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Archive for: April 2012

Federal Trade Commission: Advertising Practices to Promote Public Health

Apr 30, 2012, 5:25 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Mary_Engle Mary Engle, Federal Trade Commission

The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy is about to celebrate its first anniversary. The Strategy offers a comprehensive plan aimed at increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. A cornerstone of the National Prevention Strategy is that it recognizes that good health comes not just from receiving quality medical care, but also from the conditions we face where we live, learn work and play such as clean water and air, safe worksites and healthy foods. The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and others.

As the Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about the initiatives being introduced to help Americans work toward the goal of long and healthy lives.

This week, NewPublicHealth spoke with Mary Engle, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Division of Advertising Practices, and National Prevention Council designee.

NewPublicHealth: Why is health a priority for the FTC? Why was it important for FTC to be involved in the development of the National Prevention Strategy?

Mary Engle: When you think about our mission, which is to protect consumers and maintain competition in the marketplace, health is such an important part of that. We want to make sure consumers aren’t misled about health services and products marketed to them and that they don’t pay more than they need to.

Initiatives that are a priority for us include combating deceptive advertising of fraudulent cure-all claims for dietary supplements and weight loss products; monitoring and reporting on the marketing of food to children as well as alcohol and tobacco marketing practices; and developing consumer education materials designed to empower consumers to make informed health care decisions and to avoid fraud.

NPH: What FTC initiatives support the National Prevention Strategy?

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Recession Likely Cause of Drop in Doctor Visits, Prescription Medications

Apr 30, 2012, 1:20 PM

Americans visited their doctors less often and took fewer medications in 2011, according to a study released this month by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. The likely cause: financial pressures.

The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2011” finds the total number of physician office visits declined 4.7 percent in 2011, the fourth decline in five years. Non-emergency room hospital admissions also declined slightly (by 0.1 percent), but emergency room admissions increased (7.4 percent), “the possible result of continued high levels of uninsured patients associated with long-term unemployment,” the study says.

It also finds changes in medication utilization. While seniors remained the largest users of medications, their use of retail prescriptions fell by 3.1 percent. Young people, age 19 to25, however, increased their prescription use by 2 percent. They were the only age group to increase their drug utilization in 2011, perhaps as a result of the provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows them to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.

The drop in per-capita use of prescriptions may be due in part to combination pills and 90-day, rather than 30-day, prescriptions, American Medical News reports, but “researchers believe strained finances are the most significant factor.”

“The end of the recession has not delivered recovery to many people,” Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at IMS and the primary author of the study, told American Medical News. “Patients are spreading out repeat visits and self-medicating with over-the-counter drugs.”

Read the study.

Read a news release about the study.

Read the American Medical News story.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

Happiness is Hot

Apr 30, 2012, 9:15 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini Paul Tarini

Happiness is gaining currency today, particularly in relationship to health and medicine. That’s what we’ve been hearing ever since Harvard School of Public Health researchers Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky published their report “The Heart’s Content: The Association Between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health” in the Psychological Bulletin, under a grant from Pioneer. This is the first study of its kind to look closely at how positive psychological well-being—including happiness and optimism—plays a role in heart health.

The story was indeed hot – gaining attention from USA Today, The Huffington Post, TIME’s Healthland blog, WebMD, The New York Times’ Well Blog, ABCNews.com, MensHealth.com, ModernHealthcare.com, Oprah.com, and hundreds more – and being shared throughout social networks and on the web.

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National Infant Immunization Week: Vaccine Champions in Every State

Apr 27, 2012, 5:47 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

screen shot 2012-04-27 at 8.43.15 AM

This week is National Infant Immunization Week, an annual observance to promote vaccinations in kids two and younger.

Last September the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children are at near-record or record highs. But CDC experts say that without ongoing efforts to maintain immunization programs in the US – and to strengthen them worldwide -- vaccine-preventable diseases remain a threat to children. In 2010, for example, an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) killed ten infants in California.

CDC and the CDC Foundation are recognizing innovative child immunization efforts this year with the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Awards, a new annual award to recognize individuals who make significant contributions toward improving public health through their work in childhood immunization.

Innovations recognized this year include:

  • A contest to help increase the number of people vaccinated against season flu.
  • A link between a hospital’s electronic medical records and the state immunization registry which lets pediatrics practices upload vaccine information directly into the registry and gives providers easy access to registry data about their patients.
  • Vaccine mobiles, providing free vaccines regardless of insurance coverage, parked at public spaces and linked to a state registry system.

