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Allergic to Eggs? You Can Safety Get the Flu Shot—and Other Life-Threatening Allergy and Asthma Myths

Nov 7, 2014, 12:00 PM

Major medical conferences often showcase a study, perhaps two, that can change the field of practice and the health for thousands to millions. At this year’s annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, four studies made such an impact that the College created an infographic to better help share the findings:

  • Many—perhaps even most—people who think they’re allergic to penicillin really aren’t. And taking alternative antibiotics can cost more, be less effective and bring side effects.
  • A study in Chicago found that stocking epinephrine pens in public schools saved lives for more than a dozen kids who had potentially fatal allergic reactions, but who hadn’t been told to carry their own pen. The researchers say the lesson learned is that more schools and other public spaces need to keep supplies of the low-cost devices on hand.
  • Many doctors don’t keep up with the most recent allergy information—which means their patients may not be getting the most effective treatment. For example, 85 percent of internists polled think an egg allergy is a contraindication for the flu shot. Evidence shows the shot to be safe for people with an egg allergy.
  • Some YouTube asthma videos promote incorrect and dangerous alternative treatments for asthma that pose a risk of death if used rather than treatment based on clinical trials and scientific evidence. 
ACAAInfographic

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

PSA of the Month: Getting Help for Kids with Learning Challenges

Nov 6, 2014, 2:34 PM

One in five children in the United States has a learning or attention challenge, often undiagnosed. Those challenges can contribute to kids falling behind in their classes or even dropping out of school. That’s not just an education problem. As the National Prevention Strategy from the Office of the Surgeon General shows, education deficits lead to shorter lives, poorer health and smaller incomes.

Recently, the Ad Council launched a series of radio, television and display public service announcements aimed at getting parents to go to Understood.org. The website is a collaboration of fifteen education and community partners that offers parents resources such as recommendations for trained area experts and tools parents can use to help their children with a range of learning challenges, including reading skills and comprehension.

The television ads show parents speaking commands into a smartphone, which mistakes their words and directs them to useless information—a proxy, and a pretty good one, for the frustration children facing learning challenges often feel.

>>Bonus Content:

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Five Takeaways from National Forum on Hospitals, Health Systems and Population Health

Nov 5, 2014, 2:08 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center photo

The new faces of population health may be those of Annika Archie, Vernita Frasier, Pecola Blackburn, and Mary Dendy (shown in the photo on the right). They were once part of the cleaning crew at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, but their jobs were cut when the hospital outsourced those services to save money. But thanks to a creative initiative on the part of the hospital, they now they have new roles as “Supporters of Health,” serving the hospital’s uninsured, chronically ill patients in proactive ways.

Having come from similar circumstances as their patients, the four women help them cope with a range of needs–from understanding how to take their medications to getting assistance to pay their rent. In just a few months, the supporters helped cut hospital readmission rates for these patients to 2.5 percent, says Gary Gunderson, vice president of faith and health ministries at Wake Forest Baptist. “We gave them training as community health workers,” says Gunderson, “but it was sort of like just giving them a baseball hat”–a formality to acknowledge new roles that they had long played informally.

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Data for Health: Learning What Works for Philadelphia

Nov 5, 2014, 12:37 PM, Posted by Susannah Fox

Philadelphia City Hall

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Improving Population Health: Making Sure Patients—and Not Just Doctors—Are Accountable

Nov 5, 2014, 12:09 PM

Several heart disease associations—including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology—have released a report that calls on patients to take responsibility for following doctor’s orders when it comes to improving heart heath. The report authors say that while performance measures for improvements in heart disease have traditionally been doctor-focused, patient actions are also needed.

Those actions can include:

  • Following treatment plans
  • Taking medications as prescribed
  • Going to follow-up appointments
  • Maintaining lifestyle changes such as weight loss and regular exercise

The report calls on doctors to facilitate shared goal setting; shared decision making; and shared care planning and monitoring with their patients. It also pushes doctors to look at not just short-term measures, but long-term goals for patients and how they do on those goals.

One example from the report is tracking how well a patient adheres to a medication regimen—not just whether a drug was prescribed—and whether the prescribed treatment actually achieved its goal, such as lowering blood pressure or preventing a subsequent heart attack.

The goal of performance measurement is to improve patient outcomes, including improving the patient’s health status, and reducing their morbidity and mortality. Therefore, it is important to engage everyone that can have an impact on these goals including patients, family members or caregivers, clinicians, and the healthcare system,” said Eric D. Peterson, MD, MPH, director at the Duke Clinical Research Institute and writing committee co-chair. “Shared-accountability performance measures explicitly acknowledge these interdependencies so that everyone can work together towards the improved health of the patient.”

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

On Ebola, Can There be Too Much Coverage?

Oct 30, 2014, 1:50 PM

NewPublicHealth began its 2014 Ebola coverage several months ago as the number of cases—and deaths—in West Africa continued climbing and concern about diagnoses in the United States emerged. Our daily news roundups frequently link to critical announcements from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as prevention and treatment research news, and provide perspectives we haven’t seen elsewhere such as this week’s interview on the legalities of quarantines.

