Category Archives: Transportation

Mar 25 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: March 25

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Overweight Teens Should Start Healthy Eating by Cutting Down on Salt
Overweight or obese teenagers who eat lots of salty foods shows signs of faster cell aging, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014. Previous research found that protective ends on chromosomes (telomeres) naturally shorten with age, but the process is accelerated by smoking, lack of physical activity and high body fat. This study is the first to examine the impact of sodium intake on telomere length.

In the study, 766 people ages 14-18 were divided into the lowest or highest half of reported sodium intake. Low-intake teens consumed an average 2,388 mg/day, compared with 4,142 mg/day in the high-intake group. Both groups consumed far more than the 1,500 mg/day maximum (about 2/3 teaspoon of salt) recommended by the American Heart Association. After adjusting for several factors that influence telomere length, researchers found that in overweight/obese teens, telomeres were significantly shorter with high-sodium intake. In normal weight teens, telomeres were not significantly different with high-sodium intake.

“Even in these relatively healthy young people, we can already see the effect of high sodium intake, suggesting that high sodium intake and obesity may act synergistically to accelerate cellular aging,” said Haidong Zhu, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Ga. “Lowering sodium intake may be an easier first step than losing weight for overweight young people who want to lower their risk of heart disease. The majority of sodium in the diet comes from processed foods, so parents can help by cooking fresh meals more often and by offering fresh fruit rather than potato chips for a snack.” Read more on heart health.

DOT Awards Grants to Improve Transportation for American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes
The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding $5 million to 42 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in 19 states for projects to improve transit service, in addition to $25 million in funds announced recently to help improve public transit service on rural tribal lands and better connect tribal members and other residents with jobs, education, and other opportunities.

“We fully recognize that residents on tribal lands and in surrounding communities often face significant transportation challenges, as many cannot afford to own a vehicle, or fill the tank, and yet must travel long distances to reach basic services,” said Federal Transit Administration head Therese McMillan. “We want to ensure that everyone who needs a ride to earn a paycheck, attend school, see the doctor, or buy groceries has that opportunity.” Read more on transportation.

Health Providers Should Prescribe Sleep for People with Metabolic Disorders
A new study in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology finds that insufficient or disturbed sleep is associated with metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, and addressing poor quality sleep should be a target for the prevention—and even treatment—of the disorders. According to the study authors, addressing some types of sleep disturbance—such as sleep apnea—may have a directly beneficial effect on patients' metabolic health, but a far more common problem is people simply not getting enough sleep, particularly due to the increased use of devices such as tablets and online games. The authors say that early studies are starting to provide evidence that there is a direct causal link between loss of sleep and the body's ability to metabolize glucose, control food intake, and maintain its energy balance. Read more on obesity.

Feb 14 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: February 14

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Public Health Wants to be Your Valentine

Looking for powerful ways to save I love you?

Read more on heart health.

American Society of Clinical Oncology Weighs in on Mammography
In response to a study published this week in the British Medical Journal which called into question the benefit of mammography, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) issued a statement today saying that because mammography is similar to many other tests that can detect a condition that may never cause harm, the benefits of screening are likely to be greater for women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer based on factors such as age and family history, than for women at average risk. It also stated no single study should be used to change screening policy and that all women should be encouraged to speak with their doctors about their personal risk for breast cancer, as well as the potential benefits and harms of mammography screening. ASCO and other cancer advocacy and women’s health groups have announced that they will be monitoring additional mammography studies now being conducted, and the American Cancer Society is expected to release new mammography recommendations later this year. Read more on cancer.

NHTSA Announces New Mandatory Label to Help Owners Instantly Identify Recall Mailings
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that starting February 18, all manufacturers must use a distinctive label on the agency’s required mailings that notify owners of recalled vehicles or equipment.

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The requirement was introduced to help owners instantly distinguish important recall notices arriving in their mailboxes from other mail and hopefully avoid mistakenly discarding the safety notices. NHTSA has also just launched the SaferCar app for Android devices that will provide information for car owners and shoppers, including recalls and safety performance. There is already a SaferCar app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users. Other safety notification options from NHTSA include:

  • Register Your Cars, Tires and Car Seats: Receive NHTSA email notifications when there is a recall by the federal government. There is no way to locate or notify individual owners of car seats or tires if the product is not registered with the manufacturer or NHTSA.
    Check for Open Recalls on Used Cars: Verify with the previous owner or dealer whether a used car has been fixed by using www.safercar.gov, which provides a general search tool to help consumers identify recalls that may affect their vehicle.

