Category Archives: Sexual Health

Nov 26 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: November 26

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Chicago Announces Trio of Anti-tobacco Initiatives to Curb Youth Smoking
The city of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel this morning announced a trio of anti-tobacco initiatives designed to reduce youth access to tobacco. The first would regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, while the second would restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products near schools and the third would work to educate the public on the dangers of menthol-flavored cigarettes. Further details:

  • By defining “tobacco products” as products that are made of tobacco or include tobacco-derived nicotine, the city would be able to regulate e-cigarettes as they do any other tobacco product. This would mean that under the Chicago Clean Indoor Air Act, e-cigarette use would be restricted everywhere where smoking is restricted, including almost all public places and places of employment.
  • Flavored tobacco products, including menthol products, could not be sold within 500 feet of schools, and existing stores would not be grandfathered in. This would be the first regulation of menthol-flavored cigarettes anywhere at the federal, state or local levels.
  • Understanding that menthol-cigarettes are often—and wrongly—viewed as less unhealthy than other tobacco products, as well as that fact that the flavoring makes them more appealing to kids, the city is launching a public service advertising campaign on the realities of the products.

“E-cigarettes, as well as flavored products, are gateway tobacco products targeted at our kids,” said Emanuel. “The tobacco industry has spent years developing products that are aimed at hooking our youth on nicotine and getting them smoking for their entire life.” Read more on tobacco.

FDA to Investigate Reports on Weight-related Problems with the Morning-After-Pill
Following yesterday’s report that the European equivalent of the Plan B One-Step “morning after pill,” Norlevo, is less effective for women who weigh 165 pounds or more and ineffective for women who weigh 176 pounds or more, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it will perform its own investigation into the product. The agency is "currently reviewing the available and related scientific information on this issue, including the publication upon which the Norlevo labeling change was based," said FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said in a Monday statement. "The agency will then determine what, if any, labeling changes to approved emergency contraceptives are warranted." By law, the morning-after pill is available to all U.S. women of child-bearing age, over the county and with no point-of-sale restrictions. Read more on sexual health.

Concerns Over Cost, Sexual Activity Keep Many Parents From Having Kids Vaccinated Against HPV
Costs and parental concern over their kids’ sexual activity may be the reason that so view children—both girls and boys—are not being vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new review of 55 studies appearing in JAMA Pediatrics. HPV vaccines protect against the strains of genital warts that cause approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers, and they are recommended for girls aged 11 to 12. Boys are recommended to receive the vaccine as young as age 11, as it protects not just against genital warts, but also oral, penis and rectal cancers. However, the review found that many parents put off the vaccination either because they believe their child is not sexually active—so doesn’t “need” the vaccine—or because they fear it will encourage them to become sexually active. Researchers determined that a physician’s recommendation was one of the strongest motivators toward deciding to accept the vaccination, although this did not happen nearly enough. The researchers recommended improving these statistics by educating doctors and parents on the importance of the vaccine. Read more on cancer.

Oct 15 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: October 15

Even Low Levels of Air Pollution Tied to Low Birth Weights
Even low levels of pollution can increase the risk of low-birth weight babies, according to a new study in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Researchers analyzed data on more than 74,000 women in 12 European countries, finding that all types of air pollution were linked to both increased risk of low birth weights and smaller average head circumference at birth.  The determined that every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) of fine particulate matter also increases the risk of low birth weight by 18 percent. The European Union’s current regulations call for a limit of 25 mcg/m3, but the study found the risk is still there at limits below this threshold; lowering it to the World Health Organization's guideline of 10 mcg/m3 could prevent as many as 22 percent of the cases. "Our findings suggest that a substantial proportion of cases of low birth weight at term could be prevented in Europe if urban air pollution—particularly fine particulate matter—was reduced," said lead author Marie Pedersen, MD, from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain. Read more on infant and maternal health.

Regular Exercise Can Boost Sperm Count, Improve Odds of Conception
Regular exercise—especially done outdoors—may boost a man’s sperm count and improve the odds of conception, according to a new study to be presented at the International Federation of Fertility Societies and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Boston. Researchers found that men who spent about an hour a day exercising had a 48 percent higher concentration than men who spent less than one hour a week exercising. The study also found clear associations between higher sperm counts and time spent either outdoors or lifting weights. Possible explanations include higher vitamin D levels in men who spent time outdoors in the sunshine and the increased testosterone levels and insulin sensitivity that come with lifting weights. Also, contradicting popular conceptions, the study found no link between caffeine and alcohol and decreased fertility. Read more on sexual health.

