Category Archives: Violence

Aug 2 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 2

Nine-state Study Shows Statewide Smoking Bans Would Not Hurt Restaurant, Bar Business
Despite the concerns of many proprietors, statewide smoke-free laws would not hurt business at restaurants and bars, according to a new study in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. Bans on workplace and public area smoking reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, encourage smokers to quit, improve the health employees and reduce the risk for heart attack hospitalizations. The findings of the CDC Foundation study—the largest such analysis, with nine states—line up with previous research. The participating states were chosen because they do not have statewide smoking bans, but do have a good deal of local laws. “Smoke-free laws make good business sense—they improve health, save lives, increase productivity, and reduce health care costs,” said U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. Communities throughout the United States have made great strides in protecting workers and the public from secondhand smoke in the past decade, but too many Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke on the job and in public places.”

Below is a related smoke-free video for the state of Texas. Watch all the videos here.

Read more on tobacco.

FDA Sets New Standards for ‘Gluten-free’ Food Labeling
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a new standard to define “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling. People with the autoimmune digestive condition of celiac disease—about 3 million Americans—can manage the condition by eating a diet free of gluten, which is found in naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains. Under the new rules, “gluten-free” labeling is restricted to products that meet all of the FDA requirements, including that the food contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The standards also apply to products that claim “no gluten,” “free of gluten” and “without gluten.” FDA is giving food manufacturers one year to come in line with the new standard. “Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.” Read more on food safety.

CDC: Murders from Guns Down, But Suicide Rate is Up
The latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has both good and bad news on gun violence—and both stress the need for further measures to reduce gun violence, especially early prevention. According to the CDC, gun-murder rate is down, but the suicide rate is up. The murder rate dropped around 15 percent from 2006-07 to 2009-10 in the majority of the fifty largest U.S. cities, but the suicide rate climbed as much as 15 percent in about 75 percent of the cities. In 2009-10 there were approximately 22,500 murders and 38,000 suicides involving a gun. "If there is any question that gun control is a big problem, here's a good example of why," said Victor Fornari, MD, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. "Access to firearms is a serious public health problem. Limiting access to firearms would reduce homicide as well as suicide. As long as guns are available there are going to be these violent outcomes." Read more on violence.

Aug 1 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 1

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.

Jul 15 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 15

Gulf States Partner with East, Midwest States to Share Health Records After Disasters
Four Gulf Coast states have partnered with six East and Midwest states to help ensure that patients and providers have access to health records in the event of hurricanes or other major disasters, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In concert with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, health information exchange (HIE) programs in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia will share information on residents forced to move from their homes because of a disaster. “Through disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and large tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri, in 2011 and more recently in Moore, Oklahoma, we have learned the importance of protecting patients’ health records through electronic tools like health information exchanges,” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator for health IT. “Patients are better off when states and health information exchange organizations work together to ensure that health information can follow patients when they need it the most.” Read more on preparedness.

Physical Punishment of Kids Tied to Obesity, Other Adult Health Problems
Obesity and other health problems are more likely in children who are punished through violence such as pushing, shoving and slapping, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Previous studies have also connected violent discipline with negative mental health outcomes. Researchers found that people who were punished physically “sometimes”—without more extreme physical or emotional abuse—were 25 percent more likely to have arthritis and 28 percent more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. About 31 percent of those punished physically were obese; about 26 who were not punished physically were obese. "Changes in sleep, risk-taking behaviors, immune functioning and regulation of stress hormones that result from chronic or intense stress may be important factors," said Michele Knox, a psychiatrist who studies family and youth violence at the University of Toledo College of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. "If we want what's best for our children, we need to choose discipline that does not come with these risks.” Read more on violence.

Putting Off Retirement May Also Help Put Off Alzheimer’s
Staying longer in the workforce may help decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research looking at more than 429,000 workers in France. It found a 3 percent reduction in risk for each extra year at the age of retirement. The study is to be presented today at an Alzheimer's Association conference in Boston. About 5.2 million U.S. adults live with Alzheimer’s and it is the country’s sixth-leading cause of death. "There's increasing evidence that lifestyle factors such as exercise, mental activities, social engagement, positive outlook and a heart-healthy diet may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia," said James Galvin, MD, director of the Pearl Barlow Center for Memory Evaluation and Treatment at the NYU Langone School of Medicine, who was not involved with the research. "Now we can add staying in the workforce to this list of potential protective factors." About one-third of U.S. adults earning less than $100,000 annually said they would need to work until the age of 80 to retire comfortably, according to a 2012 Wells Fargo survey of 1,000 Americans. Read more on aging.

