Category Archives: Idea Gallery

Jun 21 2011

New Tobacco Warning Labels: A Step in the Right Direction


Idea Gallery is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth in which guest authors provide their perspective on issues affecting public health. Today, the Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A. writes about the new FDA cigarette health warnings.

It’s simple: Smoking kills.

Sending this message to smokers — or to those who are thinking of starting smoking — just got a lot easier. Earlier today, the federal government released nine new graphic health warnings that will appear on everything from cigarette packs to in-store tobacco displays.

Stark images and bold messaging will now graphically illustrate — on every ad and every pack of cigarettes — the painful and deadly reality of tobacco use: A diseased lung. A baby surrounded by secondhand smoke. A man who needs an oxygen mask to breathe.

Beginning September 2012, each pack of cigarettes will serve as a vivid reminder of the real public health effects of smoking.

Smoking is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States, killing 443,000 people each year. The next cigarette could be the one that triggers a heart attack, a stroke or cancer. And it is not just smokers who are affected: There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco — even if secondhand — is harmful.

The new U.S. Food and Drug Administration warnings are a major component of the Department of Health and Human Services’ new comprehensive strategy to prevent children from starting to use tobacco and to help current tobacco users quit. In fact, each new warning label carries the government-funded 1-800-QUIT-NOW cessation resource phone number.

The new labels illustrate the message — that tobacco use is harmful. The graphic warning labels will bring us one step closer to ending this completely preventable epidemic.

For more information and to see the final images, visit

May 5 2011

Idea Gallery: Ensuring "Health in all Policies"

Idea Gallery is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth in which guest authors provide their perspective on issues affecting public health. Today, Jeffrey Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America's Health, writes about investing in prevention initiatives.

“Health in all policies” has become a sort of shorthand for the public health community. Well, sometimes, longhand is better. That is especially true in the new issue of Health Affairs, which focuses on the connection between environment and health.

The incredibly thorough and important studies included in the publication demonstrate how health can be affected by things ranging from transportation law to education policy.

One of the most fascinating parts of the issue is Protecting Health And Pocketbooks: Why Behavioral And Environmental Interventions Are Needed To Improve Health At Lower Cost, by Bobby Milstein at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues. According to their analysis, environmental health policy plays a critical role in improving the cost-effectiveness of the U.S. health care system. The authors argue that, to improve the health of Americans for generations to come, we need to “invest in prevention initiatives that extend beyond the doctor’s office.”

Luckily enough, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), gives us the opportunity to do just that by fighting obesity, reducing smoking and improving health where we live, learn, work and play. In short, it will make the healthy choices easier choices and, thereby, prevent suffering and save lives and money.

For example, in prevention programs supported by Community Transformation Grants from the Prevention Fund, communities will be given the support to create healthier environments – whether by promoting clean air, or assuring access to physical activity, or healthier food choices. We will have more community support and programs available to help make healthy choices easier choices for more Americans.

The Prevention fund is an important step toward transforming our sick care system into a health care system by ensuring all policies, focus on how they impact the public’s health.

Apr 7 2011

Economic Shocks and Public Health Decision-making: How Can Research Help?

Idea Gallery is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth in which guest authors provide their perspective on issues affecting public health. Today’s contributor is Glen P. Mays, Professor and Chair and director of research for the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The economic downturn — combined with a shifting political landscape and changing policy priorities — is forcing state and local public health professionals to confront difficult choices on a daily basis.

This raises a series of critical questions:

  • As budget cuts are made, how should public health officials make decisions on which activities to reduce and eliminate so as to minimize population health risks and harm?
  • Are there alternative ways of organizing, staffing and delivering core public health services, so that officials can better produce efficiencies and reduce resource needs?
  • Are there alternative ways of re-allocating the division of labor among state and local agencies, as well as among governmental and private-sector organizations, so as to maximize health protections and minimize costs?
  • How much discretion do public health officials have in using evidence and economic imperatives to reconfigure their delivery systems?

