Category Archives: Sexual Health
EBOLA UPDATE: UN Finds That Orphaned Children Risk Being Shunned Due to Ebola Deaths
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
With more than 3,000 people now dead in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, more than 3,700 children in the afflicted countries who lost one or both parents are now at risk of being shunned, according to the United Nations. UNICEF—which is taking donations to assist the children—says that people to care for the children are desperately needed, but many believe that taking care of the children has turned “into a potential death sentence.” Read more on Ebola.
HUD: $75M to Improve Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher Residents’ Access to Service Programs
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is awarding $75 million in grants to give public housing and Housing Choice Voucher residents increased access to programs to improve their education and employment status, with an ultimate goal of putting them on a path to self-sufficiency. The grants will enable public housing agencies (PHAs) to work with social service agencies, community colleges, businesses and other local partners. “These grants will link people to the computer access, financial literacy, job training, childcare and other tools they need to compete and succeed in the workplace,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “Every American deserves access to the skills and resources necessary to become self-sufficient.” Read more on housing.
AAP: IUDs the Most Effective Contraceptive Method for Teen Girls
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants are more reliable than birth control pills and condoms when it comes to preventing U.S. teen pregnancies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which now recommends the devices as the “first-line” choice of birth control for teenage girls who do not want to be abstinent. According to the AAP’s new policy statement, approximately 750,000 U.S. adolescents become pregnant each year, and more than 80 percent of the pregnancies are unplanned. Read more on sexual health.
Mandatory Policies Increase Flu Shot Rates for Health Care Workers
Hospitals can improve their flu vaccination rate among health care workers by using a mandatory employee vaccination policy, according to a study by researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. At Henry Ford, getting the flu shot is a condition of employment and the health system now has a 99 percent compliance rate. Nationally, only 63 percent of health care workers were immunized against the flu in the past two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which poses a risk to patients. The study was presented this weekend at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Washington D.C.
Before making flu vaccination mandatory, the vaccination rate at Henry Ford was between 41 percent and 55 percent. An increasing number of health systems are making flu shots mandatory for employees. At Henry Ford, employees can opt out for religious or medical reasons so long as they have documentation from clergy or a physician and then must take other precautions against the flu, such as wearing a mask when caring for patients.
Many doctors’ offices, pharmacies and clinics already have the flu shot on hand for the upcoming flu season. The HealthMap flu shot locator has been updated for the 2014-2015 flu season.
Read more on the flu.
Study: Alcohol Ad Reminders to “Drink Responsibly” Promote Drinking
A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health finds that magazine ads from the alcohol industry that advise readers to “drink responsibly” or “enjoy in moderation” fail to convey important information about dangers associated with alcohol consumption.
The study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, analyzed all alcohol ads that appeared in U.S. magazines from 2008 to 2010 to determine whether messages about responsibility define responsible drinking or provide clear warnings about the risks associated with alcohol consumption.
According to the study, 87 percent of the ads analyzed included a responsibility message, but none actually defined responsible drinking or promoted abstinence at particular times or in certain situations. When responsibility messages were accompanied by a product tagline or slogan, the messages were displayed in smaller font than the company’s tagline or slogan 95 percent of the time.
Responsibility statements are voluntary and are also frequently included in ads appearing in other media including radio and online ads. The researchers say more effective ads would have prominently placed tested warning messages that directly address behaviors and that do not reinforce marketing messages. “We know from experience with tobacco that warning messages on product containers and in advertising can affect consumption of potentially dangerous products,” say Katherine Clegg Smith, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a lead author of the study. “We should apply that [tobacco ad] knowledge to alcohol ads and provide real warnings about the negative effects of excessive alcohol use.”
Read more on alcohol.
NYC Health Department Investigating Meningitis Outbreak among HIV Positive Men
The New York City Health Department is currently investigating a cluster of meningitis cases among HIV-positive men who have sex with men. Three cases of meningitis have occurred in Brooklyn and Queens since August 24, with the last two cases reported since early September.
Meningitis is a severe bacterial infection that has a high fatality rate. A previous outbreak of the disease among men who have sex with men ended in February 2013 after 22 cases were reported, including seven fatal cases.
The Health Department recommends meningitis vaccination for all HIV-positive men who have sex with men. Meningitis vaccinations are also recommended for men, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have intimate contact with other men met through a website, digital application (“app”), or at a bar or party.
