Category Archives: News roundups
March of Dimes Establishes Research Collaborative on Causes of Preterm Births
Three universities and four hospitals in Ohio have joined with the March of Dimes Foundation to establish a collaborative research program aimed at finding the unknown causes of premature birth. According to the March of Dimes, preterm birth is the most common and costly newborn health problem in the United States, affecting nearly half a million babies each year. It is also the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health issues, including vision and breathing problems. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. “The transdisciplinary approach will increase dramatically the rate of progress in understanding why some babies are born too soon. Ultimately our goal is to use this knowledge to develop effective therapies to prevent preterm birth and enable all pregnancies to proceed to full term,” said ” said Sam Mesiano, PhD, Site Director for the Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals, and MetroHealth component of the collaborative. One of the focus aims of the research includes the sociobiology of racial disparities in preterm birth. African-American and Hispanic mothers have higher rates of preterm births than do whites. Read more on maternal and infant health.
House, Senate Consider Cuts to SNAP in Farm Bill Reauthorization
The U.S. House and Senate are each considering versions of the five-year Farm Bill reauthorization that would save money in part by cutting the budget for the supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps nearly 48 million Americans purchase food each year. The House version would cut $2 billion and the Senate version would cut $400 million, according to The Washington Post. The House version would also stop certain forms of automatic SNAP benefits. James S. Marks, Senior Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group, said cutting SNAP benefits would violate the fundamental tenet of medicine to “first, do no harm.” “Cutting SNAP is precisely the wrong prescription for our children and the nation's economic recovery. The notion that SNAP benefits are an overly generous handout could not be further from the truth,” he wrote in The Huffington Post, adding “SNAP has the potential to be a public health tool that can help address the complex problems of hunger and obesity.” Read more on nutrition.
CDC: High Rates of Unhealthy Behavior Persist
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that, overall, Americans aren’t making much improvement in their health. About 60 percent are overweight or obese, about 60 percent drink, about 20 percent smoke and about 80 percent don’t meet federal guidelines for exercise. "Changes have not been enormous," said report author Charlotte Schoenborn, a health statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "It's been a very, very slow process of changing awareness of personal choices for healthier ways of life.” Added Rich Hamburg, deputy director of Trust for America's Health: "I think we're in a situation now where we're at a crossroads. We have two paths to go. We're hopeful that if we continue to invest in community-based prevention, if we promote healthy eating and active living, these rates will begin to decrease." Read more on CDC.
Devastation in Oklahoma, More Storms Possible
Following tornadoes in Oklahoma yesterday that killed and injured scores of people and leveled whole communities, the National Weather Service is warning that that severe weather could move eastward as far as the Gulf Coast and Northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday. “These are dangerous storms and we urge people to monitor the situation closely and be alert for severe weather warnings in their community,” said Trevor Riggen, vice president of Disaster Operations and Logistics for the Red Cross. The Red Cross has created a free tornado app, available in English or Spanish, whose features include a high-pitched siren tornado warning alert that signals when an alert from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) tornado warning has been issued. The app, found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross, also includes an all-clear alert that lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been cancelled. The app also includes one-touch “I’m safe” messaging to alert family and friends through social media outlets. Read more on preparedness.
Cost, Other Factors May Keep African-Americans from Calling 911 when they have Stroke Symptoms
African-Americans often know the signs of stroke, but concerns about medical cost, ambulance response time and lack of familiarity with the need for prompt hospital care impacted whether they called 9-1-1 immediately, according to a new study of 77 African American community members in Flint, Michigan by researchers at the University of Michigan. The study was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. To encourage 9-1-1 calls even if a stroke victim is concerned about cost, the study authors recommended highlighting the reduction in post-stroke disability if treatment is given quickly. Read more on access to health care.
Report: High SPF Sunscreens Not Any More Effective
Just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, the Environmental Working Group has released its 7th annual Sunscreen Guide, which rates the safety and efficacy of more than 1,400 sunscreens, lotions, lip products and makeups that advertise sun protection. EWG researchers found that only 25 percent of products on the market in 2013 offer strong and broad protection and pose few safety concerns. “The vast majority of sunscreens available to the consumer aren’t as good as most people think they are, but there are a handful of products that rise above the rest,” said Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst at EWG and lead author of the report. Lunder says that’s important because “despite an increasing awareness of the sun’s risks, rates of melanoma have tripled over the past 35 years, with an annual increase of 1.9 percent per year since 2000.” EWG says it thinks the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should push companies to stop selling high-SPF sunscreens (above 50+), which account for 1 in 7 products on the market. The FDA has said that it cannot vouch for any sunscreen above 30. According to Lunder, as a result of misleading and confusing marketing claims, consumers frequently misuse sunscreens and spend more time in the sun than they should, putting them at greater risk. Read more on cancer.
