personal history or a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancers. The American Cancer Society (ACS) Board of Directors has stated that "only very strong clinical and/or pathologic indications warrant doing this type of preventive operation," and ACS says the procedure is not 100 percent effective. Read more on cancer.
Stimulant-related ER Visits Up 300 Percent for Younger Adults
Emergency department visits due to central nervous system (CNS) stimulants rose by about 300 percent for younger adults from 2005 to 2011, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). There were 22,949 such visits in 2011, with about 30 percent of the visits also involving alcohol. There were also about 1.24 million visits related to the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals. “Nonmedical use of any drug, even an over-the-counter drug, can be dangerous, but these CNS stimulants can potentially cause significant and lasting harm, including heart problems and addiction,” said SAMHSA Chief Medical Officer Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD. “We must raise awareness of this public health risk and do everything possible to prevent it.” Nonmedical use of CNS prescription drugs—which include those used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder—is linked to heart and blood vessel problems, as well as drug abuse or dependence. When paired with alcohol they can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning or alcohol-related injuries. Read more on substance abuse.