Category Archives: Housing
NHTSA: Free VIN Searches Will Let Drivers Check for Safety Recalls
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will next year require that automakers and motorcycle manufactures provide free online search services for Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) so that consumers can search for information on uncompleted recalls. Consumers will also be able to use a central government site (SaferCar.gov) to determine whether a recall has been issued on a vehicle and whether the remedy has been performed. "Every day NHTSA is working for the American consumer to ensure that automakers and motorcycle manufacturers address safety defects and non-compliances, and that they also recall affected vehicles in a timely manner," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "By making individual VIN searches readily available, we're providing another service to car, light truck and motorcycle owners and potential owners—the peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe." Read more on transportation.
Quick Change to Mellow Music Reduces the Risk of Road Rage
Smooth jazz could save your life—or at least keep you from doing something impulsive behind the wheel. According to a new report in the journal Ergonomics, switching to mellow music in a car can help drivers stay calm during stressful situations that could lead to road rage. Studies have already linked “upbeat” music to more aggressive driver behavior and “downbeat” music with more relaxed, safer behavior. However, the question before the researchers was whether a quick change or a gradual change to calmer music was more effective; they determined that drivers in both conditions would reach the same calm state, but drivers who changed the music abruptly would become calmer—and driver safer—sooner. The results show that "during high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance and were thus safer and more effective," concluded researcher Marjolein van der Zwaag, of Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, and colleagues in the Netherlands and at Stanford University in California. Read more on safety.
HUD: $12.8M in ‘Sweat Equity’ Grants to Create Affordable Homes
Through its Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded approximately $12.8 million in “sweat equity” grants to create at least 718 affordable homes. The four non-profit, self-help housing organizations that received the funds will work to reduce the cost of the homes for working families. “Sweat equity” is the increased value of a property due to restoration and upkeep efforts by the owners. “Today, we make another investment in the American Dream for hundreds of working families,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Using their own labor, along with sweat equity from armies of volunteers, these families will construct their own homes and become stakeholders in their own neighborhoods.” To qualify, a minimum of 50 sweat equity hours is required from a household of one person and a minimum of 100 sweat equity hours is required from a household of at least two people. The work can include landscaping, foundation work, painting, carpentry, trim work, drywall, roofing and siding for the housing. Read more on housing.
$1.7B in HUD Grants for Major Improvements to 1.2 Million Public Housing Units
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $1.7 billion to improve approximately 1.2 million public housing units across the country. The funds—part of HUD’s Capital Fund Program—will be shared by all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They will go toward building, repairing, renovating and modernizing public housing, with an emphasis on large-scale projects such as replacing plumbing and electrical systems. About 10,000 public housing units are lost each year, with disrepair being the most common reason. HUD estimates that the nation’s public housing requires about $25.6 billion in large-scale repairs. “This funding is critical for housing authorities to maintain and improve public housing conditions for their residents,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “However, with a significant repair backlog, I am encouraged by new, innovative long-term solutions HUD is exploring that can be combined with this funding to not only protect and preserve this housing for the next generation, but to also build the quality infrastructure necessary for families to thrive.” Read more on housing.
Study: Women in Urban Environments at Higher Risk for Postpartum Depression
In large part because of the difference in general risk factors, women who live in large urban areas are more likely than women who live in rural areas to develop postpartum depression, according to a new study in the journal CMAJ. Risk factors such as low levels of social support and having been born in another country are more common in urban environments, according to research Simone Vigod, MD, of the Women's College Research Institute in Toronto. They found that about 9 percent of women surveyed in cities of 500,000 people or more had postpartum depression, versus 6 percent of women in towns with fewer than 1,000 people. "That's a pretty big difference at the population level," said Vigod, according to Reuters. "It's not the air that you breathe in an urban area that makes you depressed," she added, "it's actually that the population characteristics of people living there are different." About 10 to 15 percent of women experience persistent and serious depression in the first year after their child’s birth, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infant and maternal health.
