Category Archives: Alcohol

Oct 17 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: October 17

CDC: U.S. Cholesterol Levels Improved Since the 1980s
The total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels of an average U.S. adult have been steadily improving over the past two decades, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. High cholesterol is often a precursor to heart disease. Probable explanations for the overall improvement in public health include improvements in diet since the late 1980s, according to Reuters. "It's important and significant, the reduction that we see here, but it's not unbelievable," said Goodarz Danaei, MD, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, who was not a part of the study carried out by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I don't think we needed a huge change in diet... to produce this change." Read more on heart health.

Older Heart Attack Survivors Often Fail to Take Prescription Meds
Older heart attack survivors often do not follow through with their prescription medications meant to decrease the likelihood of another attack, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers at the University of Maryland analyzed the long-term use of medications most often given to people post-heart attacks: statins, ACE inhibitors/angiotensin receptor blockers, beta-blockers and the blood thinner clopidogrel. Ilene Zuckerman, professor and chair of the department of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, said proper use of the drugs can result in a “long-term beneficial effect” on patient health. Read more on older adults.

Study: Alcohol a Bigger Cause of Early Death than Smoking
Alcohol abuse decreases life spans even more than smoking, according to a new study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Researchers followed the health of approximately 4,000 people over a 14-year period. Alcohol-dependent women were nearly 5 times as likely as those who were not to die prematurely; the rates was almost double for men. "This paper confirms the well-known association between alcoholism and premature death," said James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. "It also supports the evidence that women are more likely to have more severe health problems from alcohol than men—'sicker quicker.'" Garbutt was not a part of the study. Read more on alcohol.

Oct 4 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: October 4

CDC: Teen Drinking and Driving Down 54% From 1991 to 2011
Drinking and driving by high school students ages 16 and older dropped 54 percent in the 20 years between 1991 and 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Vital Signs study showed that only 10 percent of the students in that age group drove after drinking in 2011. “We are moving in the right direction. Rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half in 20 years,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “But we must keep up the momentum -- one in 10 high school teens, aged 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others.” Read more on alcohol.

New Test Could Improve Genetic Screening in Newborns
A simple blood test could help doctors quickly diagnose and treat genetic conditions in newborns, according to a new study. The test is still in its early stages. Newborns are already screening for genetic disorders, but the tests can be costly and time-consuming, according to Stephen Kingsmore, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. If successful, this new test would speed up the process and allow for quicker treatment. "Genome analysis is moving from being a research tool that holds promise to being something that's ready to ... be used for real medical care in real patients," he said, according to HealthDay. Read more in infant health.

Study Links Aspirin, Slower Mental Decline in Older Women
A daily dose of aspirin could help slow mental decline in older women as it also helps protect against heart attacks, according to a study in the journal BMJ Open. The five-year Swedish study looked at approximately 700 women ages 70 to 92. The reason for the connection is not yet known, but may be related to a “neuro-protective effect” caused by the aspirin, according to study co-author Silke Kern, MD. The study found a correlation, but not causation, according to HealthDay. "I would not start taking aspirin because of this study," said Deepak Bhatt, MD, director of the integrated cardiovascular intervention program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "This needs to be tested in a larger number of patients before we can say that aspirin has a role in preventing cognitive decline in women or men." Read more on heart health.

Oct 3 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: October 3

New Navy, Marine Corps Campaign to Improve Health
The new Health Promotion and Wellness campaign from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center will utilize resources, tools and programs to educate members of the military on prevention strategies to improve their individual health—and the overall health and readiness of the Navy and Marine Corps. It “includes seven sub-campaigns or focus areas including healthy eating, active living, reproductive and sexual health, psychological and emotion well-being, tobacco free living, drug abuse and excessive alcohol use prevention as well as injury and violence free living,” according to a release. "Health does not occur in the doctor's office," said U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Adm. Regina Benjamin. "It happens where we live and where we play." Read more on military health strategies.

CDC ‘Vital Signs’ Teleconference on Teen Drinking, Driving
Next week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold a teleconference titled “Teen Drinking and Driving: A Dangerous Mix.” The monthly Vital Signs teleconference is a chance for public health officials and policymakers from across the country to come together. This month’s event will feature Judith A. Monroe, MD, FAAFP, Director, Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Ruth Shults, PhD, MPH, Senior Epidemiologist, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; and Katherine Gonzales, MPH, Epidemiologist, Michigan Department of Community Health. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, October 9, 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Read more on alcohol.