Read more on transportation.

Feb 7 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: February 7

Decrease in Pediatric Antibiotic Leveling Off 
The number of children taking antibiotics has decreased over the past decade, but that decrease has stalled in recent years in certain age groups and geographic locations, according to a study in Pediatrics. Researchers reviewed pharmacy and outpatient claims over a 10-year period (2000 to 2010) in three health plans located in three different geographic locations to determine the number of antibiotics dispensed each year for children ages 3 months to 18 years. Although the overall antibiotic-dispensing rate in each age group and health plan was lower in 2009-2010 than in 2000-2001, the rate of decline in antibiotic use has slowed. The highest rate of antibiotic use was in children age 3 months to less than 24 months of age in all years of the study.

The study authors say the previous downward trend in antibiotic use in children may have reached a plateau, and continued improvements in judicious antibiotic dispensing are needed. Read more on pediatrics.

NHTSA Gives Okay for Vehicle to Vehicle Communication to Help Prevent Crashes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will begin taking steps to allow vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles, which will allow vehicles to "talk" to each other and ultimately avoid many crashes by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second.

The safety applications currently being developed provide warnings to drivers so that they can prevent imminent collisions, but do not automatically operate any vehicle systems, such as braking or steering, although NHTSA is also considering future actions on active safety technologies that rely on on-board sensors.

V2V communications can provide the vehicle and driver with 360-degree situational awareness to address additional crash situations — including those, for example, in which a driver needs to decide if it is safe to pass on a two-lane road (potential head-on collision), make a left turn across the path of oncoming traffic, or in which a vehicle approaching at an intersection appears to be on a collision course. In those situations, V2V communications can detect threats hundreds of yards from other vehicles that cannot be seen, often in situations in which on-board sensors alone cannot detect the threat. Read more on transportation.

Many Hospital ICUs Don't Follow Infection Prevention Rules
While most hospitals have evidence-based guidelines in place to prevent health care-associated infections in intensive care units (ICUs), clinicians often fail to follow them according to new research from the Columbia University School of Nursing published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The study, on over 1600 ICUs, found lax compliance in intensive care units where patients are more likely to be treated with devices linked to preventable infections – such as central lines, urinary catheters and ventilators.

The study focused on three of the most common preventable infections — central line-associated bloodstream infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections and determined that despite decades of research, establishing best practices for prevention of these infections, approximately one in 10 hospitals lack checklists to prevent bloodstream infections, and one in four lack checklists to help avoid pneumonia in ventilator patients, and that in hospitals with checklists, they are followed only about half of the time.

Health care-associated infections kill an estimated 100,000 Americans a year and result in over $30 billion in excess medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on injury prevention.

Jan 29 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: January 29

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NIDA Releases Resources on Identifying, Treating Teen Drug Abuse
As part of the annual National Drug Facts Week, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has released a collection of resources to help parents, health care providers and substance abuse treatment specialists identify teens at risk and help those struggling with drug abuse. The new resources include:

  • Thirteen principles to consider in treating adolescent substance use disorders
  • Frequently asked questions about adolescent drug use
  • Settings in which adolescent drug abuse treatment most often occurs
  • Evidence-based approaches to treating adolescent substance use disorders
  • The role of the family and medical professionals in identifying teen substance use and supporting treatment and recovery.

“Because critical brain circuits are still developing during the teen years, this age group is particularly susceptible to drug abuse and addiction,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. “These new resources are based on recent research that has greatly advanced our understanding of the unique treatment needs of the adolescent.” Currently only 10 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 who need substance abuse treatment receive it, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.  Read more on substance abuse.

Study: Public Transit Drivers Distracted an Estimated 39 Percent of their Time on the Road
Public transit bus drivers spend an estimated 39 percent of their time on the road distracted, according to a new study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention. Researchers in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham observed and recorded distraction behaviors for three months, then compared them by route characteristics. Interactions with other passengers are the most common source of distraction. Drivers younger than 30 or older than 50, on city streets or highways, or who were driving more than 20 passengers were the most likely to be distracted. Researchers concluded that more needs to be done to educate drivers on the hazards of distracted driving and ways to avoid distractions. Read more on transportation.