Read about the champions in all fifty states.

Weigh In: What innovative approaches have increased infant immunization rates in your community?

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

Healthier Communities: A NewPublicHealth Conversation with the Y's Monica Vinluan

Apr 27, 2012, 3:40 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Y Healthier Communities

The Healthier Communities Initiatives of the Y are built on the concept that local communities can work together to create healthy choices and support the pursuit of healthy lifestyles. More than 160 Ys are working in collaboration with community leaders to make changes in policies and the physical surroundings in those communities to help improve the health and lives of everyone.

Pioneering Healthier Communities, launched in 2004, focuses on collaborative engagement with community leaders, and the role policy plays in sustaining change. Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities, launched in 2009, is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with an aim of addressing the childhood obesity epidemic through policy and environmental changes that will have implications for communities, states and the nation. Communities in Connecticut, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are participating in the program.

Some examples of programs that have emerged from the initiative include:

  • Burlington, KY: The Burlington SPHC represents a collaboration of partners including the Northern Kentucky Health Department, the Early Childhood Councils in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties, one school district, 20 individual schools in three counties and the Kentucky Department of Public Health. The collaboration has resulted in the improvement of menus in at least 10 childcare centers and has provided concrete examples of menu changes for other centers. SPHC provided funding to train staff for a pre-assessment of the center menus, measuring amount of fat, fresh fruits and vegetables in meals, and types of beverages served. A number of early childhood centers agreed to change their menus by February 1, 2012, and centers that did so received a cash incentive, paid by a different funder. The revised menus will be compared with the pre-assessment of menus to determine the success of the program.
  • In Port Huron, Michigan, the SPHC conducted assessments in 17 schools, 5 afterschool locations and 5 neighborhoods which indicated need for improved in-school and out-of school policy. The SPHC group has worked to increase physical activity time being offered throughout the school day and in out-of school programming. They have doubled their required physical education time – from 1 to 2 hours per week – and have seen compliance in 10 out of 11 elementary schools and 1 of 3 middle schools, and the YMCA of the Blue Water Area has added an extra hour of play time at four after-school sites.
  • In Marion, Ohio, SPHC continues to build community momentum for childhood obesity prevention, including organizing effort across groups to move the community forward. Using local data, including the County Health Rankings, the SPHC confirmed additional effort and resources were needed in certain disadvantaged parts of the city, including better access to fruits and vegetables and improved areas for outdoor play. In response, the SPHC helped create four new community gardens, has worked to improve the built environment by increasing public awareness through media and educating decision makers and has advocated for a Complete Streets policy and a Safe Routes to School policy.

NewPublicHealth spoke recently with Monica Vinluan, JD, project director of the Y’s Healthier Communities Initiatives.

NPH: What are some of the leading practices you use across the healthier communities initiatives that you have been putting into play?

Monica Vinluan: We actually have seven leading practices of our healthier communities work: Our first one is to start with a shared, compelling vision and a spirit of inquiry.

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Project SHAPE LA: Nurse Faculty Scholar Alum Aims to Help Children Get Active

Apr 27, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by Kynna Wright-Volel

Kynna Wright-Volel, PhD, RN, MPH, PNP-BC, FAAN, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar alumna, recently won a five-year, $1.2 million grant funded jointly by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research and Office of Behavioral Social Science Research. She will use the grant to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District to launch Project SHAPE LA™, a coordinated school-health program designed to increase physical activity among youth in Los Angeles County schools.


Human Capital Blog: Please share your vision for Project Shape LA™, what its goals are and how many children and teens it will reach.

Kynna Wright-Volel: Project SHAPE LA™ targets 24 middle schools in underserved areas of Los Angeles and will touch nearly 12,000 students. With this grant, we want physical education teachers to ignite a passion for physical activity – to teach kids that by being active, they can be healthy and achieve their dreams. Anticipated outcomes from this program include: increased moderate to vigorous physical activity; increased scores on the California State Board of Education’s FitnessGram Test in the areas of aerobic fitness, body composition and muscular strength/endurance; and increased academic achievement, as evidenced by higher scores on the California standardized test.

HCB: Why is a project like this needed in your community?

Wright-Volel: According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, one in five children in the Los Angeles Unified School District is considered obese. Health inequities exist as well; children who are racial and ethnic minorities and/or come from families with low incomes have higher rates of obesity.

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Health and High Energy Costs: Assessing the Impact of Smart Metering

Apr 26, 2012, 5:45 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Megan_Sandel Megan Sandel, National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership.