Study: Doctors Support School Vaccines, But Have Some Concerns
A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows that while doctors generally support efforts to provide flu and other vaccines at schools, some also worry about keeping track of which patients have received vaccines and whether they will be able to estimate how many vaccines to keep in stock at their offices. The Denver Public Health Department, with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, utilized survey information from 584 doctors for the study. More than 100 million Americans receive the flu vaccine every year, according to Reuters. Read more on vaccines.

Sep 25 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: September 25

Health Insurers Now Providing User-friendly Benefit Guides
Starting this week, health insurers will provide patients with user-friendly guides that clearly explain their benefits. The goal of the new law is to enable “the private insurance market's 163 million beneficiaries to make side-by-side comparisons of plan offerings,” according to Reuters. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a sample benefits form demonstrating the new standardized format. Read more on access to health care.

Inconsistencies in Antibiotic Prescriptions Could Contribute to Increased Resistance
Inconsistencies in how U.S. seniors are prescribed antibiotics could be contributing to increased bacterial resistance, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The information was compiled from Medicare records. Seniors in some areas of the country average less than one prescription a year, while others averaged between one and two, suggesting overuse in some areas. "Once you get resistance to those broad spectrum antibiotics, next time you have anything where you really need that, it's not going to be as effective," said Yuting Zhang, the study's lead author. Read more on bacteria.

Task Force Recommends Screening, Intervention to Combat Alcohol Abuse
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that doctors make questions about drinking habits a part of routine patient visits. It is also recommending they provide alcohol abuse counseling. The task force found screening and intervention to be effective public health tactics in adults ages 18 and older. The new recommendations are in line with the task force’s 2004 guidelines, according to HealthDay. "The overarching message is the same as it was back then,” said Michael LeFevre, MD, co-vice chair for the task force. “At least in the adult population, the evidence shows that clinicians can help men and women who are drinking in ways that are not healthy to change those habits." Read more on alcohol.

Sep 12 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: September 12

Family Share of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Rises 4 percent
A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust shows that the annual premium for employer-sponsored family health coverage is up 4 percent from last year, to $15,745. The average worker pays $4,316, according to the 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey. Read more onaccess to health care.

Panel Says Screening Tests for Ovarian Cancer Ineffective and Should Not Be Done
A new report in the Annals of Internal Medicine says screening tests for ovarian cancer do more harm than good, so should not be performed. The tests have no effect on mortality rates and can even lead to unnecessary risks, according to The New York Times. “There is no existing method of screening for ovarian cancer that is effective in reducing deaths,” Virginia A. Moyer, MD, the chairwoman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. “In fact, a high percentage of women who undergo screening experience false-positive test results and consequently may be subjected to unnecessary harms, such as major surgery.” Read more onprevention.

Heavy Drinking Increases Risk of Early Stroke
Consuming at least three alcoholic drinks daily can put a person at risk for a stroke more than a decade earlier than people who do not, according to a new study in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study looked at 540 people who had suffered from an intracerebral hemorrhage. “Heavy drinking has been consistently identified as a risk factor for this type of stroke, which is caused by bleeding in the brain rather than a blood clot,” said Charlotte Cordonnier, MD, PhD, with the University of Lille Nord de France in Lille, France. “Our study focuses on the effects of heavy alcohol use on the timeline of stroke and the long-term outcome for those people.” Read more on alcohol.

Sep 5 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: September 5

CDC: Millions of Americans with High, Untreated Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects 67 million of U.S. adults, or almost one-third, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And as many as 36 million of those aren’t treating the condition properly. High blood pressure contributes to about 1,000 deaths each day and about $131 billion each year in health care costs. The CDC says the key to treating high blood pressure in U.S. adults is for everyone—from patients to providers—to act together as a team. “We have to roll up our sleeves and make blood pressure control a priority every day, with every patient, at every doctor’s visit,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “With increased focus and collaboration among patients, health care providers and health care systems, we can help 10 million Americans’ blood pressure come into control in the next five years.” Read more on heart health.

HUD Releases New Lead-Paint Guidelines for Housing Providers
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released new Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing, updating its guidance from 1995. The guidelines are designed to help property owners, government agencies and private contractors dramatically reduce childhood exposure to lead while still keeping renovation costs as low as possible. “HUD is committed to providing healthier housing for all families,” said Jon L. Gant, Director of HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. “These Guidelines will help communities around the nation protect families from lead exposure and other significant health and safety hazards.” Read more on housing.