People living with HIV are at a greater risk than the general population of acquiring meningitis and, if infected, dying from infection. This disease is spread by prolonged close contact with nose or throat discharges from an infected person.
Read more on sexual health.
A report from a White House Task Force on sexual assaults on campus several weeks ago found that one in five women have been attacked, but only about 12 percent of the attacks are ever reported, often because of a campus climate that places blame on women and sends messages to men that sexual attacks are manly. The task force is asking colleges and universities to survey their students about sexual assault and other “campus climate” issues, and to track assaults and enforcement of campus policies that govern such assaults.
One idea gaining traction for reducing sexual assaults is called bystander intervention, which not only trains individuals to find safe ways to help prevent assaults, but seeks to change the campus cultures that can condone attacks.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Dorothy Edwards, executive director of Green Dot etc., which provides training for high schools and colleges on bystander intervention.
NewPublicHealth: Where does the name Green Dot come from?
Dorothy Edwards: Well, two different ways. I started my career in the field in Texas and for whatever reason for Sexual Assault Awareness Month green was the color of the ribbons. What was more intentional was the “dots” piece. That came out of one of the challenges in mobilizing bystanders to prevention, which is that this issue feels so big. People have been hearing about it for decades and I think there’s a kind of resignation that has settled in. Because when you hear the same number over and over and programs come and programs go and it’s an issue this big, people can just feel that there’s nothing they can do about it. “I’m one person, I can’t change this.”
So, one of the original challenges when we were playing with this idea of bystander intervention and highlighting more the integral role of this kind of third character—apart from victim and perpetrator—was that we knew in order for it to be effective it wasn’t just about skill and knowledge, it was about giving people a sense of possibility, giving people a sense of manageability. And when you say the word dot, a dot is small. So instead of saying we’ve got to change the whole culture, we’ve got to change all college campuses, we’ve got to change sexual assault—which feels so big—we can say to people, gosh, all we need you to actually deal with is a single green dot, a single moment, a single choice. And suddenly something very big feels very small and manageable
One in Four Teen Births Are Among Younger Teens Ages 15 to 17
While births to younger teens ages 15 to 17 years have declined, they still represent over a quarter of teen births and nearly 1,700 births a week, according to this month’s Vital Signs, the monthly health indicator report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Although we have made significant progress reducing teen pregnancy, far too many teens are still having babies,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social and economic outcomes. Efforts to prevent teen childbearing need to focus on evidence-based approaches to delaying sexual activity and increasing use of the most effective methods of contraception for those teens who are sexually active.” Read more on sexual health.
Study: Rural Girls Get More Daily Exercise than Those in Suburban, Urban Communities
While the level of urbanicty—whether they live in rural, suburban or urban communities—does not seem to affect boys’ levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, there is a noticeable effect for girls, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers determined that girls from rural areas are 4.6 times more likely than those in suburban areas and 2.8 times more likely than those in urban areas to exceed the national physical activity recommendation of 60 or more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. The study tracked the daily activity of a random selection of 1,354 youth in 20 counties in North Carolina. Read more on physical activity.
Study: Mentions of Alcohol Brands in Popular Music Increase Youth Alcohol Use
The average young person in the United States hears approximately eight alcohol brand names each day while listening to music, increasing the risk they will use and abuse alcohol, according to a new study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Using information collected from more than 3,400 males and females ages 15 to 23, researchers determined that the average youth in that age group listens to 2.5 hours of music per day, with 3-4 brand mentions each hour. Lisa Henriksen, senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, called the findings “worrisome” in a release. "It would be foolish to think that the alcohol industry is unaware of and uninvolved with alcohol-brand mentions in music," said Henriksen. "The strategy of associating products with hip culture and celebrities who are attractive to youth comes straight from a playbook written by the tobacco industry." Approximately 39 percent of U.S. teens are current drinkers and about 22 percent are binge drinkers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on alcohol.
With just seven days to go until the announced deadline for its first round of funding, the front runner to reach its goal on UCLA Spark—a new crowdfunding platform hosted by the university—is a public health initiative, the UCLA Sex Squad School Tour 2014. The Squad is a multimedia theatre troupe made up of University of California, Los Angeles students and graduates who talk to high school students about sex and sexual health.
Crowdfunding uses social media to encourage contributions from strangers for projects of all kinds. Sites such as Kickstarter have raised millions of dollars for multiple projects, including one by three U.S. State Department officials who raised enough capital to start their own dress sock business.