The many uncertainties surrounding these issues create an urgent demand for new research to inform policy and practice. Next week in Lexington, Ky., the 2011 Public Health Systems and Services Research (PHSSR) Keeneland Conference will provide a unique forum for research and practice communities to brainstorm, share preliminary findings and identify improved approaches for applying this type of evidence to the real world.

Among other research, the event will showcase the work of RWJF’s Public Health Practice-Based Research Networks (PBRN), which fields real-time and relevant studies to inform public health decision-making in a time of economic shocks and resource constraints:

  • A recent study from North Carolina demonstrates how local health departments have responded to reduced Medicaid support for maternity case management services by improving delivery efficiency rather than cutting services or clients.
  • Research underway in Colorado demonstrates how public health agencies are utilizing multi-organizational coalitions to deliver chronic disease prevention activities effectively and efficiently.
  • New research from Wisconsin shows that the public health activities most vulnerable to economy-related cuts are those financed through local taxes and not mandated by state law.
  • Research from Florida finds that cross-cutting, infrastructure-related public health capacities (such as surveillance and health assessment) are least likely to be funded by categorical funding streams — and therefore especially vulnerable to economy-related funding reductions.


Several other PBRN studies to be presented at the conference will address barriers and facilitators to evidence-based public health decision-making in the face of economic constraints.

These Keeneland Conference sessions will likely stimulate considerable discussion and debate concerning the health and economic impacts of changes in public health service delivery across the United States, as well as how research can be used to estimate and learn from these effects. Estimating these effects undoubtedly will require longer time lags and additional analytic horsepower, but studies to accomplish these tasks are already underway.

PBRNs are a relatively new concept within public health, operating “below the radar” in many communities. Nevertheless, they may prove to be the missing ingredient needed to drive science-based improvements in practice and practice-relevant advances in science. Researchers and practitioners who share this vision of an evidence-producing community of practice should be sure to attend the conference sessions and get involved.

Follow coverage of the 2011 PHSSR Keeneland Conference on and Scutch’s Blog.

Throughout the conference — April 12-14 — you can also get real-time updates on Twitter from @RWJF_PubHealth and @CPHSSR. Use the hashtag #PHSSRKC11.


Mar 31 2011

Idea Gallery: Major League Baseball Must Ban Smokeless Tobacco

Idea Gallery is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth in which guest authors provide their perspective on issues affecting public health. Today's contributors are Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Cheryl Healton, President & Chief Executive Officer of Legacy.


Every summer, millions of American children go to baseball stadiums across the country to watch their heroes play the national pastime. And even more kids watch the games on TV.

That means millions of kids see Major League Baseball players chewing and spitting out harmful tobacco products – creating the false impression that smokeless tobacco use is cool and athletic. About one-third of current Major League Baseball players use smokeless tobacco.

To protect the health of ballplayers and the kids who look up to them, we urge Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to ban tobacco use by players, managers, coaches and other team personnel at ballparks. The current talks on a new collective bargaining agreement give baseball a unique opportunity to make a powerful national statement about health.

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Public health experts have concluded that smokeless tobacco is very addictive and causes cancer and other serious illnesses. And smokeless tobacco use among high school boys is spiking – it’s increased 36 percent since 2003 and an alarming 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless products.

In spite of these disturbing statistics, the tobacco industry still spends huge sums – more than $350 million per year at last count – to market smokeless products and often promotes them as a substitute for smoking. Tobacco companies continue to advertise these products in magazines that appeal to youth.

Baseball banned tobacco use in the minor leagues 18 years ago. The NCAA and the National Hockey League also prohibit tobacco use. Ending tobacco use in Major League Baseball would be another important step to help teach kids that tobacco use — in any form — is dangerous and can lead to serious diseases. It will also help keep our kids’ heroes healthy.

Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Cheryl Healton, President & Chief Executive Officer of Legacy.

NewPublicHealth invites you to join and advance this conversation. Please share your comments below. We look forward to hearing from you.