People More Likely to Guzzle Beer from a Curved Glass than a Straight One
A new study in PLoS ONE shows social drinkers will drink beer almost twice as fast from a curved glass than they will from a straight one—meaning they will become intoxicated far quicker. Researchers at the University of Bristol School of Experimental Psychology said this could be because it is harder to judge the amount consumed when using a curved glass. “Due to the personal and societal harms associated with heavy bouts of drinking, there has been a lot of recent interest in alcohol control strategies,” said Angela Attwood, PhD, adding that “[p]eople often talk of ‘pacing themselves’ when drinking alcohol as a means of controlling levels of drunkenness, and I think the important point to take from our research is that the ability to pace effectively may be compromised when drinking from certain types of glasses.” Read more on alcohol.

Study Details Bullying Involvement for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Approximately 46 percent of adolescents with autism are the victims of bullying, according to a new study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Network publication. Bullying is harmful behavior coming from a position of power, whether physical, social or cognitive. There is still very little research on bullying related to adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the study’s researchers. The study’s authors concluded that bullying intervention strategies need to address core ASD deficits, such as conversational ability and social skills, while also increasing social integration, empathy and social skills. Read more on bullying.

Aug 15 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: August 15

Investing in Tobacco Cessation Programs Can Cut Costs, Save Lives
Preventable health problems from tobacco account for $200 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity. Investing properly in often-underfunded tobacco cessation programs — such as smoke-free workplace rules and taxes — can cut these costs dramatically, according to a new brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The return on investment in cessation programs has been shown to be as high as $50 for every $1 spent. The brief is part of RWJF’s Health Policy Connection series. Read more on tobacco.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Nationwide Campaign Set to Start
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign starts August 17. More than 10,000 police departments and law enforcement agencies are participating in the annual crackdown on drunk driving. It runs through the Labor Day weekend. In 2010, more than two-thirds of the deaths in drunk driving collisions involved drivers whose blood alcohol levels that were nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08, according to NHTSA. Read more on alcohol.

$3M Study to Reduce Errors During Patient ‘Hand Offs’
As many as 70 percent of the most serious hospital errors can be linked to poor communication. This is especially the case during patient transfers — or “hand offs” — such as admission, shift changes and after procedures. In an effort to curb this statistic and stop errors before they can occur, nine hospitals around the country are participating in the I-PASS study to figure out the best way to train residents in “handing off” pediatric patients. The study is funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Read more on health care.

Aug 10 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: August 10

CDC Recommends Against Using Popular Gonorrhea Treatment
Infectious disease experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week that the antibiotic Suprax (cefixime) no longer be used to treat gonorrhea. The CDC is discouraging use of Suprax because patients are developing resistance to the drug. As first line treatment, the CDC recommends use of the drug ceftriaxone in combination with azithromycin or doxycycline. Read more on sexual health.

Alcohol Ad Violations More Common in Magazines with High Youth Readership
As the youth readership level of a magazine goes up, so too does the likelihood that alcohol advertisements in the publication are in violation of industry standards, according to a new study. The study was conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study looked at 1,261 advertisements for alcopops, beer, spirits or wine that appeared more than 2,500 times in 11 different with youth readership levels of at least 15 percent. CAMY Director and study co-author David Jernigan, PhD said the findings indicate the industry standards should be strengthened. Read more on alcohol.

SAMHSA Awards $11M to Treat Substance Abuse in Pregnant and Postpartum Women
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded up to $11 million in grants under the Service Grants Program for the Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women (PPW). There are seven total grants to be utilized over the next three years. They will go toward improving substance abuse treatment, prevention and recovery support services for pregnant women, new mothers and their minor children. “This program offers vital help and hope to women at a crucial time in their lives and in the lives of their children,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a release. “By including families in the supportive services that are being provided for these women, we acknowledge that people with substance use disorders are more than just their addictions.” Read more on substance abuse.

Jul 24 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: July 24

Study Finds Alarming HIV Rates Among Many Young Black Men
A key study conducted in six cities and released yesterday at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. by the HIV Prevention Trials Network  finds alarming rates of new HIV infections occurring among gay and bisexual black men in the United States (who are also known as men who have sex with men, or MSM), especially among young black MSM. The rate of new HIV infections among U.S. black MSM in the study was 2.8 percent per year, nearly fifty percent higher than white MSM. And the infection rate of young black MSM age 30 years and younger was 5.9 percent, which is three times the rate among U.S. white MSM. According to the researchers, the overall infection rate among black MSM in the study is comparable to the rate seen in the general populations of countries in sub-Saharan Africa hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. Read more on AIDS.