New HIV Test Will Allow for Earlier Detection, Treatment and Reduce Risk of Transmission
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new HIV test that will allow for earlier detection and treatment of people with the immune deficiency disorder. The test looks for the HIV-1 p24 antigen as well as antibodies to both HIV-1 and HIV-2 in human serum. “This test helps diagnose HIV infection at an earlier time in outreach settings, allowing individuals to seek medical care sooner,” said Karen Midthun, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Earlier diagnosis may also help to reduce additional HIV transmission.” There are about 1 million people in the United States currently living with HIV and about 20 percent of them have not been diagnosed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on HIV/AIDS.
One-third of U.S. Teens, Young Adults Victims of Dating Violence
About one-third of U.S. teens and young adults have been the victims of dating violence and about one-third have been the perpetrators, according to a new study from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, Calif. Approximately one in four report being both. Overall, the public health issue is not improving, according to Emily Rothman, an associate professor at Boston University School of Public Health. "It is sorely disappointing that we have not seen improvements in the prevalence of dating violence in the past 12 years, but there is a clear reason for it," she said. "We spend virtually no money on dating violence prevention or education in schools and communities. Problems don't change unless you try to fix them." Dating violence is a serious issue that must be addressed, according to Yolanda Evans, MD, an assistant professor at Seattle Children's Hospital. "Intimate partner violence is associated with poor school performance, poor self-esteem, depression and thoughts of suicide. We should communicate with our teens that it is never OK to act violently against a partner or to force them to do something they do not feel comfortable doing. We also need to teach our teens that it is unacceptable for someone to act violently towards us in a relationship." Read more on violence.
CDC: Breastfeeding Rates Up Over Past Decade
In part due to longer hospital stays that work to keep moms and newborns together, breastfeeding rates have climbed significantly over the past decade, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2010 about 49 percent of babies were breastfeeding at six months, up from 35 percent in 2000. And about 27 percent were breastfeeding at 12 months in 2010, up from 16 percent in 2000. At the same time, “room-in” and “skin-to-skin” maternity ward procedures that keep mother and child close and emphasize physical contact have also increased, which helps to start and continue the breastfeeding process, according to Janet L. Collins, PhD, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “This is great news for the health of our nation because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers,” said CDC Director, Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Also, breastfeeding lowers health care costs. Researchers have calculated that $2.2 billion in yearly medical costs could be saved if breastfeeding recommendations were met.” Read more on maternal and infant health.
HUD: $52M in Grants to Improve Housing, Services for American’s Homeless
As part of its “Continuum of Care Program,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced $52 million in funding to go toward 200 homeless housing/service programs and about 200 grants to assist with local strategic planning activities. The round of grants follows $1.5 billion in two rounds of funding earlier this year. The Continuum of Care grants fund programs such as street outreach and assessment, as well as transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families. “As we continue to see a decline in homelessness, investing in programs that are moving homeless families and individuals to permanent housing is as critical as ever because it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s smart government and fiscally prudent,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. There were approximately 633,782 homeless persons on a single night in January of 2012, according to “point in time” estimates. Read more on housing.
Tainted Salad Mix Linked to Parasite Outbreak in Two States; 13 Other States Still Looking for Answers
State and federal health officials have narrowed in on a prepackaged salad mix as the possible source of a cyclospora outbreak that has sickened 370 people in 15 states. Both Nebraska and Iowa officials have identified the salad as the source; a total of 221 people in those states have fallen ill so far from the stomach-sickening parasite. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still working to identify the cause in the 13 other states. “FDA will continue to work with its federal, state and local partners in the investigation to determine whether this conclusion applies to the increased number of cases of cyclosporiasis in other states,” the FDA said in a statement. ”Should a specific food item be identified, the FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local partners will work to track it to its source, determine why the outbreak occurred, and if contamination is still a risk, implement preventive action, which will help to keep an outbreak like this from happening again.” Read more on food safety.