UCLA Spark’s projects are way loftier. The four other projects in the first round of funding on the site, which debuted last month, include a program to connect ninth-grade girls with technology, a bus to transport campus volunteers to community service projects, funds to help preserve the Watts Towers, (an iconic Los Angeles monument) and expansion of cancer treatment in Ethiopia.
Nancy Katano, Executive Director of Corporate Foundation and Research Relations at UCLA, says the idea for a crowdfunding platform at the university came about because two things converged: The university began getting faculty and student requests for help funding some very small niche projects—beyond the scope for most grants—and Katano began receiving calls from crowdfunding platforms looking to contract with the university. Katano says using an outside platform would have lost too much money for the projects since the platforms take a fee as well as a percentage of funds raised, so instead the university launched its own platform.
To become a UCLA Spark project, faculty and official student organizations propose projects for funding through an online application and a UCLA vetting committee makes the final decision.
“We’ve set up a whole series of guidelines and then we have a face-to-face meeting for applicants to help them think through how the platform can be effective for them—what’s realistic and what their responsibility is going to be,” said Katano. “With most crowdfunding platforms engagement is key. We ask them about their social media reach, do they use Twitter? Do they use Facebook? Are they comfortable shooting video?"
CDC: H1N1 Flu Killing at Epidemic Levels
The H1N1 flu virus has been killing at epidemic levels since mid-January, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While flu is known to disproportionately affect the very young and very old, this strain—also known as the swine flu and the cause of the 2009 global pandemic that killed tens of thousands—has so far caused 243 deaths of residents younger than 65 this year in California alone, with an additional 41 unconfirmed cases. In the 2012-13 season there were 26 deaths at this point and in the 2011-12 season there were nine. According o the CDC the average age of someone diagnosed with flu this season is 28.5 years. “These severe flu outcomes are a reminder that flu can be a very serious disease for anyone, including young, previously healthy adults,” CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said to The Washington Post. Read more on influenza.
Teens Who Text About Condoms, Birth Control More Likely to Use Them
Teens who talk about condoms and other types of birth control over text message and other technology are more likely to use them, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Researchers studied 176 high school juniors and seniors, finding that half of the 64 who reported being sexually active also failed to use condoms consistently. According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, close to 40 percent of the 47 percent of high school students who reported having sex did not use a condom the last time. However, the study found that students who texted or used other private electronic technology to discuss condoms or other forms of birth control were approximately four times more likely to use them. It also found that the odds of consistently using condoms doubled among students reporting discussions of pregnancy or sexual limits. "Although prior research and media attention has focused on the risks of technology use, like sexting, we found that adolescents might also use electronic tools to communicate about ways they might promote their sexual health," said study lead author Laura Widman, who studies adolescent sexuality at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It's not all about risky behavior. It might be another way that teens can have these conversations that can be a little bit awkward.” Read more on sexual health.
Study: Average Obese Woman Gets Only One Hour of Vigorous Exercise Each Year
The average obese woman in the United States gets only one hour of vigorous exercise each year, and the average obese man gets only 3.6 hours, according to a new study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The study utilized the results of a 2005-2006 government survey of adults aged 20 to 74, which covered areas such as weight, diet and sleep patterns of the nearly 2,600 adults and use accelerometer devices to track their movements. The study defined "vigorous" exercise as fat-burning activities such as jogging and jumping rope. “They're living their lives from one chair to another," said Edward Archer, a research fellow with the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "We didn't realize we were that sedentary. There are some people who are vigorously active, but it's offset by the huge number of individuals who are inactive." According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in three U.S. adults is obese, which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Read more on obesity.
‘America Saves Week’ Promotes Health Financial Habits for Kids
Next Monday begins America Saves Week. Running through March 1, the week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior for individuals and to urge people to assess their savings status. According to America Saves:
- Only 54 percent of Americans say they have a savings plan with specific goals.
- Only 43 percent of Americans say they have a spending plan that allows them to save enough money to achieve the goals of their savings plan.
- Only 66 percent of Americans have sufficient emergency funds for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor’s visit.
The annual event places a special emphasis on helping people learn and adopt good savings behaviors while they’re young, with educators and youth organizations urging students to join as a Young America Saver on-line and open or add to an account at a local financial institution. “The importance of saving cannot be over-emphasized, as saving is one of the critical building blocks to financial success,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, one of the week’s participating organizations. “Financial stability cannot exist without a healthy savings account.” Read more on budgets.