Study: Hospital CEO Salaries Tied to Patient Satisfaction, Not Quality of Care
Hospital CEO salaries tend to be higher at hospitals with high patient satisfaction ratings, and does not seem on average to be linked to either their quality of care nor the benefits they offer to their communities, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. "I was hoping I'd see even some modest relationship with quality performance," said lead researcher Ashish Jha, MD. "I think we were a little disappointed." Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data on 1,877 CEOs from 2,681 private, non-profit hospitals across the country, finding an average salary of $596,000; those in the lowest 10 percent earned about $118,000 and those in the highest earned about $1.7 million. While many different factors account for the wide range, Jha said the growing emphasis on improving quality measures suggests that the quality of care should be a factor when determining executive salaries. "If you're going to ask doctors and nurses to be accountable, if you're going to ask patients to be accountable…then I think we should make sure that everybody's in, and that senior managers of hospitals also have a stake in insuring high-quality care." Read more on access to health care.

Jun 21 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 21

NIH: $12.7M in Grants to Explore New Uses for Existing Compounds
Approximately $12.7 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants will go toward helping academic research groups explore new treatments in eight disease areas. They include Alzheimer’s disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and schizophrenia. The “Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules” hopes that, by finding new uses for existing compounds, new treatments can advance to clinical trials more quickly. “Innovative, collaborative approaches that improve the therapeutic pipeline are crucial for success,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “This unique collaboration between academia and industry holds the promise of trimming years from the long and expensive process of drug development.” Read more on research.

Emergency Contraception Officially Available to All Women Without a Prescription
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially followed through on its plan to make the Plan B One-step emergency contraceptive available to all women regardless of age and without a prescription. It was previously available over-the-counter only to women age 17 or older and with a prescription for women who were younger than 17. Earlier this year it the nonprescription age was lowered to 15, but a U.S. District Court ruling ordered it be made to all women and girls without a prescription, at the time calling the FDA’s decision to reject a citizen petition related to the restrictions "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." Read more on sexual health.

Study: Listening to Music While Driving Doesn’t Negatively Impact Response Time
Listening to music while driving does not have the same negative effective on response time as other actions marked as distractions, and in fact might even improve focus under certain conditions, according to a new study. "Speaking on a cellphone or listening to passengers talking is quite different than listening to music, as the former types are examples of a more engaging listening situation," said study author Ayca Berfu Unal, an environmental and traffic psychologist. "Listening to music, however, is not necessarily engaging all the time, and it seems like music or the radio might stay in the background, especially when the driving task needs full attention of the driver.” The study looked at college-aged drivers, finding that louder music actually improved the response time to changes in the speed of cars ahead of the driver. Approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured each day in the United States because of distracted driving, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on safety.

Jun 11 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 11

Emergency Contraception Age Restrictions to be Dropped
The White House administration announced Monday that it will comply with a U.S. District Court ruling to remove the age restrictions on the emergency contraception pill Plan B One-Step, making it available to all women and girls without a prescription. The pill is most effective when taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. The court ruling came in April, with a judge referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to reject a citizen petition related to the restrictions as "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." According to Reuters, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the decision "will make emergency contraception available on store shelves, just like condoms, and women of all ages will be able to get it quickly in order to prevent unintended pregnancy." Read more on sexual health.

CDC Toolkit to Help Health Care Departments, Facilities Make Patient Notifications on Potential Exposures
More than 150,000 patients may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV since 2001 because of unsafe health care practices, and last year almost 14,000 people were notified in relation to a national fungal meningitis outbreak and other infections. In order to help health departments and facilities going forward, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a new online toolkit to facilitate the notification of patients in the event of potential infections or disease transmissions during medical care. The kit includes key steps on notifying patients, resources to help create notification documents, and media communications strategies. The kit was presented at the APIC Annual Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on June 9. Read more on infectious diseases.

Reducing CT Scans for Kids Could Cut Later Rates of Cancer
Cutting back on the number of unneeded, high-dose computed tomography (CT) scans on children could reduce their lifetime risk of certain cancers by more than 60 percent, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. CT scans utilize x-rays; the approximately 4 million annual CT scans of kids’ most commonly imaged organs may lead to as many as 4,900 cancers, according to the researchers. "There are potential harms from CT, meaning that there is a cancer risk—albeit very small in individual children—so it's important to reduce this risk in two ways," said lead author Diana Miglioretti, a professor of biostatistics in the department of public health sciences at the UC Davis Health System. "The first is to only do a CT when it's medically necessary, and use alternative imaging when possible. The second is to dose CT appropriately for children." Read more on cancer.

