Category Archives: Prevention

Jul 30 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 30

U.S. Surgeon General Issues ‘Call to Action’ Warning on Tanning and Skin Cancer
The U.S. Surgeon General has released the office’s first Call to Action on the dangers of tanning as it relates to skin cancer, which the Surgeon General called a “major public health problem.” The Call to Action is designed to increase awareness of skin cancer and presents five strategic goals to support its prevention:

  • Increase opportunities for sun protection in outdoor settings
  • Provide individuals with the information they need to make informed, healthy choices about ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure
  • Promote policies that advance the national goal of preventing skin cancer
  • Reduce harms from indoor tanning
  • Strengthen research, surveillance, monitoring, and evaluation related to skin cancer prevention

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with nearly 5 million people treated for all types combined annually at a cost of $8.1 billion. Melanoma is responsible for the most deaths and 90 percent of melanomas are estimated to be the result of UV exposure. Read more on cancer.

NIH, 23andMe Partner to Expand Researcher Access to Genetic Disease Data
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has entered into a $1.4 million, two-year deal with home genetics startup 23andMe to open up the company’s stores of genetic data to external researchers. The grant will enable the creation of survey tools and other methods to help researchers access information on thousands of diseases and traits for more than 400,000 people who have use 23andMe’s services. “23andMe is building a platform to connect researchers and consumers that will enable discoveries to happen faster,” said Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, in a release. “This grant from the NIH recognizes the ability of 23andMe to create a unique, web-based platform that engages consumers and enables researchers from around the world to make genetic discoveries.” Read more on research.

Study: Students Increasingly Accepting Healthier School Lunches
Despite initial pushback from students wary of revised school lunch policies implemented to provide heathier meals in 2012, a nationally representative sample of 557 U.S. public elementary schools found that approximately 70 percent of respondents said that students liked the new lunches by the second half of the school year. Researchers also found that school meal sales were up for disadvantaged students, who are more likely than their peers to experience a lack of proper nutrition. Read more on school health.

Jul 23 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 23

New EPA Tool Helps Communities Become More Flood Resilient
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new tool, the Flood Resilience Checklist, to help communities prepare for, deal with and recover from floods. The checklist includes strategies that communities can consider, such as conserving land in flood-prone areas; directing new development to safer areas; and using green infrastructure approaches, such as installing rain gardens, to manage storm water. “Flooding from major storms has cost lives and caused billions of dollars in damage,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “With climate change, storms are likely to become even more powerful in many regions of the country. Where and how communities build will have long-term impacts on their flood resilience, and on air and water quality and health and safety. This checklist will help flood-prone communities think through these issues and come up with the solutions that work best for them.” Find more resources on EPA’s Disaster Recovery and Resilience page.

Home Blood Pressure-Monitoring Devices Lower Health Care Costs 
A new study in the journal Hypertension finds that home blood pressure monitors can improve health care quality and save money. In the United States, more than 76 million adults have been diagnosed with hypertension and many more are undiagnosed. The researchers analyzed 2008-11 data from two health insurance plans—a private employer plan and a Medicare Advantage plan where 60 percent of members had high blood pressure. Net savings associated with home blood pressure monitoring ranged from $33 to $166 per member in the first year, and $415 to $1,364 over 10 years. Researchers found reasons for the savings differed by age groups and whether the monitors were used for treatment or diagnosis. In people 65 and older, home monitoring saved more when used to track high blood pressure treatment, by helping them avoid future adverse cardiovascular events. In people younger than 65, savings were higher in diagnostic use of the monitors, with fewer false positive diagnoses and fewer people starting unnecessary treatment. Read more on prevention.

New Mobile App Helps Parents Discuss Underage Drinking with their Kids
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has launched a new mobile app that features a simulated video game-like tool to help parents practice having conversations about underage drinking. SAMHSA experts say the timing of the release is intentional, as the rate of youth alcohol use rises during the summer. The mobile app is the newest component of “Talk. They Hear You,” SAMHSA’s underage drinking prevention campaign that launched last year to provide parents and caregivers with information and tools to start talking to youth early—as early as nine years old—about the dangers of alcohol. The new app uses avatars to engage in interactive conversations and each virtual role-play conversation is structured as a 10- to 15-minute interactive, video game-like experience. Users engage in a conversation with an intelligent, fully animated, emotionally responsive avatar that models human behavior and adapts its responses and behaviors to the user’s conversation decisions. Read more on substance abuse.