CDC Issues First Comprehensive Report on Children’s Mental Health in the United States
As many as one in five American children under the age of 17 has a diagnosable mental disorder according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report is the first expansive report on children's mental health ever done by the U.S. government and looked at six conditions:
- attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- behavioral or conduct disorders
- mood and anxiety disorders
- autism spectrum disorders
- substance abuse
- Tourette syndrome
The most common disorder for children age 3 through 17 is ADHD (7 percent) followed by behavioral or conduct problems (3.5 percent), anxiety (3 percent), depression (2 percent), and autism spectrum disorders (1 percent).
Five percent of teens reported abusing or being dependent on illegal drugs, 4 percent abused alcohol and 3 percent reported smoking cigarettes regularly. Boys were more likely than girls to have the disorders. Read more on mental health.
New PSAs Help Parents Talk to Younger Kids about the Dangers of Underage Drinking
“Talk. They Hear You,” is a new national public service announcement (PSA) campaign from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to empower parents to talk to children as young as nine about the dangers of underage drinking. SAMHSA research shows that more than a quarter of American youth engage in underage drinking, and though there has been progress in reducing the extent of underage drinking in recent years, particularly among those aged 17 and younger, the rates of underage drinking are still unacceptably high, according to SAMHSA. A report from late last year shows that 26.6 percent of 12-20 year-olds report drinking in the month before they were surveyed and 8.7 percent of them purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank, despite the fact that all fifty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws prohibiting the purchase and use of alcoholic beverages by anyone under age 21.
“Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death,” said said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.
The goal of the new PSA is to help parents start a conversation about alcohol before their children become teenagers. Read more on addiction.
Advocacy Groups Petition FDA to Ban Menthol Flavored Cigarettes
In response to a Citizen Petition by close to twenty health and tobacco control advocacy groups, the Food and Drug Administration has opened a docket for public comment on banning menthol in cigarettes. In 2009, according to the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, the lead group on the petition, Congress banned all flavors in cigarettes except menthol, and directed the FDA to decide whether continued sale of menthol cigarettes is “appropriate for public health." According to the petition, menthol cigarettes are the source of addiction for nearly half of all teen smokers. Read more on tobacco.
Psychiatrist "Bible" Gets a Numeric Overhaul
The American Psychiatric Association will release the latest version of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM) this Saturday at its annual meeting, according to Reuters. The current version is the DSM-IV, which was released a full 10 years ago -- the new version will be recast as DSM-5 (not DSM-V), with an eye toward updating the catalog of psychiatric conditions much more frequently with intermediate versions (DSM-5.1, DSM-5.2 and so on). The newest version also aims to introduce more scientific rigor and clinical confirmation of mental illness, such as, "using neuroscience in particular to tell the difference between, say, normal sadness and major depression." Though some criticize that the science just isn't there yet, and that the current version could lead to overdiagnosis. Read more on mental health.
Most Adults Enforce Smoke-Free Rules in Homes, Cars
Four out of five U.S. adults report having voluntary smoke-free rules in their homes and three out of four report having voluntary smoke-free rules in their vehicles, according to a study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the high prevalence of voluntary smoke-free rules in homes and vehicles, the study found that almost 11 million non-smoking adults continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in their home, and almost 17 million non-smoking adults continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in a vehicle. The study also showed that voluntary smoke-free rules were more prevalent in states with comprehensive smoke-free laws and tobacco control programs. Read more on tobacco.
Living Near Fast-Food Outlets Might Boost Obesity Risk
Black Americans who live within two miles of a fast food outlet have a higher body-mass index than those living farther away -- and that link especially holds true for those with lower incomes, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study involved more than 1,400 black adults divided into two groups: those making less than $40,000 per year and those making $40,000 or more per year. Read more on what it takes to create healthy communities.