New Model Shows Kids Consuming Far More Calories than Previously Realized
It takes far more calories for kids to gain weight than was previously realized, according to a new study in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. And, given the high rate of childhood obesity, this means kids are consuming far more calories than either their parents or health care providers realize. The new caloric model takes into account the energy requirements for boys and girls; the fact that kids generally have higher metabolisms than adults; the average drop in physical activity as kids age; and the energy required to maintain a bigger body size as they age. Whereas the old model said a normal-weight girl at age 5 would need to consume about 40 extra calories a day to be 22 pounds overweight by age 10, the new model shows its actually 400 extra calories. "Importantly, given the rather large calorie excesses fueling childhood obesity, this model is a rebuttal to the food industry arguments that exercise alone can be the answer," said David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and editor of the journal Childhood Obesity, who was not involved in the study. "For our kids to achieve healthy weight, control of calories in, not just calories out, will have to be part of the formula." Read more on obesity.
Sequester to Close all HUD Offices on Friday, August 2
Every office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be closed on Friday, August 2 as part of the sequester which is being felt across all of government. The automatic spending cuts took effect March 1. HUD’s plan is to pair its seven required furlough days with holidays and weekends. HUD is encouraging people and businesses that work with the agency to plan around the schedule day of shutdown. Read more on budgets.
Percentage of Single-father Households Up Dramatically
In 1960 only about 1 percent of households with children under the age of 18 were headed by single fathers. Today that number is a record 8 percent, or about 2.6 million in 2011. About one quarter of all single-parent households are headed by fathers. The climb in single fathers is due to largely the same reason as the climb in single mothers, according to data from Pew Research Trends. These include a dramatic increase in non-marital births and high divorce rates. However, there are notable differences between households headed by a single father or a single mother, with perhaps the greatest being that single fathers are generally better off financially. Read more on housing.
One in Seven Skin Cancer Patients Returns to Tanning Booth
Even after being diagnosed with skin cancer, one in seven people who use indoor tanning will return to a tanning booth within the next year, according to a new study in JAMA Dermatology. Research consistently shows that indoor tanning, which can emit up to 15 times the ultraviolet A radiation of the sun, dramatically increases the risk of cancer. "The situation may be analogous to that of lung cancer patients who continue to smoke after diagnosis," said study author Brenda Cartmel, a cancer prevention researcher at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., to Reuters. "Just as tobacco is known to be addictive, our research suggests that some patients may become dependent on tanning, with new intervention approaches needed to change these behaviors." About 20 million American visit tanning beds each year; the majority of them are young white women. Read more on cancer.
Majority of OB/GYNs Do Not Follow Guidelines on Cervical Cancer Prevention
Fewer than one-third of U.S. obstetricians-gynecologists vaccinate eligible patients against HPV and only about half follow the guidelines for cervical cancer prevention, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend Pap tests beginning at the age of 21 and then gradually decreasing the rate of testing, depending on patient age and history. "In the current survey and others, providers stated that the largest barrier to HPV vaccination was patients and parents declining to receive the vaccine," said lead investigator Rebecca Perkins, MD, of the Boston University School of Medicine, in a release. "However, studies indicate that most patients support HPV vaccination, and that a strong physician recommendation is the most important determinant of vaccine uptake in young women." Read more on vaccines.
Approximately 362,100 residential fires left 2,555 civilians dead and another 13,275 injured in 2010, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They also caused about $6.6 billion in property damage.
According to FEMA, automatic fire sprinklers are the “most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure with respect to both life and property.” The numbers regarding just home fires are especially impressive: the risk of death drops 80 percent and the cost of property damage drops 71 percent, according to Preemption Watch. And when comparing simple costs to the lives saved, they’re without question cheap. Residential sprinkler systems cost only about $1.61 per square foot to install and typically help lower insurance costs.