Jul 12 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 12

CDC: Youth Homicide Rate at a 30-Year Low
The youth homicide rate reached a 30-year low in 2010, though a slowing of the decline since 2000 indicates the increased need for youth violence prevention strategies, according to a new data in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The 2010 rate was 7.5 per 100,000 U.S. youth, ages 10 to 24. Higher-risk youth, including males and non-Hispanic black youth, have seen slower declines in the homicide rate. “We are encouraged to see a decline in the homicide rate among our youth but unfortunately, homicide continues to rank in the top three leading causes of death for our young people,” said Linda C. Degutis, DrPH, MSN, director, CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Our youth represent our future and one homicide is one too many.  Comprehensive approaches that include evidence-based prevention strategies are essential to eliminate homicide as a leading cause of death of young people.” Read more on violence.

FDA Proposes Arsenic Limit for Apple Juice
The U.S. Food and Drug administration has proposed a limit of 10 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, which is about the same levels permitted in drinking water. Inorganic arsenic, which is both naturally occurring in the environment and a product of arsenic-containing pesticides, is a known carcinogen linked to skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes. The non-profit Consumer Reports called the proposal a "reasonable first step in protecting consumers from unnecessary exposure to arsenic." Now that the FDA has released its proposed guidance, we look forward to analyzing the agency's risk assessment, submitting comments, and continuing the dialogue on this important public health issue," said Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at the organization. Read more on food safety.

Study: Air Pollution Kills 2.1 Million People Each Year
As many as 2.1 million people die every year because of global air pollution, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. About 470,000 of those are linked to human-caused increases in ozone, although climate change is only a small factor. Fine particulate matter air pollution can get into the lungs, causing cancer and other respiratory illnesses. "Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health," study co-author Jason West, of the University of North Carolina, said in a release. "Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in East Asia and South Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe." Read more on environment.

Jul 8 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 8

Adults with Mobility Issues Have Higher Rates of Obesity, Chronic Illness
Adults with a disability that causes mobility issues are more likely to be obese or suffer from a chronic illness, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The chronic illnesses include those commonly linked to overall health and exercise, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. They are also twice as likely to take medication for hypertension and lipid-lowering medicine. Researchers say the findings demonstrate the need for health care providers to emphasize lifestyle changes and exercise over just medication. “Health care providers face a challenge when it comes to helping their patients with a disability manage their weight when exercise and physical activity play such an important role in weight management,” said Katherine Froehlich-Grobe, PhD, lead author of the paper and associate professor of health promotion and behavioral science at The UT School of Public Health Dallas Regional Campus. “People with disabilities are underserved by national efforts aiming at reducing and preventing obesity. We must focus on managing and reducing weight for individuals with a disability.” About 54 million Americans have a disability. Read more on obesity.

Study: One in Four Injured Youth in ER Visits Had a Gun
In a study of emergency room treatments for assault injuries in teenagers and young adults in Michigan, approximately one in four of the injured reported owning or carrying a gun. The study appeared in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers found that most were obtained illegally, and while “well-off young men” were most likely to have a gun, the rate did not vary by race. According to a 2003 study, the rate of gun homicides for Americans 15 to 24 years old were about 40 times higher than the rates in comparable nations. While it recommends against guns in the home, the American Academy of Pediatrics says gun-owning families with children should keep guns locked and separate from ammunition. Lead researcher Patrick Carter, MD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said more programs need to be developed to prevent future gun violence, but in the mean time communities with high rates of violence need to place more emphasis on safety and responsibility when it comes to discussing guns with youth and young adults. "I would say to parents, talk to your kids about firearms and the dangers associated with firearms and try to look at ways to prevent kids from getting involved in both substance use and violence," he said. Read more on violence.