The connection between health and energy consumption is an area just beginning to be understood, but when some people are forced to choose between paying their energy bill and paying for food or medicine, it becomes critical. The Health Impact Project has just released a new health impact assessment (HIA) of a pilot program run by Illinois' largest electric utility, Commonwealth Edison. The HIA looked at the health effects of implementing "smart metering," which replaces existing mechanical meters with digital meters that record customer usage in 15-minute increments. The new meters are coupled with a new two-way communication system that allow a utility company to remotely connect and disconnect service, as well as get real-time, detailed customer usage. The purpose of this HIA was to evaluate the potential health impacts of smart metering for residential customers in the ComEd service territory in Illinois.

The HIA looked at three key issues:

  • Whether smart metering will raise customer rates for electricity service because of the additional infrastructure investment costs;
  • Whether new energy pricing programs enabled by smart metering will provide benefits to customers or increase costs to vulnerable customers at a time when they can least afford it; and
  • Whether the use of a remote service switch to connect or disconnect service, particularly in the case of disconnection for non-payment, will have adverse impacts on vulnerable populations

NewPublicHealth spoke about the new HIA with lead researcher, Megan Sandel, MD, MPH, who is the interim executive director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership.

NewPublicHealth: Why is energy a health issue?

Megan Sandel: Understanding how energy and health are connected is a burgeoning field. We understand that the cost of energy can sometimes be particularly important because families may have to make tradeoffs, such as trading off between paying for their heat and necessarily eating enough. Or they’re trading off between paying for their heat or their electricity bill and being able to pay for medicine. And while some people may see the potential concern for some users over heating costs, they may not connect those similar problems can occur with cooling costs. People have actually died in heat waves because they were not able to access their energy needs in a timely way. And so, we were interested looking at this energy proposal and being able to add in possible health implications.

NPH: What populations are most vulnerable or affected due to a lack of affordable energy and why is that?

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Are You Sitting Down for This?

Apr 26, 2012, 3:45 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Standing while working has become a way-of-work for some of the NewPublicHealth staff, and most report that after a brief breaking in-period the foot aches give way to a more alert, healthier-feeling workday. So we were amused, and delighted, to see this recent essay on the merits and drawbacks of standing versus sitting all day in PARADE magazine by author A.J. Jacobs. The excerpt is from Jacobs’ new book, Drop Dead Healthy.

Read the excerpt.

>>Weigh in: Were you standing or sitting while you read this post? Which would you rather be doing?

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

Keeneland Conference: Law and Public Health Services and Systems

Apr 25, 2012, 5:30 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Last week’s Keeneland Conference included a session that looked at research in the area of law and legal process. The session was moderated by Scott Burris, JD, director of Public Health Law Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based at Temple University.

Burris noted several key presentations during the conference including one by Julia Costich, JD, PhD, who is an associate professor in the Department of Health Services Management at the University Of Kentucky College Of Public Health. Costich presented on the importance of how health agencies enforce the power they have. Burris says there is a huge body of literature from regulatory and governance sources on how effective regulators regulate—and that public health is only beginning to draw on. “That’s really opening a big important door, and we’ll see a lot more about that in future years.”

Jennifer Ibrahim, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of public health at Temple University, looked at how law is being figured out at the local level. Burris said that researchers both at the Public Health Law Research Program and collaborators have conducted research on the relationship between state and local health officers and their lawyers.

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SAMHSA Launches 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline

Apr 25, 2012, 3:35 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

The recent spate of severe storms around the country is a driving catalyst behind the decision by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) to change the status of its formerly as-needed helpline available after disasters, into a permanent program—the Disaster Distress Helpline.

Brad Stone, a SAMHSA spokesperson, says previously the agency would engage the 24/7 helpline (1-800 985-5990, text 66746) after disasters such as hurricanes to help people in need of mental health counseling and referral. Stone says SAMHSA found the disasters were occurring frequently enough that having it continually available was the best way to help people as soon as a crisis strikes.

The helpline immediately connects callers to trained professionals from the closest crisis counseling center who can provide confidential counseling, referrals and other support services.

“When disaster strikes, people react with increased anxiety, worry and anger. With community and family support, most of us bounce back. Some may need extra assistance to cope with unfolding events and uncertainties,” says SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.

Multilingual help is available and the helpline is intended for anyone experiencing psychological distress as a result of natural or man-made disasters, incidents of mass violence or any other tragedy affecting America's communities.

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