When seen through the lens of public health, residential fire sprinklers are an inexpensive and easy tool to prevent injuries and save lives. They’re low in cost, quick to respond, small in size and require little work to install, which makes for a high return on investment.
The successful implementation of more than 300 local ordinances since the 1970’s demonstrates the power of grassroots movements in public health. And, in the reactions by many state governments, it helps illustrate the “preemptive” legislation that can hinder efforts to advance public health.
In several recent and upcoming posts, NewPublicHealth is connecting with communities that have faced severe weather disasters in the last year. New York City, for example, is continuing to regroup and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy struck the region eight months ago. The city, and its health department, recently announced several initiatives aimed at “building back better” while supporting residents still facing housing as well as mental health problems since the storm last October. Some examples are detailed below.
- The New York City Building Resiliency Task Force, an expert panel convened after Hurricane Sandy to help strengthen buildings and building standards, recently issued a report with recommendations for buildings and homes of all sizes in the city. The report recommends establishing backup power in the event that primary networks fail; protecting water supplies and stabilizing interior temperatures if residents need to shelter in place. ”Making our city’s buildings more resilient to coastal flooding and other climate hazards is a challenge that requires collaboration among government, designers, engineers, and building owners, among others,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden. “The Task Force's work exemplifies the kind of innovation and cooperation necessary to prepare our city for a changing climate.” To create the report, the Task Force convened over 200 volunteer experts in architecture, engineering, construction, building codes and real estate.
HPV Vaccine Has Lowered HPV Infection Rates in Teen Girls
A new study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases has found that since the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, vaccine-type HPV prevalence decreased 56 percent among female teenagers 14-19. About 79 million Americans—most in their late teens and early 20s—are infected with HPV. Each year, about 14 million people become newly infected. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States about 19,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women, with cervical cancer the most common. About 8,000 cancers caused by HPV occur each year in men in the United States, with oropharyngeal (throat) cancers the most common. “This report shows that the HPV vaccine works well, and the report should be a wake-up call to our nation to protect the next generation by increasing HPV vaccination rates,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Unfortunately only one third of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine.” Routine vaccination at age 11-12 for both boys and girls is recommended in the US, but according to recent national immunization surveys, only about half of all girls in the United States and far fewer boys, have received the first dose of HPV vaccine. Read more on vaccines.
AMA Announces New Policy Aimed at Removing Sugared-Beverages from SNAP Program
The American Medical Association (AMA) passed a policy at its annual meeting yesterday calling on the association to work to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for low-income families. SNAP replaced the U.S. Food Stamp program several years ago. The new policy also encourages state health agencies to include nutrition information in routine materials sent to SNAP recipients. According to the AMA, 58 percent of beverages bought with SNAP dollars are sugar-sweetened ones. The AMA also passed a resolution recognizing obesity as a disease “requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.” “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said AMA board member Patrice Harris, MD. Read more on obesity.
HUD Releases First-Ever Same Sex Housing Discrimination Study
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released the nation’s first-ever national study examining housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the private rental market. The study found that same-sex couples experience unequal treatment more often than heterosexual couples when responding to internet ads for rental units, and that gay male couples experience more discrimination than lesbian couples. “A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing,” said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to making sure that LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.” HUD’s study is based on nearly 7,000 email tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the country between June and October of 2011. For each paired test, two emails were sent to the housing provider regarding the unit advertised online. The only difference between the emails was whether the couple was same-sex or heterosexual. Unfavorable treatment was measured by whether the tester was told the unit was available, asked to contact the landlord, invited to the see the apartment, or received any response at all. Read more on housing.