Even With Same Care, Black Blood Cancer Patients Have Worse Outcomes than White Patients
Even when they receive the same type and level of care, black Americans with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) do not live as long as white Americans with the same blood cancer, according to a new study in the journal Cancer. While black patients generally saw a shorter time between diagnosis and referral, they also had more advanced CLL at the time of referral and their cancers progressed more quickly. The researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said that biological factors may account for the different survival rates. Research consistently shows that minority patients tend to have worse cancer outcomes than white patients; poverty and access to care have also been identified as potential factors. Read more on health disparities.

Jul 1 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 1

National Surgical Groups Offers Tips, Warnings on Fourth of July Fireworks
With the Fourth of July holiday only a few days away, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is cautioning adults and children to be careful when it comes to handling fireworks. "Many people consider consumer fireworks to be harmless fun, when in fact they can be extremely dangerous, especially when used by or near children and adolescents," said Boston orthopedic surgeon Tamara Rozental, MD, spokesperson for the group."If caution is not used and safety guidelines are not adhered to, fireworks can cause serious injuries to the hands and fingers as well as the eyes.” The total amount of fireworks purchased by Americans climbed to 212 million pounds in 2011, up from 184 million in 2010. Fireworks led to about 18,700 injuries and more than 7,300 emergency department visits. The group recommends a number of safety tips, including not handling fireworks while consuming alcohol, restriction of use by children and keeping a water source nearby. Read more on injury prevention.

WHO: Expanded Anti-smoking Measures Could Save Millions of Lives Globally
Millions of lives could be saved each year globally if more countries enacted strict anti-smoking measures such as higher taxes on tobacco products, bans on smoking advertisements and restrictions on tobacco use in public places, according to a new study published by the World Health Organization (WHO). Approximately forty countries, including Turkey and Romania, currently utilize such public health regulations. About 6 million people die each year from smoking, with that number expected to rise to eight million annually by 2030, according to the WHO. Researchers believe that by 2050 more than 7 million lives could be saved by expanding the proven anti-tobacco measures. "If anything it is an under-estimate," said Douglas Bettcher, MD, director of WHO's department of noncommunicable diseases, to Reuters. "It is a win-win situation for health and finance ministries to generate revenues that have a major impact on improving health and productivity.” Read more on tobacco.

Dating Violence Patterns Can Be Seen as Early as Middle School
Patterns in dating violence later in life can be seen as early as middle school, according to a new study in the Journal of School Health. According to the study approximately half of middle school students sampled had experienced dating violence, with about 20 percent reporting physical violence and 48.1 percent reporting nonphysical victimization. “Not only are these rates similar to those seen in older, high school populations they are similar to those seen among adult females,”, said Melissa Peskin, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health. According to the researchers, the findings demonstrate the need for earlier intervention and prevention efforts. Read more on violence.

Jun 20 2013
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RWJF ‘Commission to Build a Healthier America’ Reconvenes to Focus on Early Childhood and Improving Community Health

What do the needs of children in early childhood and improving community health have to do with each other? Everything, according to a group of panelists who addressed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Commission to Build a Healthier America at a public meeting in Washington, D.C. yesterday.   

Early childhood education and other interventions early in life, particularly for low-income children, can set kids on a path to better jobs, increased income and less toxic stressors such as violence and food insecurity, according to testimony at the today’s meeting. And that in turn creates more stable and healthier communities. Those two issues are the focus of the Commission, which plans to release actionable recommendations in September.

Yesterday’s event marks the first time the Commission is reconvening since it issued recommendations for improving health for all Americans in 2009. It will be co-chaired again by Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at The Brookings Institution and former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Alice M. Rivlin, PhD, senior economist at The Brookings Institution and former director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“Although we have seen progress since the Commission issued its recommendations in 2009, we still have a long way to go before America achieves its full health potential,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA at the Commission’s  public meeting in Washington. “We know what works: giving children a healthy start with quality child care and early childhood development programs, and building healthy communities where everyone has an opportunity to make healthy choices. That is why RWJF is reconvening the Commission, to concentrate on these two critical areas.”

Read More

Jun 7 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 7

New ‘Health Affairs’ Brief Looks at Novel Coverage Idea under the Affordable Care Act
A number of states that have decided against implementing the Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act, which would give Medicaid benefits to many low-income adults who currently don’t have health insurance, may have another idea for coverage. The states are considering providing people eligible for the Medicaid funds with vouchers to purchase private insurance on their state health insurance exchanges. The exchanges, also known as marketplaces, open October 1, 2013 for health insurance that begins January 1, 2014. A new policy brief from Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation looks at whether that option can be cost-effective and still provide benefits equal to those provided by the traditional Medicaid program. Read more on access to health care.