Jul 15 2014
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Wellness Rocks: National Prevention Council Releases its Third Annual Report

This week, the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (National Prevention Council) submitted its annual status report  to the President and designated Congressional committees describing national progress in meeting specific prevention, health promotion and public health goals defined in the National Prevention Strategy first released three years ago. The National Prevention Strategy is required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and has the overarching goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.

The goal of the annual report is to show how cabinet-level agencies are working across the federal government to incorporate health in diverse sectors—such as housing, transportation and education—to advance the National Prevention Strategy and influence the health of individuals, families and communities. The status report also highlights how private- and public-sector partners across the country are advancing the National Prevention Strategy in organizations ranging from health care systems to national foundations.

Federal agency highlights for the past twelve months include:

The report also includes status updates from several partner organization promoting health and wellness, including the American Public Health Association; the Henry Ford Health System; the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The health promotion efforts of these organizations over the last year includes the fifth annual release of the County Health Rankings, which shows how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play.

Read interviews and listen to podcasts with federal agency leaders about the National Prevention Strategy on NewPublicHealth.

Jul 1 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 1

Study: New Requirements Needed for Hand Hygiene for Anesthesia Providers
Anesthesia providers frequently miss identified opportunities to clean their hands during surgical procedures, with the points immediately before patient contact and immediately after contact with the patient’s environment the times when they are least likely to practice proper hand hygiene, according to a new study in the American Journal of Infection Control. However, the findings also point to a larger problem: Complete compliance with all hand hygiene guidelines would take so much time that there would be no time to actually perform any procedures. The findings indicate “a need to create more practical—but still effective—methods of controlling bacterial transmission in anesthesia work environments.” Read more on prevention.

HHS: $840M to Help State, Local Agencies Improve Disaster Preparedness
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded approximately $840 million in grants to help state and local public health and health care systems improve their emergency response preparedness. Distributed through the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program, the funds will ensure that communities are prepared to respond to an array of emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, or chemical, biological, or radiological nuclear events. “Community and state preparedness is essential to the health security of all Americans,” said Nicole Lurie, MD, assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR), in a release. “Events in the last few years have demonstrated how critical it is for health systems across the country to be ready and able to respond quickly and effectively.” Read more on disasters.

ACP: Annual Pelvic Exams Not Needed for Asymptomatic Women
Annual pelvic exams for women do more harm than good and should not be a routine part of health care for women who are not pregnant or who show no other signs of pelvic problems, according to new guidelines from the American College of Physicians (ACP). In a review, researchers found no studies on the effectiveness of pelvic exams in identifying cancers, infections and other health issues that they are commonly used to find. Researchers stressed that their findings only apply to pelvic exams and that women should still undergo recommended cervical cancer screening. Read more on prevention.

 

Jun 12 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 12

CDC Study Finds No Significant Change in Use of Smokeless Tobacco
From 2005 to 2010 there was no significant change in the percentage of U.S. working adults who used smokeless tobacco, according to the new National Health Interview Survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2005, approximately 2.7 percent of workers reported using smokeless tobacco, with the percentage climbing slightly to 3.0 percent in 2010; males (5.6 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (4.0 percent) reported the highest usage, followed by adults ages 25-44 years, people with no more than a high school education and people living in the South (all 3.9 percent). By industry, smokeless tobacco use was most common in mining (18.8 percent), and by occupation it was most common in construction and extraction (10.8 percent). According to the CDC, these findings indicate opportunities to engage workers with tobacco cessation efforts, such as  providing employee health insurance coverage for proven cessation treatments; offering help for those who want to quit; and establishing and enforcing tobacco-free workplace policies. Read more on tobacco.