Physical, Mental Effects of Bullying Can Compound Over Time
The negative physical and mental effects of bullying during youth can compound over time and follow someone into adulthood, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers analyzed data from the Healthy Passages study, which surveyed 4,297 students in Alabama, California and Texas about bullying. Approximately one-third reported being regularly bullied at some point. The study found that those who had been bullied in the past scored better on measures of physical and mental health than those who were still being bullied. Teens bullied throughout their school careers scored the worse. "I think this is overwhelming support for early interventions and immediate interventions and really advancing the science about interventions," Laura Bogart, from Boston Children's Hospital. Read more on violence.
Study: STD Education Should Start Early
Prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is about more than safe sex education—it’s also about established a stable home life early on that encourages responsible behavior, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. "Kids don't engage in risky behaviors in a vacuum. There are environmental opportunities that have to be created," said study lead author Marina Epstein, of the University of Washington. Using data on approximately 2,000 Seattle-area participants, researchers determined that about one-third of those who became sexually active before age 15 had an STD, compared with 16 percent of those who started having sex at a later age. They also found that having more sexual partners and having sex after drinking alcohol or using drugs were tied to greater incidence of STDs. Epstein said funding for programs that emphasize abstinence until marriage would be better spend on preparing kids to make health and responsible choices. "We already have good programs that have been shown to be effective at improving parent-child relationships and intervening with at-risk youth," Epstein said. "We should use our prevention dollars on programs that we know work and that show effects on a range of behaviors, including risky sex practices." Read more on sexual health.
Study: Increasing Young Men’s Knowledge of Emergency Contraception Could Increase Access, Use
Increasing young men’s knowledge of emergency contraception could increase access to the drug and help prevent unwanted pregnancies, according to a new study in Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. Emergency contraception, commonly known as "the morning after pill," prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex or when other methods of contraception fail. Nine U.S. states allow pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription under certain conditions. The study gauged the knowledge of 101 males and 97 females ages 18 to in 2008 and 2009. "About half of the women understood basic facts about emergency contraception, how you get it, how you use it, and the fact that male partners were also able to buy it over-the-counter for their female partners," said Sheree Schrager, a member of the study team and a researcher at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, California. “But young men had significantly lower knowledge then the young women did, and this is an opportunity for providers to reach out to young men in the hopes of reaching more young women to use emergency contraception.” According to the researchers, unplanned pregnancies are more common in poor communities, where there are also greater health and economic consequences. Read more on sexual health.
U.S., Global Partners to Joint in Prevention, Detection and Response to Infectious Disease
The United States has joined with 26 countries and other global partners to, over the next five years, work to prevent, detect and effectively respond to naturally occurring, accidental and intentional infectious disease threats. Additional partners in the Global Health Security Agenda include the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). “While we have made great progress in fighting and treating diseases, biological threats can emerge anywhere, travel quickly, and take lives,” said Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. “The recent outbreaks of H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome are reminders of the need to step up our efforts as a global community. The Global Health Security Agenda is about accelerating progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has pledged $40 million in FY 2014 to advancing Global Health Security Agenda objectives, and its FY 2015 budget will include an additional $45 million to prevent avoidable catastrophes, detect threats early and mobilize effective responses to contain outbreaks. Read more on global health.
CDC: States with Indoor Tanning Laws See Far Less Use by Female High School Students
States with indoor tanning laws—especially those requiring parental permission or setting age restrictions—see lower rates of indoor tanning by female high school students, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. The study was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have connected the increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning to increased risk of melanoma; each year the United States sees 60,000 new melanoma diagnoses and approximately 3.5 million treatments for nonmelanoma skin cancer. The study determined that the odds of female students engaging in indoor tanning in states with any indoor tanning laws were 30 percent less than those in states without such laws, and that the odds in states with systems access, parental permission and age restriction laws were 42 percent less than those in states without any laws. “State indoor tanning laws, especially age restrictions, may be effective in reducing indoor tanning among our nation’s youth,” said Gery Guy, PhD, health economist and the study’s lead author. “We need to address the harms of indoor tanning, especially among children. Indoor tanning laws can be part of a comprehensive effort to prevent skin cancers and change social norms around tanned skin.” Read more on cancer.
FEMA Issues Advisories as Severe Weather Hits Parts of the U.S.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun issuing advisories for states across the Southern United States expected to be impacted by severe weather.
According to the National Weather Service, a major winter storm is impacting the South and Southeast ahead of moving up the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday.