May 30 2013
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Faces of Public Health: Peggy Conlon, Ad Council

file Peggy Conlon, Ad Council

“We know PSA campaigns can make a big impact; that they can improve people’s lives.”

The Advertising (Ad) Council has just launched a new version of its digital distribution platform, PSA Central, which is geared toward PSA directors and media outlets, but is also valuable for anyone who wants to share the messages including educators and public health practitioners. The site offers easy access to video, print, radio, online, mobile and outdoor media public service advertisements that range from bullying prevention to food safety education.

Public Service Advertisements (PSAs) may actually date back to the civil war when newspapers offered free advertising space to the U.S. government to advertise bonds whose revenues were used to pay for the war effort. These days, PSAs are much more likely to be public safety messages such as a United Kingdom video PSA, downloaded over 2 million times on YouTube, reminding people just why they should buckle up in a car. And more importantly, these efforts are being measured and tracked to show impact on health behavior change and health outcomes, such as the Ad Council’s drunk driving prevention campaign that has encouraged 70 percent of Americans to take action to stop a friend from driving drunk.

Ad Council's iconic Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk campaign

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council, about the public health messages PSAs can convey and how new media has expanded their reach.

NewPublicHealth: How have PSAs evolved over the years?

Peggy Conlon: PSAs have evolved quite a bit. The Ad Council is 71 years old and back in the earliest days PSAs were seen in newspapers and heard over the radio. Since then they have been showcased on just about all media platforms. In the 90s we were introduced to the Internet and everything changed forever. The Internet added another new dimension to our ability, in a very tangible and personal way, to engage communities around social issues.

NPH: What are some of the most effective and iconic campaigns in public service advertising?

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Apr 26 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 26

Mammography Rates Remained Steady After Change in Guidelines
The proportion of women undergoing screening for breast cancer every year did not change after U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released recommendations saying there wasn't enough evidence to support routine mammograms for women in their 40s, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer. In 2009, the Task Force changed their recommendations to state that women aged 50 to 74 should have a mammogram every other year, and screenings for women under age 50 should be evaluated by each woman with her doctor, according to individual risk factors. "When there are conflicting versions of guidelines, providers may err on the side of screening," said David Howard, a health policy researcher from Emory University in Atlanta, in an interview with Reuters. Read more on cancer.

Latest HIV Vaccine Study Halted
The National Institutes of Health halted a study testing an experimental HIV vaccine after an independent review board found the vaccine did not prevent HIV infection and did not reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. The trial, started in 2009, is the latest in a series of failed HIV vaccine trials, according to Reuters. The halted study included more than 2,500 volunteers in 19 U.S. cities. Study populations included men who have sex with men and transgender people who have sex with men. Read more on HIV.

CDC's Food Safety Report Card: Some Foodborne Illnesses Spiked in 2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the "nation’s annual food safety report card," and it shows that 2012 rates of infections from two types of foodborne bacteria—campylobacter and Vibrio—have increased significantly when compared to a baseline period of 2006-2008, while rates of most others have not changed during the same period. The data are part of the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network report. Campylobacter infections have been linked to tranmission in many foods, including poultry, raw milk and produce. These infections were at their highest level since 2000, up 14 percent since 2006-2008. Vibrio infections, often associated with raw shellfish, were up 43 percent.

“The U.S. food supply remains one of the safest in the world,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “However, some foodborne diseases continue to pose a challenge. We have the ability, through investments in emerging technologies, to identify outbreaks even more quickly and implement interventions even faster to protect people from the dangers posed by contaminated food.” Read more on food safety.

Apr 5 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 5

CDC: Nearly 1 in 3 Americans Suffers from High Blood Pressure
Nearly one in three Americans have high blood pressure, according a new study in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The number climbed 10 percent from 2005 to 2009, demonstrating an increased need to focus on prevention and treatment. "What we are really concerned about as well is that people who have high blood pressure are getting treated. Only about half of those with hypertension have it controlled," said Fleetwood Loustalot, a researcher at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to negative health consequences like heart attacks and strokes." A recent study in the journal BMJ found that even a small reduction in sodium intake can significantly reduce blood pressure, which in turn lessens the risk of heart disease. Read more on heart health.

Court Orders FDA to Make ‘Morning-After’ Pill Available to All Without a Prescription
Calling it the agency’s decision "an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their rights to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions," a U.S. District Court judge has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse its stance on “morning-after” contraception pills and make them available to all women without a prescription. The pills are currently available without a prescription only to women age 17 and older. "Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which was one of the groups that petitioned FDA to remove the restrictions. Read more on sexual health.