6,000 Steps Per Day May Improve Knee Arthritis, Reduce Future Disability Risk
Walking 6,000 steps a day—or about one hour at the average person’s pace—may both help improve knee arthritis and prevent further disability, according to a new study in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. In a study of approximately 1,800 adults who either had knee arthritis or were at risk, researchers found that for every 1,000 steps a person took a day, their functional limitations were reduced by 16-18 percent. The study also pegged 6,000 steps as the target to reach to ensure the healthiest results. Approximately 27 million Americans age 25 and older live with osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis and often referred to as “wear-and-tear arthritis,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Read more on physical activity.

Study: Great Recession Contributed to Additional 10,000 Suicides in North America, Europe
Stress and other health issues resulting from the Great Recession were associated with more than 10,000 additional economic suicides—suicides in response to financial hardship—between 2008 and 2010 in North America and Europe, according to a new study in The British Journal of Psychiatry. While job loss, debt and foreclosure can increase the risk of suicidal thinking, researchers determined that many such suicides could have been avoided. They recommend upstream return-to-work programs, antidepressant prescriptions and other interventions as ways to mitigate the risk of economic suicides if and when another economic downturn strikes. Read more on the prevention.

Jun 2 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 2

EPA Plans to Cut Carbon Emissions 30 Percent by 2030
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans today to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The new Clean Power Plant proposal would be the first to cut emissions from existing power plants, which produce approximately one-third of the country’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA estimates the proposed changes will help the United States avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children and up to 490,000 missed work or school days. "Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, adding “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.” Read more on air and water quality.

Study: Tax on Total Calories in Sugary Drinks the Most Effective Way to Reduce Consumption
Tying a sugary drink tax to the amount of calories in a drink rather than its serving size would be more effective at reducing their consumption, according to a new study in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. The study, which was financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, determined that such a tax of four-hundredths of a penny for every calorie would reduce calorie consumption by 9.3 percent; a tax of half a cent for each ounce in a can or bottle would reduce consumption by only 8.6 percent. “It provides a better incentive to the consumer to switch to lower-calorie drinks, which would be taxed at a lower rate than higher-calorie drinks,” said Chen Zhen, MD, a research economist at the food and nutrition policy research program at Research Triangle Institute and the lead author of the study, according to The New York Times. “One of the concerns about taxing ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages is that consumers are paying the same tax whether they buy 12 ounces of a drink with 150 calories or 12 ounces of a drink with 50 calories.” Read more on nutrition.

CDC: $19.5M for Innovative Public Health Prevention Research
Late last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $19.5 million to 26 academic institutions for innovative public health prevention research to reduce health disparities. The grants will help the communities develop new methods to avoid or counter risks for chronic health care issues such as heart disease, obesity and cancer. “Prevention Research Centers have reached up to 31 million people in 103 partner communities, some of which are the most underserved in the country,” said Ursula E. Bauer, PhD, MPH., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in a release. “By involving communities in conducting and disseminating research, this network of centers ensures that effective and innovative health strategies can be readily shared and applied where most needed.” Read more on prevention.

May 19 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 19

Census: Bicycle Commuting Up 60 Percent in Past Decade
U.S. cities across the country are seeing increases in bicycle commuters, according to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report found that the total number of people who use a bike to get to work jumped by approximately 60 percent in the past decade, to about 786,000 during the 2008-2012 period, making the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. Portland, Ore. had the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent; the overall national rate was 0.6 percent. "In recent years, many communities have taken steps to support more transportation options, such as bicycling and walking," said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau sociologist and the report's author, in a release. "For example, many cities have invested in bike share programs, bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets." Read more on physical activity.

May 19 is ‘Hepatitis Testing Day’
Approximately 5.3 million Americans live with chronic viral hepatitis, although many don’t even realize they’re infected, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Today, May 19, marks the third national Hepatitis Testing Day, founded to work to increase the number of people who know their hepatitis B and hepatitis C status; what severe—or even fatal—complications they may face if they’re infected; and their risk of spreading it to others. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an online Hepatitis Risk Assessment, which utilizes brief questions to determine risk, and then prints out recommendations based on CDC’s testing and vaccination guidelines to discuss with their health care provider. Read more on prevention.

