Category Archives: News roundups

Nov 3 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: November 3

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EBOLA UPDATE: UN’s Secretary-General Calls Travel Bans ‘Unnecessarily’ Strict
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again came out strongly against travels bans related to Ebola, calling them “unnecessarily” strict in a Monday news conference. Some U.S. state officials have imposed quarantines on health workers returning from West Africa, but there is no federal ban; Canada and Australia have barred citizens from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. "The best way to stop this virus is to stop the virus at its source rather than limiting, restricting the movement of people or trade," said Ban, according to Reuters. "Particularly when there are some unnecessarily extra restrictions and discriminations against health workers. They are extraordinary people who are giving of themselves, they are risking their own lives." Read more on Ebola.

HUD Accepting Cities’ Applications for Economic Revitalization Assistance
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is now accepting applications for cities looking to spur economic revitalization through the National Resource Network, which brings together national experts to work with cities to improve economic competiveness while reversing population decline, job loss and high poverty rates. “Knowledge is fuel for progress and innovation,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “The National Resource Network will be a valuable tool in helping local governments address their challenges and achieve their goals. It will provide on-the-ground technical assistance and human resources that cities can use to build for the future.” Eligibility is based on economic and demographic criteria, with approximately 275 cities eligible to apply. Read more on community development.

Study: High School Football Players Need More Education on Concussion
More needs to be done to educate high school football players on the dangers of concussions, according to a new study in the Journal of Athletic Training. Researchers surveyed 334 varsity players from 11 Florida schools. Based on a written questionnaire, while most know that headache, dizziness and confusion were potential concussion signs, they did not know the link to other signs such as nausea, neck pain and difficulty concentrating. In addition, 25 percent said they had no education about concussions at all. "Our results showed that high school football players did not have appropriate knowledge of concussion. Even with parents or guardians signing a consent form indicating they discussed concussion awareness with their child, nearly half of the athletes suggested they had not," study co-author Brady Tripp, from the University of Florida, said in a National Athletic Trainers' Association news release. Emergency rooms treat more than 300,000 people for brain injuries related to sports each year. Read more on injury prevention.

Oct 31 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 31

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EBOLA UPDATE: China to Dispatch PLA Squad to Build an Ebola Treatment Center in Liberia
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
In response to the United Nations’ call for a greater global effort to help combat the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, China has announced it will send an elite unit of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Liberia. The squad will build and run a 100-bed treatment center, which should be open within a month. China will also send 480 PLA medical staff to treat patients. Read more on Ebola.

HUD: U.S. Homelessness Continues to Decline
U.S. homelessness continues to decline, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found that there were 578,424 persons experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2014, an overall 10 percent reduction and 25 percent drop in the unsheltered population since 2010. “As a nation, we are successfully reducing homelessness in this country, especially for those who have been living on our streets as a way of life,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “There is still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us but it’s clear our strategy is working and we're going to push forward till we end homelessness as we’ve come to know it.” Read more on housing.

Study: Care in the 24 Hours after a Stroke is Critical to Health Outcomes
Care in the immediate 24 hours after a stroke is both complex and critical to patient outcomes, according to a new study in the journal MedLink Neurology. Most strokes are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to the brain, so keeping a patient lying flat or as flat as possible will help increase blood flow. At the same time, sitting upright can improve blood draining and reduce intracranial pressure. "The period immediately following an acute ischemic stroke is a time of significant risk," wrote researchers from the Loyola University Medical Center. "Meticulous attention to the care of the stroke patient during this time can prevent further neurologic injury and minimize common complications, optimizing the chance of functional recovery." Read more on heart and vascular health.

Oct 30 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 30

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EBOLA UPDATE: WHO Officials See ‘Glimmers of Hope’ in Liberia as New Case Rate Declines
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
There are “glimmers of hope” in Liberia as officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) say the rate of new Ebola cases appears to be declining for the first time since the outbreak began. Still, an official with the global health agency said they are still very much concerned and on guard. “It’s like saying your pet tiger is under control,” said Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s assistant director-general in charge of the operational response, according to The Washington Post. “This is a very, very dangerous disease” and “the danger now is that instead of a steady downward trend we end up with an oscillating trend where the virus goes up and down” because areas become reinfected. Read more on Ebola.