We’ve also continued posting stories on other infectious diseases, some of which—although deadly—have taken a back seat to Ebola in the daily U.S. news cycle.

Our colleagues at Global Health NOW, the global health blog of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, recently wrote about the potential for Ebola news overload. In the newsletter, editor Brian Simpson shared a note from a reader who noted that “It’s vital to not let Ebola crowd out other equally and more impactful health issues.”

Simpson replied that the writer “raises an important issue. Ebola has not made heart disease, AIDS, traffic injuries, gun violence, maternal mortality, schistosomiasis—or any other threat to human health—go away. However, dipping into any media stream might make you think so.”

Simpson adds that GHN “have run a slew of news...on Ebola since March 20” and adds that the challenge is reporting on the most important news while still maintaining perspective.”

“It’s a difficult balance, and sometimes we’ll screw up,” he said. “But we’ll always strive to keep things in perspective and find the essential news for you.” We feel the same way at NewPublicHealth.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Why Are So Many People Still Bypassing the Flu Shot?

Oct 30, 2014, 11:52 AM

Flu season in the United States typically runs from November through March, with the peak coming in January and February. But people can catch the flu both earlier than the usual start time and after the usual end of the season. In addition, the severity of the flu season can vary with from 3,000 to 49,000 U.S. deaths in a given year, an average of more than 200,000 hospitalizations and millions of illnesses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Flu shot season has a shorter time table, so many pharmacies and doctors’ office that are well stocked at the moment can run out before Christmas, making it difficult for people who put off their vaccinations to find a vaccine location and protect themselves.

And despite a yearly campaign to get people to roll their arms up, less fewer than half of adults and less than 60 percent of kids received a flu shot last year. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Carolyn Bridges, MD, the CDC’s associate director for adult immunizations about what keeps people from getting the flu shot and how more people can be encouraged to get the vaccine.

NewPublicHealth: What is it that keeps people from getting the shot?

Carolyn Bridges: I think there are a number of things. Certainly, we have pretty good awareness about the recommendations for the influenza vaccine, although some people may just not realize that they are potentially at risk. The current recommendations call for all persons six months of age and older to get an annual flu vaccine, with rare exceptions. But the vaccine recommendations have changed over time and in the last few years have been broadened to include [just about] everyone. For some people the message hasn’t gotten to them that in fact they are now included in the group recommended for a yearly flu vaccine

NPH: What common misconceptions do people still have about the flu vaccine?

Bridges: In terms of the safety, some people question or are worried about getting the flu from the flu vaccine. That’s still a common comment that we receive. Sometimes people will certainly have body aches or some tenderness in the arm where they get their flu vaccine, but that’s certainly not the same as getting influenza, and those symptoms generally are very self-limited and go away within two to three days. But the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. 

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Working Together to Draw More Nurses to Public Health

Oct 24, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Patricia Drehobl

Patricia Drehobl, MPH, RN, is associate director for program development at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program (2007-2010).

Patricia Drehobl

Human Capital Blog: CDC is engaging in new partnerships with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to promote public health nursing. How did the new collaboration come about?

Pat Drehobl: CDC has funded some national academic associations for many years, including the Association of Schools of Public Health, the Association of Prevention Teaching and Research, and the Association of American Medical Colleges. We recognized the need to include nursing representation because nursing is the largest discipline in the public health workforce. We added AACN as a partner in 2012 when we developed our funding opportunity announcement to work with academic partners.

HCB: Why did CDC decide to reach out to the nursing community in 2012?

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New Kaiser Infographics Compares Key Ebola Factors with Other Infectious Diseases

Oct 23, 2014, 2:22 PM

KaiserEbolaInfographic

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Global Health in a Time of Ebola

Oct 21, 2014, 2:44 PM, Posted by Paul Kuehnert

Nelson Mandela's cell on Robbens Island Nelson Mandela's cell on Robbens Island (photo by Paul Kuehnert)

I returned from Cape Town, South Africa a week ago and want to share some reflections on my trip and my participation in the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, in Cape Town September 30-October 3, with the theme “Science & Practice of People-Centred Health Systems.”

In the opening session, Professor Thandika Mkandawire from the London School of Economics made two remarks that resonated with me, and that were referred to by other speakers throughout the conference. First, referencing Napoleon’s quote that “War is too important to leave to the generals,” Mkandawire said that “health is too important to leave to health specialists.”  Instead, there is a need for multiple disciplines and sectors to create health and devise health policy. He went on to address the policy issues related to the most vulnerable populations, saying that “policies targeting the poor are poor policies”, arguing for the importance of social solidarity, not charity.

The current Ebola epidemic highlights the gaps in public health in many nations, as well as the erosion of public health emergency preparedness and response at WHO and many other nations, including the US.. This is putting our health at risk from all kinds of infectious and emerging diseases (e.g., MERS, polio) and threatens progress in health in other areas.

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