Teen Dating Violence Persists Despite Prevention Efforts
Two recent studies by the University of Maryland School of Public Health examine physical dating violence (PDV) among teens found it persists despite decades of national and local prevention efforts. The research showed that PDV rates have remained consistent for girls since 1999 and that rates for boys' PDV have increased. The study on trends in girls, published in the Journal of School Health, found that approximately one in 10 girls experience PDV annually. Teenage girls who reported being physically abused by a girlfriend or boyfriend were also more likely to report feeling sad and hopeless and have suicidal thoughts, violence-related behaviors and engage in sexually risky behavior. A second study, published in the International Quarterly of Community Health Education, found that the prevalence of male PDV victims increased about 30 percent between 1999 and 2009, and according to the study by 2009 almost one in eight high school males reported having been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the past year. The study also found feelings of hopelessness, physical fighting, multiple sex partners and lack of condom use among male victims of PDV. Read more on violence.

USDA, EPA Launch U.S. Food Waste Challenge
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, which calls on food producers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities and government agencies to reduce, recover and recycle food waste. Food waste in the United States is estimated at between 30 to 40 percent of the food supply. In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants and homes was never consumed. In 2010, the financial value of food waste was pegged at close to $400 for every U.S. consumer. As part of the food challenge, USDA is initiating activities to reduce waste in the school meals program, educate consumers about food waste and food storage, and develop new technologies to reduce food waste. To join the Challenge visit here. Read more on nutrition.

May 16 2013
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TEDMED Talks: 'Cure Violence' Founder on Treating Violence as a Contagious Disease

How can we put a stop to violence? Gary Slutkin, MD, believes the key is treating it as we would any contagious disease. The epidemiologist and Founder/Executive Director of Cure Violence recently spoke at TEDMED 2013 about utilizing public health and science-based strategies to prevent violence in communities.

“The greatest predictor of a case of violence is a preceding case of violence,” said Slutkin.

And as with an epidemic such as cholera, the way to stop violence is to find those “first cases” and interrupt the transmission. Cure Violence’s model involves violence interrupters who play a similar role as health workers during epidemics, going into communities to help re-frame issues and cool down situations that could lead to violence. At the same time, outreach workers help people change their behavior and—in time—change the social norms of a community.

>> Watch the full TEDMED presentation.

>>Read more about the public health approach to public safety from Cure Violence.

May 13 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: May 13

One in Five Kids At Risk for Suicide Live in Homes with Guns
Nearly one in five children and teens found to be at risk for suicide report that there are guns in their homes and fifteen percent of those with guns in their home said they know how to access both the guns and the bullets, according to a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The study researchers recommend that emergency department doctors screen all children and teens for suicide risk. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 years in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly half of young people who die by suicide use a gun. Read more on injury prevention.

Teen Girls Who Exercise Are Less Likely to be Violent
A study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health finds that high school girls who play sports or run have a lower risk of being in fights or in a gang. Researchers at the school reviewed results of a 2008 survey completed by 1,312 students at four inner-city high schools in New York to determine if there was an association between regular exercise and violence-related behaviors.

The survey results found that girls who had exercised more than 10 days in the last month had decreased odds of being in a gang, those who did more than 20 sit-ups in the past four weeks had decreased odds of carrying a weapon or being in a gang and those who reported running more than 20 minutes the last time they ran had lower odds of carrying a weapon. Girls who participated in team sports in the past year had decreased odds of carrying a weapon, being in a fight, or being in a gang.

Among boys, none of the exercise measures were linked to decrease in violence-related behaviors. But the researchers say that a connection may not have been found because a smaller percentage of boys than girls completed the survey and that more research is needed to see if exercise interventions can reduce youth violence. Read more on violence.

USDA Announces New Rules to Fund Broadband Service in Underserved Rural Communities
The USDA has announced new rules that simplify the proposals to request funds for internet broadband access in rural areas. USDA broadband funds have provided internet access for nearly 65,000 rural households, businesses, and community organizations such as libraries, schools and first responders. Read more on preparedness.