Study: Infant’s Birthweight Tied to Disease Risk Later in Life
An infant’s size at birth may help predict their health later in life, with babies who are heavier have less of a risk for future disease, according to a new study in The FASEB Journal. Researchers based their findings on an analysis of cord blood of newborn babies from mothers with raised glucose levels during late pregnancy and blood taken later. "These findings support the hypothesis that common long-term variation in the activity of genes established in the womb may underpin links between size at birth and risk for adult disease," said Claire R. Quilter, Ph.D., study author from the Mammalian Molecular Genetics Group, Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "If confirmed these could be important markers of optimal fetal growth and may be the first step along a path to very early disease prevention in the womb." Read more on maternal and infant health.

FDA Approves New Meningitis Vaccines
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first vaccine approved to prevent invasive meningococcal disease in the United States. The drug is to prevent  Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B is approved for individuals ages 10 to 25 years. Approximately 500 total cases of meningococcal disease were reported in the United States in 2012, with 160 having been causes by serogroup B. “Recent outbreaks of serogroup B Meningococcal disease on a few college campuses have heightened concerns for this potentially deadly disease,” said Karen Midthun, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a release. “The FDA’s approval of Trumenba provides a safe and effective way to help prevent this disease in the United States.” Read more on vaccines.

Oct 29 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 29

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DOT Launches New Website for Cruise Ship Passengers
The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched a website with information and resources from several federal agencies to help people considering cruise ship vacations make informed decisis. Information includes consumer assistance, vessel safety and cruise line incident reporting statistics. “We are committed to providing the traveling public with as much information as possible to make informed decisions about their travel and making sure they know their rights before, during, and after their trip,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a release. Read more on transportation.

Ten Foundations Receive HUD/USDA Secretaries’ Award
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently honored ten foundations for helping to improve communities in across the country. According to the departments, the ten foundations have helped foster significant improvements in housing and neighborhoods, education, health and recreation, transportation, community participation, arts and culture, public safety, sustainability and economic development across all American geographies—urban, suburban and rural. “These foundations understand that strong communities connect families with the promise of living the American dream,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “Powerful outcomes occur when the philanthropic and public sectors come together to solve problems, enhance neighborhoods and expand opportunity for others. Read more on housing.

Americans Still Eating Trans Fats
A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that Americans are eating less trans and saturated fats than they were three decades ago, but they’re still consuming them in higher quantities than recommended for good cardiovascular health. The study was based on surveys of approximately 12,000 adults ages 25 to 74. Read more on nutrition.

Oct 28 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 28

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EBOLA UPDATE: U.S. Begins Isolating Soldiers Returning from West Africa; Australia Institutes Visa Ban
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The U.S. military has begun isolating soldiers returning from Ebola-fighting efforts in West Africa, while Australia has become the first “rich nation” to impose a visa ban on the affected countries. Public health officials, including those in Washington, D.C., say such measures risk turning the doctors and nurses who help Ebola patients into “pariahs,” according to Reuters. "Returning health workers are exceptional people who are giving of themselves for humanity," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "They should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science. Those who develop infections should be supported, not stigmatized." Read more on Ebola.

Study: Brain Injuries After Age 65 May Increase the Risk for Dementia
Brain injuries after the age of 65 may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Neurology. Researchers analyzed data on almost 52,000 emergency room patients who had suffered traumatic injuries in California from 2005 to 2011, finding that while just under 6 percent of those with injuries outside the brain went on to develop dementia, more than 8 percent of those with moderate to mild traumatic brain injuries did so. While at ages 55 and older, moderate to severe brain injury was associated with increased risk of dementia, by age 65 even mild brain injury increased the dementia risk. "This was surprising and suggests that the older brain may be especially vulnerable to traumatic brain injury, regardless of the traumatic brain injury severity," said study lead author Raquel Gardner, MD, a clinical research fellow with San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "Or to spin it more positively, the younger brain may be more resilient to mild traumatic brain injury or may take longer to show symptoms of dementia.”  Read more on aging.