IOM: Low Sodium Intake May Also Cause Adverse Health Effects
While multiple studies have shown that the average daily sodium intake for U.S. adults is far too high, lowering the intake too much could also lead to health problems, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The average daily intake is 3,400 mg, or about 1.5 teaspoons. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans call for a maximum of 2,300 mg, and even 1,500 mg for certain demographics. However, there is also some evidence suggesting low sodium levels could be harmful to people such as those with mid- to late-stage heart failure. “These studies make clear that looking at sodium’s effects on blood pressure is not enough to determine dietary sodium’s ultimate impact on health,” said committee chair Brian Strom, George S. Pepper Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “Changes in diet are more complex than simply changing a single mineral. More research is needed to understand these pathways.” Read more on heart health.
CDC Guidelines Help Cut Bloodstream Infections from Dialysis
Following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) prevention guidelines helped reduce overall bloodstream infection due to dialysis by 32 percent and vascular access-related bloodstream infections by 54 percent, according to a new study in the American Journal of Kidney Disease. There are approximately 37,000 bloodstream infections each year related to dialysis with central lines; in 2010 about 380,000 U.S. patients used hemodialysis for treatment of end-stage kidney disease, with 8 in 10 of utilizing central lines. "Dialysis patients often have multiple health concerns, and the last thing they need is a bloodstream infection from dialysis,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “These infections are preventable. CDC has simple tools that dialysis facilities can use to help ensure patients have access to the safe healthcare they deserve.” Read more on prevention.
Study: Teen’s Use of Smokeless Tobacco Steady Over Past Decade
Despite a myriad of efforts to combat tobacco use by U.S. teens, their usage rate of “smokeless” tobacco products such as chew or snuff has remained steady since 2000, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The rate was 5.3 percent in 2000 and just barely lower in 2011, at 5.2 percent. While younger teens in the 9-14 age range have decreased their use, those in the 15-17 range have increased. The study suggests that the relatively low prices of smokeless tobacco products may be a contributor. About 9 million Americans used smokeless tobacco in 2012. Read more on tobacco.
FDA’s New Food Defense Tool Helps Stop Intentional Contamination
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a new Food Defense Plan Builder tool to help owners and operators of food facilities create plans to minimize intentional contamination. While rare, intentional contamination, intentional contamination can be a serious public health problem. For example more than 40 people in Kansas became sick in 2009 when an employee put pesticide in salsa. Based on FDA’s food defense guidance documents, the tool uses a series of pointed questions to develop a customized food defense plan, including a vulnerability assessment; broad and focused mitigation strategies; and an action plan. Read more on food safety.
Text4baby Programs Gives Pregnant Women, Mothers Critical Information
The 2013 Text4baby State Enrollment Content will promote the mobile health tool while providing pregnant women with important information on their pregnancy and their child’s first year of life. By texting “BABY” (or “BEBE” for Spanish) to 511411, they will receive three free weekly text messages addressing issues such as labor signs and symptoms; prenatal care; developmental milestones; immunizations; nutrition; birth defect prevention; and safe sleep. The program is supported by more than 950 health departments, academic institutions, health plans, businesses and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under the contest, the states with the highest enrollment percentages will be recognized at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Boston, Mass. in early November. Read more on maternal and infant health.
Citing High Cancer Risk, Angelina Jolie Undergoes Preventive Double Mastectomy
A mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene makes a woman five times more likely to develop breast cancer in her life. On Tuesday in an op-ed in The New York Times, Angelina Jolie — who carries a “faulty” BRCA1 — announced she has undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing the cancer. Her physicians had estimated an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. "I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer,” she wrote. “It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested." A woman with one of the faulty genes is at an average 60 percent risk of developing breast cancer; a woman without a mutated gene is at an average 12 percent risk. Today CNN anchor Zoraida Sambolin also announced she is getting a double mastectomy. Read more on cancer.
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.
Business Coalitions to Receive Funds to Improve Community Health
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and United Health Foundation will award $700,000 in grants to nine National Business Coalition on Health member coalitions. The community health grants will fund resources to help the communities assess their health problems and come up with solutions. The issues include obesity rates, tobacco use, healthy living efforts and pre-term births. “Supporting and nurturing businesses to engage with their communities to identify and address priority local health issues is the first step in solving them,” said Reed Tuckson, MD, senior advisor of the United Health Foundation. Read more on community health.