Teen Vogue, Toyota Campaign to Emphasize Safe Driving for Teenage Girls
With automobile collisions the leading cause of teenage deaths, Teen Vogue and Toyota are partnering on the “Arrive in Style” safe driving campaign targeting teenage girls and their mothers. The print, digital, video and social media campaign is set to run through early next year. Teen Vogue will also have monthly features with advice on safe driving. “Teen Vogue’s influential young readers are the perfect ambassadors not only to participate in this initiative, but also to help build awareness and educate their peer groups on the importance of driver safety,” said Jason Wagenheim, Teen Vogue Vice President and Publisher. Read more on safety.

Feb 26 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: February 26

Poll: 3 p.m. to Bedtime Offers Challenges to Fighting Obesity
Parents’ and kids’ activity during the “crunch time” period of 3 p.m. to bedtime—commuting, extracurricular activities, getting ready for the next day—can make it especially difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle, according to a new poll from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR and the Harvard School of Public Health. The poll looked at families' eating and physical activity habits. Among other results, it found that 60 percent of parents said their children ate or drank something unhealthy and that 28 percent of kids did not get enough physical activity during this time window. Read more on obesity.

Mistakes in Primary Patient Care Can Cause Serious Complications
While there’s much focus on mistakes during surgery and medication prescribing, missed and incorrect diagnoses in primary care may lead to even more injuries and deaths, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers determined most mistakes were linked to doctors getting inaccurate patient histories, not doing full exams or ordering incorrect tests. "We have every reason to believe that diagnostic errors are a major, major public health problem," said David Newman-Toker, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "You're really talking about at least 150,000 people per year, deaths or disabilities that are resulting from this problem." Read more on access to health care.

Targeted Pregnancy Prevention Program Increases Teens’ Use of Condoms, Birth Control Pills
A prevention program designed specifically for teenage girls at high risk of pregnancy made them more likely to use contraception methods, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The Prime Time program at primary care clinics utilizes personal case management and youth leadership opportunities. "Findings suggest that health services grounded in a youth development framework can lead to long-term reductions in sexual risk among vulnerable youth," according to the study. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, girls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth to 329,797 babies in 2011. Read more on sexual health.

Nov 30 2012
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I’m Positive—World AIDS Day Documentary

Otis Harris Jr. Otis Harris Jr.

On World AIDS Day, Saturday, December 1, I’m Positive, a new documentary produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV, will introduce three young adults living with HIV. The documentary is part of a project called GYT: Get Yourself Tested, a campaign to encourage testing for STDs, including HIV. GYT is a sexual health public information partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV.

NewPublicHealth spoke with cast member Otis Harris, who is an HIV/AIDS peer advocate who lives in Chicago.

NewPublicHealth: How old are you and how old were you when you found out that you were HIV positive?

Otis Harris Jr.: I am 25 years old and I was 22 [when I found out I was HIV positive].

NPH: What do you wish you had known then that you know now?

Otis Harris Jr.: I wish that I could have been a little more educated about the virus and what to look for and how to protect myself. And if I would have known what I know now then I probably wouldn’t have been infected.

NPH: People have been working on HIV/AIDS education efforts for so many years now, but clearly they weren’t getting through. What are the ways in which they didn’t communicate well and how can they communicate better?

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Aug 31 2012
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Cell Phones as Public Health Tools

While the syringe has often been the visual image most closely associated with public health, in just a short time the cell phone could be the go-to icon.The Yale School of Public Health has announced a novel, two-year clinical trialthat will use participants’ cell phones, and the text messages those cell phones transmit, to develop mobile phone-based health interventions that target specific peer groups. The trial is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The participants in this first trial are young men ages 18 to 25 who have agreed to allow their cell phones to be tracked by Yale researchers. Each participant’s physical location will be tracked through global positioning systems, and a computer program will register all incoming and outgoing calls and text messages, which will not be shared outside the trial. The clinical trial will have three social networks which will each start with a single person and then recruit his friends, and then their friends, until each of the three groups has 40 active members. The researchers are specifically looking for text messages that relate to sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse.

“Cell phones have made it easier to maintain and develop network ties,” says Trace Kershaw, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, and leader of the trial. “The nature of how this communication flows and how it relates to network characteristics and risk within networks will allow us to develop communication technology-delivered peer interventions by suggesting the most effective modes, frequency and patterns of information delivery.”

>>Bonus Link: Read about a smartphone-based trial being run by Asthmapolis, a Madison, Wisc., company that is using sensor-enhanced smart phones to help better understand when and where people with asthma develop symptoms.

>>Weigh In: What novels efforts is your community, company or research group using to collect or disseminate public health information?