Study: Greater Use of Spices, Herbs Could Promote Healthier Eating
Using spices and herbs to make healthy food more appealing can help reduce sodium, calorie and fat intake, according to a new study in the journal Nutrition Today.  A special edition of the publication, titled Spices and Herbs: Improving Public Health Through Flavorful Eating, includes 16 papers exploring the latest research on spices, herbs and their links to healthy eating. "We now understand that spices and herbs have a meaningful role to play in bringing flavor to the forefront of today's health and wellness conversations," said Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, professor of medicine and community health at Tufts University School of Medicine, editor of Nutrition Today. "It will take all of us working together – from scientists to chefs and product developers to policy makers – before we can really begin to improve public health through flavorful eating." Read more on nutrition.

Oct 27 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 27

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EBOLA UPDATE: New York State Walks Back New Ebola Quarantine Process—Somewhat—After Heavy Criticism
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The state of New York has partially walked back its new quarantine process for health care workers returning from treating Ebola in West Africa after receiving heavy criticism from the federal government and health officials. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said health care workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients but show no signs of the virus must still be quarantined and monitored for 21 days, but may do so in their home.

The Obama administration’s criticism of the initial order was strong." We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey, and others states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa," an Obama administration official said in a statement, according to Reuters. "We have also let these states know that we are working on new guidelines for returning healthcare workers that will protect the American people against imported cases, while, at the same time, enabling us to continue to tackle this epidemic in West Africa.” Read more on Ebola.

Survey: ‘Social Resilience’ More Valuable than Government Assistance in Helping a Community Feel Prepared for Disasters
“Social resilience”—the feeling of trust in a community, with neighbors helping neighbors and looking out for each other—can be more valuable than even government assistance when it comes to how prepared communities feel for disasters, according to a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey. In a survey of more than 1,000 residents in a dozen communities hit by the 2012 hurricane in New York and New Jersey, researchers found that “residents in areas where people say their neighbors actively seek to fix problems in the neighborhood are three times more likely to say their community is extremely or very prepared for a disaster than people in communities without such social resilience.”

Among the rest of the findings:

  • 37 percent of residents in areas reporting high levels of neighbors helping each other are very or extremely confident their neighborhood would recover quickly from a disaster, compared to 22 percent in areas with lower levels of neighborly cooperation
  • 69 percent of respondents said they got help from neighbors in recovering from the storm, while 57 percent said local government assisted them and 55 percent cited federal government agencies as helpful

“Having that level of trust, that preexisting level of trust means you sort of have this reservoir to draw from in times of need,” said the survey’s principal researcher Kathleen Cagney, a University of Chicago sociology professor and director of the Population Research Center at NORC at the University of Chicago. “Money doesn’t buy these informal reservoirs. You need to foster this.” Read more on preparedness.

Tips on Warding Off Seasonal Affective Disorder
The shorter, darker days of the fall season also mean the potential to trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that can leave some people feeling overly tired and lacking motivation to the point they find it extremely difficult to go about their day. As much as 5 percent of the population is affected by what is believed to be a chemical imbalance linked to reduced exposure to light. Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Loyola University Chicago Stitch School of Medicine, said there are ways to reduce the likelihood of SAD, which can severely impact an individual’s quality of life:

  • Spend at least 30 minutes a day outside. Avoid wearing sunglasses during this period of time. If weather permits, expose the skin on your arms to the sun.
  • Keep your home well-lit. Open curtain and blinds to allow sunlight in. You can also consider buying a high-intensity light box specially designed for SAD therapy. Sit near the box for 30 to 45 minutes in the morning and at night. Be sure to talk to your doctor before attempting this type of light therapy on your own.
  • Physical activity releases endorphins and other brain chemicals that help you feel better and gain more energy. Exercising for 30 minutes daily can help.
  • When all else fails, there are medications that can help ease the troubling effects of SAD. Halaris recommends visiting a mental health professional if extra sun exposure, indoor lights and exercise are not effective in treating your symptoms.

Read more on prevention.