HHS Updates Guidelines to Prevention Disease Transmission from Organ Transplants
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has updated its guidelines on reducing unexpected disease transmission through organ transplantation. The 2013 PHS Guideline for Reducing Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hepatitis B Virus and Hepatitis C Virus Transmission through Organ Transplantation updates the 1994 U.S. Public Health Service guidelines designed to improve patient safety. The recommendations include additional screening, revised risk factors and more sensitive laboratory testing. “Transmission of infections through organ transplants is a critical concern for patients, their families and healthcare personnel involved in transplant procedures,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH. “Putting these new recommendations into practice will allow doctors and patients to make better, more informed decisions when accepting organs for transplantation.” Read more on prevention.
HUD: $40M in Housing Counseling Grants to Improve Choices, Opportunities
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is providing $40 million in housing counseling grants to help people find housing, to make more informed choices and to improve their ability to keep their existing homes. The grants will help more than 1.6 million households via 334 national, regional and local organizations. “Make no mistake: these grants will do a lot of good,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a release. “The evidence is clear that housing counseling works. These grants are a smart investment to help families and individuals find and keep housing which helps promote neighborhood stability in the long term.” Read more on housing.
Majority of Adults Unaware of their Whooping Cough Vaccination Status
As the number of U.S. cases of pertussis—or whooping cough—rises, many adults are completely unaware of their need to remain up to date on their vaccinations. Only 20 percent say they’ve received the vaccine within the past decade and more than 60 percent do not even know their vaccination status. The lack of adult vaccinations can increase transmission rates to children; the majority of whooping cough deaths are children younger than 3 months. "Teens and adults who have received the [whooping cough] vaccine are less likely to get whooping cough themselves, and therefore less likely to spread whooping cough to other people, including infants who have not yet been protected by the recommended [whooping cough] vaccinations," said Matthew Davis, MD, director of the new University of Michigan National Poll on Children's Health. Read more on vaccines.
APHA, National Center for Healthy Housing Release Housing Standards to Improve Health
The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) have released a National Healthy Housing Standard aimed at improving the health of Americans by addressing serious health and safety hazards in U.S. homes. About 30 million families live in unsafe and unhealthy housing with broken heating and plumbing; holes in walls and windows; roach and rodent infestation; falling plaster; crumbling foundations; and leaking roofs. Millions more live in housing with serious health and safety hazards that can cause allergies, asthma, injuries, cancer and lead poisoning, which add billions of dollars to health care costs and harm children’s health, development and wellbeing, according to the APHA. The new standard would not apply to new construction or housing renovation, but will be used by government agencies to ensure that the existing housing stock—with more than 100 million units across the country—is maintained to protect the health and safety of Americans. The housing standard would be implemented through adoption by federal state and local agencies. NCHH is requesting comments from health and housing practitioners, advocates and other stakeholders in healthy housing on the standard through July 31, 2013 at NCHH.org. Read more on housing.
Black, Hispanic Kids With Autism Less Likely to See Specialists
Black and Hispanic children with autism are less likely than their white counterparts to access specialists such as gastroenterologists, neurologists and psychiatrists, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Study author Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD, a fellow in the department of pediatrics at MassGeneral and Harvard Medical School, said that while she expected to see differences, she was surprised by the extent of the disparity. Diagnosing and treating the disorders that often accompany is critical so that they do not lead to further health complications. "I do worry because autism is such a complicated disorder," she said. "The children have some sort of communication difficulty, so if they have stomach problems or sleep problems they may have difficulty expressing that. I always worry these kids are not getting all the care they need in general, and minority kids are more at [risk] of not getting the care they need." The study indicated that doctors need to be more aware of when to refer patients to specialists. About one in 50 school-age children have autism in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on health disparities.
Volunteer Time Reduces High Blood Pressure Risk in Older Adults
Time spent volunteering can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure in older U.S. adults, according to a new study in the journal Psychology and Aging. Researchers analyzed data on more than 1,100 adults, finding that those who volunteered at least 200 hours per year saw a 40 percent saw a 40 percent cut in high blood pressure risk four years down the line. Approximately 65 million American suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension. "As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interactions,” said lead author Rodlescia Sneed, a PhD candidate in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. "Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes." Read more on heart health.