Category Archives: Recommended Reading
The American Public Health Association and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership have joined together to create an active transportation primer, Promoting Active Transportation: An Opportunity for Public Health.
The goal of the primer is to provide public health practitioners with critical background information on the value of active transportation, such as walking, bike riding, jogging and running to help reduce obesity, transportation expenses and the environmental impact of cars and buses in communities. The primer authors say educating public health leaders about active transportation can affect how transportation is built in communities, regions and states, and engage stakeholders to find effective calls for action.
New federal transportation legislation became effective this month and includes opportunities for public health practitioners to take active roles in moving active transportation forward in their communities including:
- Safe bicycling routes
- Improved sidewalks
- Multi-use pathways
>>Bonus Links: Check out a Q&A with Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Also read a NewPublicHealth interview with Michelle Windmoeller, assistant director of the PedNet Coalition, which promotes active transportation in communities.
Last week The Atlantic hosted a town hall event to discuss what’s being done—and what more should be done—to cultivate a healthy community in Philadelphia, though the discussion had implications for public health in communities across the country.
"A Conversation on Community Health" (underwritten by GlaxoSmithKline) featured entertainer and activist Dr. Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The two co-wrote “Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors,” which analyzed the state of African-Americans and discussed how they—and others—can overcome deep-rooted community and cultural challenges.
Poussaint also worked closely with Cosby on the hit 1980’s television program The Cosby Show, helping with the scripts to ensure they eliminated stereotypes, emphasized education and promoted an overall positive message.
Both agreed this emphasis on making sure positive messages reached kids early in life was a major factor in success later in life. Poussaint stressed the importance of education, saying a good education improved everything from nutrition to overall life expectancy, while decreasing the chance of incarceration. [View our INFOGRAPHIC on the connection between better education and healthier lives.] He also spoke on how parents and schools can work together to ensure kids, even before they’re in preschool, become literate on good health and nutrition. These young lessons can turn into life-long, positive habits.
Whatever communities are already doing to improve public health, or what programs and assistance they add in the future, it’s vital that people do everything they can to make sure their fellow community members know what resources are available, according to Cosby.
“We’ve got to find people in the neighborhoods who will go out, knock on doors, in church—get the word out,” said Cosby.
The town hall also featured Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor for KYW News Radio; Dr. Irwin Redlener, MD, President and Co-Founder, Children's Health Fund; Dr. Robert Simmons, DrPH, Director of Public Health Programs, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals; Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of Eagles Youth Partnership; and Steve Clemons, Editor-in-Chief, AtlanticLIVE, and Washington Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic.
>>See more on "A Conversation on Community Health."
New York’s high cigarette tax—the highest in the country, at $4.35 per pack—has helped the state cut smoking levels dramatically for both adults and high school students, according to a new study in PLoS One.
The state’s rate of adult smoking dropped by 28 percent from 2003 to 2010, while the national rate for the same period dropped only 11 percent. The rate for New York high school students dropped 38 percent from 2003 to 2011, compared to a national drop of 17 percent. There are approximately 664,000 adult smokers in New York.
While a clear contributor, a high cigarette tax is just one of the tactics that’s helped improve the state’s health, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK). New York also has a comprehensive smoke-free air law, as well as prevention and cessation programs. Overall, these public health strategies have helped prevent more than 300,000 kids from smoking and saved approximately $11.6 billion in health care costs.
Despite the clear public health successes, CTFK says more still needs to be done to help low-income New Yorkers quit smoking. While the study determined their smoking rate is also well below the national rate, 24.3 percent of New Yorkers earning less than $30,000 annually are smokers.
>> Read more on the study from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
>> Read more on how tobacco taxes can help cut health care costs.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is among several critical thinkers who have authored essays in a new book, Investing in What Works for America’s Communities. The book, a joint project of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund, includes chapters on policy, finance and education, offers a hard and experienced look at what it will take to help build strong communities that support the opportunities for people to live healthy and productive lives.
In her essay, “Why Health, Poverty, and Community Development Are Inseparable,” Lavizzo-Mourey writes about the growing need for collaboration across disciplines to revitalize low-income communities and create opportunities to make choices that enable all people to live a long and healthy life, regardless of where they live. Read an excerpt:
In order to improve health in this country, the health sector must work closely with those who plan and build communities, especially the community development and finance organizations that work in low-income neighborhoods to build child care centers, schools, grocery stores, community health clinics, and affordable housing. From the health perspective, our interest is less about the buildings and more about what happens in them. Are the schools providing healthful food and eliminating empty-calorie snacks? Is there daily physical activity during and after school? Are grocery stores providing and promoting healthful foods? Are health clinics providing “prescriptions” of healthy lifestyles and services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in addition to medications? Is affordable housing situated in proximity to safe places to play and be physically active? Is the neighborhood walkable, with well-lighted sidewalks that lead to public transportation, jobs, and services?
Other key essays in the new book include:
· Fighting Poverty through Community Development—by Shaun Dovonan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education; and Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. In their essay, the Secretaries call for the empowerment of federal, regional, and local officials with a wide range of responsibilities to break barriers, effectively meet community needs, and spark economic development.
· America’s Tomorrow: Race, Place, and the Equity Agenda—by Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of the poverty action advocacy group PolicyLink. Blackwell argues that equity-driven policy change is essential to transforming poverty-driven communities into high-opportunity communities. She says this requires broad-based alliances across fields and an inclusive agenda that focuses on those left behind. This also means building public infrastructure, growing new businesses and jobs, and preparing workers for the jobs of tomorrow.