Oct 24 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 24

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EBOLA UPDATE: Medical Aid Worker Tests Positive in New York City
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
A hospitalized medical worker has tested positive for Ebola in New York City, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The medical aid worker had volunteered in Guinea. The patient is currently in isolation in Bellevue Hospital—one of eight New York State hospitals that Governor Cuomo designated to treat Ebola patients—as the CDC’s laboratory performs confirmation testing. Read more on Ebola.

HHS: $840M to Improve Patient Care While Reducing Costs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced an $840 million initiative to improve patient care while also reducing costs, which will encourage patients to seek early preventive care more often. The initiative “will fund successful applicants who work directly with medical providers to rethink and redesign their practices, moving from systems driven by quantity of care to ones focused on patients’ health outcomes, and coordinated health care systems,” according to a release. Potential strategies include:

  • Giving doctors better access to patient information, such as information on prescription drug use to help patients take their medications properly
  • Expanding the number of ways patients are able communicate with the team of clinicians taking care of them
  • Improving the coordination of patient care by primary care providers, specialists, and the broader medical community
  • Using electronic health records on a daily basis to examine data on quality and efficiency

Read more on prevention.

EPA Announces $3M to Reduce Diesel Emissions from School Buses
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced approximately $3 million in funding to reduce diesel emissions from school buses. Through the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Rebate program, eligible public and private school bus fleet owners can apply for funding to replace school buses that have “older, dirtier” diesel engines, which will in turn improve air quality. "School buses are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to transport children to and from school," said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in a release. “The rebates to retrofit older bus engines will provide healthier rides for the 25 million children across the country who ride them on a daily basis.” Read more on air and water quality.

Oct 23 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 23

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EBOLA UPDATE: Drugmakers Seeking Indemnity to Protect Against Potential Losses, Claims
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Drug manufacturers working to develop Ebola treatments are also looking for indemnity from governments or multilateral agencies to protect themselves from potential losses or claims related to their work. The issues is expected to be discussed today at a meeting in Geneva that will be chaired by World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan. "I think it is reasonable that there should be some level of indemnification because the vaccine is essentially being used in an emergency situation before we've all had the chance to confirm its absolute profile," said GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive Andrew Witty to BBC radio. "That's a situation where we would look for some kind of indemnification, either from governments or from multilateral agencies." Read more on Ebola.

NIH: $31M in Grants to Enhance Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced almost $31 in grants to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce. The grants are part of a larger five-year program to support more than 50 awardees and partnering institutions in establishing a national consortium to “develop, implement and evaluate approaches to encourage individuals to start and stay in biomedical research careers,” according to a release. “At the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] we believe that delivering impact begins with building strong teams that have the talent and focus necessary to get results,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “These awards will leverage the power of our country’s diversity so that together, we can continue to advance biomedical research and unlock the cures to some of the great health challenges of our times.” Read more on research.

Study: Conflict at Home or School Affects Teens in Both
Conflict at home can lead to a teen experiencing a greater risk of problems at school for up to two days, while issues at school can also cause problems at home, according to a new study in the journal Child Development. In a study of more than 100 teens ages 13-17 and their parents, researchers also determined that bad moods and mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety are factors in what’s known as the “spillover effect.” "Spillover processes have been recognized, but are not well understood," wrote Adela Timmons, a doctoral student, and Gayla Margolin, professor of psychology. "Evidence of spillover for as long as two days suggests that some teens get caught in a reverberating cycle of negative events.” The research could be used to help teens learn to better manage stress and difficult situations.  Read more on mental health.

Oct 22 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 22

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EBOLA UPDATE: WHO Plans on Ebola Vaccine Tests in January
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The World Health Organization plans to begin testing two experimental Ebola vaccines in West Africa by January. The vaccines will likely be tested on more than 20,000 frontline health care workers and others in the region. The global health agency also announced that a blood serum treatment could be available for use in Liberia within two weeks. Read more on Ebola.