Coordinated Campus Strategies to Address Student Drinking to Reduce Self Harm and Injuries to Others
Strategies that address alcohol availability, alcohol policy enforcement and drinking norms can help colleges and their communities protect students from the harms of high-risk drinking, according to a new study funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The researchers compared five campuses with coordinated approaches to five campuses without the program, finding that on campuses with dedicated efforts to control student drinking the percentage of students reporting severe consequences fell from 18 percent to 16 percent, but stayed the same on the campuses that had not initiated drinking controls. Reports of injuring another person while drinking decreased from 4 percent to 2 percent on dedicated campuses, with only a tiny change at the control colleges. The researchers estimate that on a campus with 11,000 students, drinking control efforts would result in 228 fewer students experiencing at least one severe consequence of drinking over the course of a month and 107 fewer students injuring others due to alcohol use during the year.

“This is the basic principle of public health — small changes at the population level can translate into significant improvements in the health of a population,” says Mark Wolfson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and the lead author of the study. Read more on alcohol.

DOT Announces Nearly $800M in Grants Help Fix the Aging U.S. Transit Infrastructure
The Department of Transportation has announced grants of almost $800 million to modernize and replace aging transit facilities and vehicles in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Projects include:

  • New Jersey Transit: $76 million to upgrade the bus fleet, which will help improve commuting times and air quality for state residents.
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority: $15 million to replace aging buses with new buses that use compressed natural gas. The new buses are expected to improve reliability for riders, leave a smaller environmental footprint and reduce fuel costs.
  • Capital Area Transportation Authority in East Lansing, Michigan: $6.3 million to redevelop a former Amtrak station near Michigan State University, which will improve bicycle and pedestrian access and connections to local bus and rail service.

Read more on transportation.

Jul 23 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: July 23

XIX International AIDS Conference: New HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Recommendations
Late last week, in advance of the International AIDS Conference meeting this week in Washington, D.C., the World Health Organization recommended using antiretroviral medicines for people who do not have the infection but are at high risk of transmission. And, in a special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association published this week, the International Antiviral Society has recommended that all HIV patients be treated with antiretroviral drugs, even when the virus’s impact on their immune system is shown to be small. Research by the Society shows that AIDS can lead to other conditions such as cancer and heart and kidney disease. Read more on AIDS.

HHS Announces Public/Private Partnerships to Improve Care for HIV/AIDS Patients
In a speech at the International AIDS conference last night, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced four new initiatives to improve care for HIV/AIDS patients in the United States:

  • Streamlined drug assistance application programs: The program would simplify the process for acquiring HIV/AIDS drugs for people who are eligible for financial assistance. (See a sample form.)
  • UCARE4LIFE: HHS, in partnership with the MAC AIDS Fund, will launch a mobile texting pilot program called UCARE4LIFE to help patients get appointment, medication and other important reminders and tips for managing HIV/AIDS. A two-year pilot project will focus on southern states, where the epidemic is rising fast among young adults.
  • Pharmacy Medication Therapy Management: CDC will partner with pharmacy chain Walgreens to develop a medication therapy management program to model how pharmacies can help patients stay on their medications and in care.
  • Online Physician Training Programs: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is working with continuing medical education firm Medscape, to create new training programs to help healthcare providers improve care for HIV/AIDS patients.

Read a summary of news from the AIDS Conference from Kaiser Health News.

Young Adults Undergoing Cancer Treatment Need More Support
A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center finds that young adults with cancer may not be getting all the social, psychological and information support they need. The researchers surveyed 215 newly diagnosed cancer patients between the ages of 14 and 39 and found that, compared to both children and older adult cancer patients, the mid-age patients have a different set of psychosocial needs and issues and were more likely to report insufficient information on infertility, diet and nutrition. The study was published in the journal Cancer. Read more on cancer.

CDC Study Suggests Policy Interventions to Help Reduce Alcohol Drinking Among Women of Childbearing Age
One in two women and one in 13 pregnant women reported drinking in the past thirty days, according to a recent study published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The researchers say that both pregnant and non-pregnant women of childbearing age who misuse alcohol might benefit from community level policy interventions, such as increased alcohol excise taxes and limiting alcohol outlet density. Read more on maternal and infant health.

High Tornado Fatality Rate Last Year Prompts Strengthened Prevention before Storms
A review by the CDC of last year’s tornado season found that 338 people suffered tornado related fatalities between April 25 and April 28, 2011 in five states, the third highest rate in U.S. history. The CDC found that about thirty percent of the victims were older adults and a quarter of the deaths occurred in mobile homes. The researchers say use of safe rooms is crucial to preventing tornado-related deaths, and that individuals who work or live in a tornado-prone area should develop a tornado safety plan prior to severe weather. Read more on disasters.