Current, Former Smokers May Have Harder Time Becoming Pregnant
Current and former smokers may face more difficulty when trying to become pregnant, according to a new study in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) analyzed the chances of getting pregnant among 686 current smokers, 741 former smokers and 2,346 women who never smoked, finding that among the former smokers with the highest level of exposure, the chance of getting pregnant was reduced on average by 26 percent per menstrual cycle. “Pregnant women are already encouraged to quit smoking because of the risks to the mother and baby. Some women might not be aware that current regular smoking also harms female fertility, as concluded by the U.S. Surgeon General based on observational studies and animal studies,” said Rose Radin, a doctoral student in the BUSPH Department of Epidemiology and the lead author of the study, in a release. “Our study also found that current regular smokers take longer to get pregnant than never smokers.” Read more on tobacco.

May 13 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 13

Living Near Foreclosed Property is Linked to Higher Blood Pressure
Living near foreclosed property may increase the risk of higher blood pressure, according to new research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Researchers reviewed data from 1,740 participants (mostly white, 53 percent women) in 1987-2008 in the Framingham (Massachusetts) Offspring Cohort, which is part of the Framingham Heart Study. The researchers distinguished between real-estate-owned foreclosures, which are owned by lenders and typically sit vacant, and foreclosures purchased by third-party buyers, which are generally put into housing use. The researchers found each additional foreclosed property within 100 meters (328 feet) of participants’ homes was associated with an average increase of 1.71 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure. The association only applied to properties that were real-estate owned and there was no effect from foreclosed properties more than 100 meters from participants’ homes.

“The increases in blood pressure observed could be due in part to unhealthy stress from residents’ perception that their own properties are less valuable, their streets less attractive or safe and their neighborhoods less stable,” said Mariana Arcaya, Sc.D., M.C.P., study lead author and a research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies in Cambridge, Mass. “Safety could also be a concern that affects their ability to exercise in these neighborhoods.”

Research on different populations in urban and rural settings is needed, says Arcaya. The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health and the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the study. Read more on prevention.

Underage College Men Downplay Danger of Driving after Using Marijuana
Underage male college students who report using marijuana in the month before they were surveyed had a high prevalence of driving under the influence of marijuana and of riding with a marijuana-using driver, at a rate more than double that of driving or riding after alcohol use, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences and University of Washington pediatrics department. The researchers also found that among marijuana-using students, 44 percent of males and 9 percent of females drove after using the drug, and 51 percent of males and 35 percent of females rode as a passenger with a marijuana-using driver. The researchers say the study results reflect the widespread belief that driving after using marijuana is safe and that strategies to dispute that belief are needed to help change social norms and encourage using a designated driver not only after alcohol use, but after a driver has used any risky substance. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics. Read more on substance abuse.

Moderate Exercise Reduces Premature Death Risk in Older Men
Older men with hypertension can lower their risk of premature death with even moderate levels of exercise, according to a new study in Hypertension. The researchers say the needed level of fitness can be achieved by a brisk twenty to forty minute walk on most days. The researchers reviewed the fitness levels of 2,153 men, aged 70 years and older with high blood pressure by a standard treadmill exercise test, using a standard measure of fitness called metabolic equivalents (METs.) An MET is equal to the amount of oxygen the body uses per kilogram of body weight per minute. The peak MET level of a sedentary 50-year-old is about five to six METs; for a moderately fit individual it’s about seven to nine METS; and for a highly fit person it’s 10 to 12 METs. (Marathon runners, cyclists and other long distance athletes often have MET levels of 20 or higher.)

After an average follow-up of nine years, researchers found that the risk of death was 11 percent lower for every one-MET increase in exercise capacity:

  • Those in the low-fit category (4.1 to 6 peak METs) had an 18 percent lower risk of death.
  • Moderately-fit men (6.1 to 8 peak METs) had a 36 percent lower risk of death.
  • High-fit men with peak METs of more than 8 reduced the risk of death by 48 percent.

Read more on heart health.