Study: Automated Tracking Improves Vaccine Compliance in Health Care Workers
Automated tracking of influenza vaccinations increases vaccination compliance in health care personnel while also reducing the workload burden on human resources and occupational health staff, according to a new study in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. Researchers analyzed data on nearly 7,000 people including in a mandatory vaccination program, finding that “automated reminders and tracking accounted for more than 98 percent of compliance among healthcare personnel.” "Mandatory vaccination programs help protect vulnerable patients, but can be tremendously time and resource dependent," said Susan Huang, MD, MPH, an author of the study, in a release. "By successfully automating a system to track and provide feedback to healthcare personnel who have not received their seasonal flu vaccine, we are providing safer places for care and reducing the administrative burden of our mandatory vaccination program." Read more on vaccines.

Study: Living with a Smoker is as Bad as Living in a Highly Polluted City
Living with a smoker is the same as living in a smoke-free home in a heavily polluted city such as Beijing or London, with the non-smokers exposed to three times the World Health Organization’s officially recommend safe levels of damaging air particles, according to a new study in the journal Tobacco Control. In a collection of four studies, researchers determined that the concentration of fine particulate matter was approximately 10 times higher in smoking homes than it was in non-smoking homes. “Smokers often express the view that outdoor air pollution is just as much a concern as the second-hand smoke in their home,” said Sean Semple, MD, of University of Aberdeen, in a release. “These measurements show that second-hand tobacco smoke can produce very high levels of toxic particles in your home: much higher than anything experienced outside in most towns and cities in the UK. Making your home smoke-free is the most effective way of dramatically reducing the amount of damaging fine particles you inhale.” Read more on air quality.

Oct 21 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 21

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CDC Updates Guidelines on Health Worker Protective Gear when Treating Ebola Patients
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last night that it is tightening its infection control guidance for health care workers caring for patients with Ebola, with a specific focus on several key steps:

  • All health care workers must undergo rigorous training and become practiced and competent with protective equipment, including taking it on and off in a systemic manner.
  • No skin exposure is allowed when the equipment is worn.
  • All workers must be supervised by a trained monitor who watches each worker taking the equipment on and off.

The CDC is recommending all of the same equipment in its earlier guidance, with the addition of coveralls and single-use, disposable hoods. Single-use face shields are now recommended instead of goggles. Read more on Ebola.

Most People Polled Don’t Know New ACA Enrollment Period Begins in November
A poll just released from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds few people know that open enrollment for 2015 health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins next month. Other findings of the poll:

  • Two-thirds of responders say they know “only a little” or “nothing at all” about the marketplaces where people who don’t get coverage through their employers can shop for insurance.
  • Just over half say they know that financial assistance is available to help low- and moderate-income individuals purchase insurance. 

Signup begins November 15 and runs through February 15, 2015.

Risk Factors for Sexual Assault Need to be Included in Prevention Efforts
Researchers who conducted a Danish study on sexual assault say that certain risk factors for the attacks—including the age of the victim and their prior relationship with the attacker—must be considered when developing strategies to help prevent sexual assaults. The researchers looked at data from more than 250 women who sought help at a Danish center for sexual assault victims between 2001 and 2010. The researchers found that 66 percent of the women were 15-24 years old and 75 percent had met their attacker before the assault. Nearly half of the women reported that the attacker was a current or former boyfriend, a family member or someone they considered a friend. Women who did not know their attacker previously were more likely to report the assault to the police. “We need to raise awareness of the fact that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the woman, often in familiar surroundings ... in order to change the general attitudes towards sexual assault, this information should not only target young people, but also the police, health care professionals and the general public,” said Mie-Louise Larsen, of the Centre for Victims of Sexual Assault and the University of Copenhagen and a coauthor of the study, which appeared in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Read more on injury prevention.

Positive Images Improve Function in Older Adults
Older individuals who are subliminally exposed to positive stereotypes about aging showed improved physical functioning that can last for several weeks, according to work done by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. The study, which will be published in Psychological Science, included 100 older individuals with an average age of 81 years. Some participants saw positive age stereotypes on a computer screen that flashed words such as “spry” and “creative.” Those participants who were exposed to positive messaging displayed both psychological and physical improvements but control participants did not. Read more on aging.