AHA: Dog Owners at Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Owning a pet—especially a dog—may help cut a person’s chance of heart disease, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA). A study of more than 5,200 U.S. adults found a link between owning a dog and being more physically fit, because of the need to talk dogs on frequent walks. There are also calming effects to consider when looking at the lower levels of obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol. Glenn N. Levine, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said more research is needed to determine whether adopting a pet can help improve pre-existing cardiovascular conditions. Read more on heart health.
HHS: $150M to Help Uninsured Enroll in New Health Insurance Options
Approximately $150 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will go toward community health centers to help uninsured Americans understand and enroll in new health insurance coverage options. The improvements will include hiring new staff, staff training and community outreach. There are about 1,200 health centers serving 21 million people annually. “Health centers have extensive experience providing eligibility assistance to patients, are providing care in communities across the nation, and are well-positioned to support enrollment efforts,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Read more on access to health care.
Drug Patent Expirations Helped Lower Patient Spending for First Time in 55 Years
Per patient spending on medicine dropped 3.5 percent from 2012 to 2011, the first such drop since 1957, according to the IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics. Spending was $325.8 billion overall and $898 per person in 2012. The main contributor to the decline was the expiration of patents on major drugs such as Lipitor and Plavix, allowing people to instead opt for cheaper generic versions. Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at IMS, said this is likely the first of several years in which spending on prescriptions won’t grow as quickly as overall health care spending. Read more on prescription drugs.
CDC Releases New Resources on Lyme Disease Prevention, Treatment
As across the country the weather is gradually getting warmer and kids are spending more time outdoors, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new resources to help kids prevent tick bites that can lead to Lyme disease and a reference guide for health care providers. The kid-targeted comic strip includes tips for both kids and their parents. Tickborne Diseases of the United States includes information on types of ticks and the various diseases they can transmit. There were more than 24,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2011, according to the CDC. Read more on infectious diseases.
Study: Everyday Noises Can Effect Heart Health
Even basic, everyday background noises can affect heart function, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. That includes increased heart rate as noises become louder than normal conversation levels and a decrease in natural, healthy heart beat variability. A decrease in heart bear variability, such as when someone is stressed, has been linked to a greater risk for heart attack. While these noise effects to individuals is minimal, they could provide greater insight into the health effects of community noise on the broader population level, according to Charlotta Eriksson, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm, Sweden, who was not involved in the study. Read more on heart health.
HHS Makes Hospital Cost Information Available to Consumers
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a new initiative that, for the first time, gives consumers information on what hospitals charge for many procedures and services. The information will be posted on the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and will show comparative charges for services that may be provided during the 100 most common Medicare inpatient stays, such as knee replacements. The new data shows significant variation across the country and within communities in what hospitals charge for common inpatient services. The agency is also providing close to $90 million to states to collect, analyze, and publish health pricing and medical claims reimbursement data. To help show how the data can be used the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced a data visualization challenge. Read more on access to health care.
CDC Issues Updated Hepatitis C Screening Guidelines
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new screening guidelines for Hepatitis C that recommend anyone born between 1945 and 1965 be screened for the infection, as well as anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ donation before 1992 when screening of the blood supply was improved, and anyone who has ever injected drugs. The CDC is making the new recommendations because only half of Americans identified as ever having had hepatitis C received follow-up testing to see if they were still infected, according to a new Vital Signs issued by the agency. CDC researchers looked at data from eight areas across the country and found that of the hepatitis C cases reported in those areas, follow-up testing was only done in 51 percent of the cases. “Complete testing is critical to ensure that those who are infected receive the care and treatment for hepatitis C that they need in order to prevent liver cancer and other serious and potentially deadly health consequences,” says said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. According to the CDC, about 3 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C and up to 3 out of 4 do not know they are infected. Read more on infectious disease.
Researchers Call for Independent Review Process for DSM-5 Updates
Arguing that that the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) missed “crucial population-level and social determinants of mental health disorders,” a group of researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical School are calling for an independent review for any future revisions of the American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines. The article appears in the journal Health Affairs. “As the DSM evolves, we must ensure the accuracy of psychiatric diagnoses and their equitable use in health care by systematically reviewing and applying the lessons in the population health and social science literature,” wrote the authors. The factors include various environmental factors, cultural perceptions and institutional pressures. Read more on mental health.