May 12 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 12

U.S. Cervical Cancer Rates Higher than Previously Reported
Cervical cancer rates in the United States are higher than previously reported, especially among women ages 65-69 and African-American women, according to a study published in the journal Cancer. Previous research showed about 12 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women in the United States, with the incidence reaching a peak at age 40-44 and then leveling off. However, those estimates included women who had hysterectomies in which the cervix had been removed and the authors of the new study say excluding these women—who are no longer at risk of developing this cancer—from their analysis, changes the rate to 18.6 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women. The new study also found that incidence increased steadily with age and peaked at a higher rate and at an older age—in women 65-69. Read more on cancer.

ADHD Treatment Linked to Lower Smoking Rates
Treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with stimulant medication may reduce smoking risk, especially when the medication is taken consistently, according to an analysis of 14 studies published in Pediatrics. The studies evaluated by the researchers were longitudinal studies of cigarette smoking and ADHD treatment which included 2,360 individuals with ADHD; this is the largest meta-analysis on the issue to date, according to the study authors. The researchers looked at data on nicotine dependence, smoking frequency and whether study participants smoked at the time of the study, and found a significant association between stimulant treatment and lower smoking rates. The effect was larger in those with more severe ADHD and when participants took stimulant medications continuously. The researchers say more studies are needed to determine the recommended timing and duration of stimulant treatment to help lower smoking risk. Read more on tobacco.

Number of Nurse Practitioners Working in Primary Care Increases
Almost half of recently licensed U.S. nurse practitioners (NPs) have become part of the U.S. primary care workforce, according to a report released today by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The National Sample Survey of Nurse Practitioners shows that in 1992 approximately 59 percent of graduating NPs worked in primary care, decreasing to 42 percent between 2003 and 2007. However, the new survey shows that 47 percent of NPs graduating since 2008 have entered primary care. According to the report, 76 percent of the NP workforce has certification in a primary care specialty, including family, adult, pediatric, or gerontology care, and nearly half have a family NP certification. More than half of the NP workforce works in ambulatory care settings, while nearly a third work in hospitals. Read more on prevention.

Apr 21 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 21

Study: Monday the Best Time to ‘Reset’ and Improve Personal Health Regimens
People are more likely to think about their health earlier in the week, which could help researchers and officials determine how to better improve public health strategies, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers from San Diego State University (SDSU), the Santa Fe Institute, Johns Hopkins University and the Monday Campaigns analyzed Google searches that utilized the term “healthy” and were health-related in the United States from 2005 to 2012, finding searches for healthy topics were 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than later in the week; Saturday saw the fewest searches. The findings correspond with previous research indicating Mondays offered the opportunity for a “heath reset”—a chance to get back into healthy habits. "Many illnesses have a weekly clock with spikes early in the week," said SDSU's John W. Ayers, lead author of the study. "This research indicates that a similar rhythm exists for positive health behaviors, motivating a new research agenda to understand why this pattern exists and how such a pattern can be utilized to improve the public's health.” Read more on prevention.

Despite Recommendations Against, Codeine Still Prescribed to Many Kids During ER Visits
Codeine is often prescribed by emergency room physicians to treat coughs and other pains for children, even though the powerful opioid is not recommended for use in children by groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. For the new study, the researchers used data from 189 million ER visits by children and teens between the ages of three and 17 years old. The visits took place between 2001 and 2010. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco analyzed data from 189 million ER visits for youth ages 3-17, finding that while emergency room prescriptions were down slightly from 2001 to 2010, as many as 877,000 children are still taking the drug each year. Codeine can slow breathing and breaks down differently in children of different ethnicities, increasing the chance of overdose. Read more on prescription drugs.

Rates of Childhood Obesity Keeps Rising, Especially Among the Most Obese
A recent study out of the University of North Carolina (UNC) finds that childhood obesity is up for all classes of obesity in U.S. children over the past 14 years, with more severe forms of obesity—a body mass index (BMI) 120 to 140 percent higher than the averages—seeing the greatest increase. The study appeared in JAMA Pediatrics. “An increase in more severe forms of obesity in children is particularly troubling,” said Asheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics in the UNC School of Medicine, in a release. “Extreme obesity is more clearly associated with heart disease and diabetes risk in children and adolescents, and is more difficult to treat.” Researchers analyzed data on 26,690 children ages 2-19 years from 1999 to 2012 collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Read more on obesity.