FEMA is encouraging both residents and visitors in the track of the storms to follow the instructions of state, local and tribal officials, and monitor NOAA Weather Radio and their local news for updates and directions provided by local officials. Residents can find trusted sources for weather and preparedness information via Twitter on FEMA’s social hub.
Weather Emergency Alerts (WEA) are currently being sent directly to many cell phones on participating wireless carrier networks. These alerts are sent by public safety offices such as the National Weather Service about imminent threats like severe weather. They look like a text message and show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take and the agency issuing the alert. Check your cellular carrier to determine if your phone or wireless device is WEA-enabled. Read more on preparedness.
Dozens of Bills Introduced in Recent Years to Increase School Vaccine Exemptions
From 2009 to 2012, 36 bills were introduced in 18 states to change school immunization mandates, with the majority aimed at expanding exemptions, according to a recent review in JAMA by researchers from Emory University. None of the bills passed, but the researchers say continued efforts to change state vaccine rules are concerning. Among 36 bills introduced, 15 contained no administrative requirements, seven bills had one or two administrative requirements, and the remaining 14 contained between up to five administrative requirements in order for parents to exempt their children from school vaccine rules in a given state.
"Exemptions to school immunization requirements continue to be an issue for discussion and debate in many state legislatures," according to the study authors. Read more on vaccines.
Being in a Good Mood Can Lead to Safer Sex
HIV-positive men are more likely to have save sex when their mood improves, according to a new study by researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. The study, published in the journal Psychology, included 106 sexually active, HIV-positive men who have sex with men who completed weekly surveys over six weeks that asked about their sexual behavior, depression, and wellbeing during the prior week. Overall, 66 percent of study participants reported having unprotected intercourse in the prior two months; 81 percent had multiple partners. Three-quarters of the study participants were black and Latino men, a group disproportionately affected by HIV.
The researchers found that the men who reported an increase in their wellbeing in a given week were more likely to have safe sex (66%), while those who reported higher-than-usual levels of depression were more likely to engage in the risk behaviors (69%). The researchers are now studying potential interventions that might help address risky behaviors during depressive phases. Read more on sexual health.
Study: HPV Vaccine Doesn’t Lead to More, Riskier Sex for Young Women
Despite the concerns of some parents, being vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV)—which causes cervical cancer—does not increase young women’s sexual behavior, either in terms of the number of partners or the decision not to use condoms, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers studied 339 women between the ages of 13 and 14, finding that after receiving the first vaccine most agreed it was still necessary to generally practice safe sex. On a scale from zero to 10, where lower scores indicate better understanding of risks, they scored an average of 1.6 on knowledge about safe sex practices. They also scored a 3.9 on their perceptions of the risk of sexually transmitted infections. "To me, the issue is laid to rest," said Jessica Kahn, MD, of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. "As clinicians and researchers, we have no concerns that vaccination will lead to riskier sexual behaviors." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HPV vaccinations for both boys and girls. Read more on sexual health.
CDC Set to Launch 2014 ‘Tips From Former Smokers’ Campaign
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to launch the 2014 phase of "Tips From Former Smokers" (Tips), its annual television, radio and print campaign. The campaign will include Terrie Hall, the then 52-year-old Lexington, N.C., woman shown in a previous ad who had ultimately had her voice box removed as a result of throat cancer caused by a two-pack-a-day habit for 23 years. She since died of tobacco-related illness. "Over 20 million Americans have died because of smoking since 1964...But when you talk about a number that big, people have no way to put their hands around it,” said Tim McAfee, MD, the Atlanta-based director of the CDC's office on smoking and health."So we thought that for smokers and non-smokers, we needed to put a face on this. Because we felt that if we gave the American people an opportunity to get to know the suffering one person has had to go through because of smoking, it could have an enormous impact." Read more on tobacco.
FDA Proposes New Sanitation Rules for Food in Transport
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed new regulations to improve sanitation and prevent contamination of human and animal food during transportation by both motor vehicles and rail. The new rule would be the final major rule in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act’s central framework. “We are now one step closer to fully implementing the comprehensive regulatory framework for prevention that will strengthen the FDA’s inspection and compliance tools, modernize oversight of the nation’s food safety system, and prevent foodborne illnesses before they happen,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. The new criteria would address areas such as properly refrigerating food, adequately cleaning vehicles between loads and properly protecting food during transportation. Read more on food safety.