· Crime and Community Development—by Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of urban planning and public policy at New York University. Ellen’s thesis is that public safety is an important element of community development both because people subjectively care about it, but also because crime objectively destroys the fabric of neighborhoods and heightens stress. She suggests three strategies: increasing collective efficacy (the willingness of residents to monitor public spaces and intervene when those spaces or their neighbors are threatened); reducing physical blight and disorder; and community courts, which often also house a variety of social service programs.
The number of obese adults, along with related disease rates and health care costs, are on course to increase dramatically in every state in the country over the next 20 years, according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012, a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health.
The report forecasts adult obesity rates in each state by 2030 and the likely resulting rise in obesity-related disease rates and health care costs.
If upward trends in obesity rates continue, obesity rates could exceed 60 percent in 13 states by 2030, and the loss in economic productivity for the country could be as high as $580 billion annually.
But the news isn't all bad---critical preventive measures could make an enormous impact, and help forge a healthier future for the nation. If states can cut the average body mass index of their population by just 5 percent, millions of Americans could be spared from serious health conditions and the country could save billions of dollars in health care spending. The interactive map pictured here paints a picture of two possible futures---one if we continue on our current path of rapidly rising obesity rates, and another if states can achieve a 5 percent reduction in BMI. Click HERE to explore the possible futures in your state.
>>Explore the interactive map, Two Futures for America's Health.
>>Read the full report.
How do you get a public health message to stick? That’s the ultimate quest. And clever thinking is behind some recent campaigns including PSAs by “Glee” cast members to urge teens to stop texting when they drive, and the “Tips From Former Smokers” series from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shows the potential ravages of smoking.
A novel and very memorable campaign by a Rotary Club in Brazil joins the list. As reported by The Atlantic Cities, the club was determined to help lower the country’s high pedestrian fatality rate and so engaged some local athletes to make absolute sure that pedestrians can safely cross the crosswalk, with no cars in the way.
The campaign, called “Respect Life, Respect the Crosswalk,” goes to new heights in pursuit of the public’s health. Watch the video to see how…
>>Read the full story from The Atlantic Cities.
>>Watch the video:
The National Prevention Strategy is a national effort engaging 17 federal agencies to develop cross-sector strategies to reduce preventable illness and disease and improve Americans’ health. The goals and actions of the Strategy were in full force last week at a roundtable on the intersection of health and transportation, convened by the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was also communicated nationwide in a blog post by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
From Secretary LaHood’s post:
We know that the transportation choices we make play an important role in building and maintaining healthy communities. For example, safer roadways and traffic patterns reduce crashes. Streets where walkers and bikers are protected from motor vehicles encourage people to get more exercise as part of their daily routines. Increasing the transportation options available in a community helps reduce congestion and air pollution even as it ensures that communities have access to necessary services like full-service grocery stores and doctors’ offices.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health published a journal article last week in Science Translational Medicine about how they used genetic testing to determine the source of a bacterial infection, Klebsiella pneumoniae, that killed eleven patients and is highly resistant to antibiotics. To treat the patient they believe initiated the outbreak, who had been transferred from another state but who had the infection when she entered the hospital, doctors used an old antibiotic, colistin, which is rarely used because it can damage kidneys. And to stem the spread, the hospital restored to extreme measures including tearing out plumbing that harbored the infection and regularly testing every patient in the hospital for the infection. The measures worked, but a recent article in the Washington Post highlights reasons why there are so few new antibiotics with reach to treat “superbugs” including a growing lack of interest among pharmaceutical firms because other drugs make more money.
>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth post about an antibiotic resistance study by researchers at Extending the Cure, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study found that in the winter time, flu symptoms boost both antibiotic use and resistance.
How does housing impact health?
A new commentary in the journal Health Affairs tracks the history of health and housing in the United States and says that while a connection between housing conditions and public health has been known since the 1800s, federal housing policy only began during the Great Depression. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has increased awareness of that connection since the agency was founded in the 1960s.
HUD’s housing initiatives have included:
- Prohibitions on lead and gasoline in HUD housing
- Programs to allow HUD tenants to move to more affluent neighborhoods
- Integration of health-oriented policies with other departments including the Department of Health and Human Services
Authors of the commentary worry that current congressional funding policies lead to “predetermined silos,” which could impede the needed integration of projects among federal agencies. HUD’s adoption of a health in all policies approach, according to the authors, “signals an active recognition that the investments have implications for social determinants of health and ultimately for the health of the populations HUD serves.”
>>Read the full article.
>>Bonus Links: Read a NewPublichealth interview with one of the commentary authors, Raphael Bostic, called “Housing Policy is Health Policy” and an interview from our National Prevention Strategy Series with Estelle Richman, senior advisor to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
In the wake of yet one more high-profile shooting this week, at Texas A&M University, the Associated Press profiled the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, which is calling for a public health approach to reducing gun violence, in the same way that public health has tackled such issues as motor vehicle deaths, tobacco and alcohol. "The greater toll is not from these clusters but from endemic violence, the stuff that occurs every day and doesn't make the headlines," says Garen J. Wintemute, MD, MPH, the program’s director.
According to information in the article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 73,000 emergency room visits in 2010 for firearm-related injuries.
Critical factors being addressed by the Violence Prevention Research Program include:
- What makes someone more likely to shoot?
- Which firearms are most dangerous and why?
- What conditions allow or contribute to shootings?
>>Bonus Link: Public Health Law Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Temple University Beasley School of Law are co-sponsoring LEPH 2012: The First International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health to be held in Melbourne, Australia, November 11-13, 2012.
Among the sessions will be case studies of successful collaborations between police and public health across a wide range of issues.