Improved Education on Subsidies, Medicaid Could Reduce Number of Uninsured U.S. Adults
The number of U.S. adults who are uninsured could be significantly reduced with improved education on available subsidies and Medicaid expansion, according to the new quarterly Health Reform Monitoring Survey, conducted by Urban Institute researchers with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The survey found that 39.3 percent of uninsured adults expect to have health insurance in 2014, and that four in 10 adults who expect to remain uninsured also think they will have to pay some sort of penalty. Read more on access to health care.

Jan 27 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: January 27

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Study: 20 U.S. Children Hospitalized for Gunshots Each Day
Each day approximately 20 children across the United States are hospitalized for a firearm injury, with more than 6 percent—or about one child a day—ultimately dying, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine analyzed health records for 2009, finding a total of 7,391 hospitalizations and 453 deaths for children and adolescents younger than age 20. While most hospitalizations were for assault, for children younger than age 10 the cause was unintentional or accidental injury approximately 75 percent of the time. Firearm injuries can require extensive follow-up treatment, including rehabilitation; home health care; hospital readmission from delayed effects of the injury; and mental health or social services. "These data highlight the toll of gun-related injuries that extends beyond high-profile cases, and those children and adolescents who die before being hospitalized,” said John Leventhal, MD. “Pediatricians and other health care providers can play an important role in preventing these injuries through counseling about firearm safety, including safe storage.” Read more on violence.

Study: Integrating Vegetation into Transportation Planning Improve Air Quality, Public Health Overall
The strategic integration of trees, plants and other vegetation into transportation planning may have a positive effect on air quality specifically and public health overall, according to a new article from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations. The study, which appeared in TR News Magazine, looked at short-term and long-term methods to reduce human exposure to pollutants along major transportation corridors. “Properly designed and managed roadside vegetation can help us breathe a little easier,” said Greg McPherson, PhD, research forester at the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. “Besides reducing pollutants in the air, these buffers can protect water quality, store carbon, cool urban heat islands and soften views along our streetscapes. They are essential components of green infrastructure in cities and towns.” Read more on transportation.

Quality Improvement Initiative Sees Significant Improvement in Teen Asthma Management
A quality improvement initiative from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has proven to significantly improve asthma outcomes for teenagers, a notoriously difficult demographic to help due to overall poor adherence to treatment. The study appeared in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers focused their efforts on 322 primary care patients with asthma, of which only about 10 percent had optimally well-controlled asthma. Starting in 2007, that percentage grew to 30 percent by 2009 and remained steady through the study’s end in 2011. The researchers also saw patient confidence in the ability to manage their asthma climb from 70 percent to 85 percent. "We were able to achieve sustained improvement in patients whose chronic asthma is not well-controlled by implementing a package of chronic care interventions,” said Maria Britto, MD, director of the Center for Innovation in Chronic Disease Care at Cincinnati Children's and senior author of the study. “These included standardized and evidence-based care; self-management support, such as self-monitoring by using diaries and journals; care coordination and active outreach among healthcare providers; linking these teens to community resources; and following-up with patients whose chronic asthma is not well-controlled." Read more on pediatrics.

Jan 10 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: January 10

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U.S. Lung Cancer Rates Dropping for Both Men and Women
The rate of new lung cancer cases decreased among men and women in the United States from 2005 to 2009, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the fastest drop among adults aged 35-44 years. The rate of decrease has been 6.5 percent per year among men and 5.8 percent per year among women. Lung cancer incidence rates decreased more rapidly among men than among women in all age groups. “These dramatic declines in the number of young adults with lung cancer show that tobacco prevention and control programs work—when they are applied,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among both men and women in the United States, with most lung cancers attributable to cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke. Because smoking behaviors among women are now similar to those among men, women are now experiencing the same risk of lung cancer as men, according to the CDC. Read more on tobacco.

DOT to Fund New Low or No Emission Buses
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced funding of close to $25 million to help fund non-polluting buses in communities across the country. The funds will be awarded competitively to transit agencies and state transportation departments working either independently or jointly with bus manufacturers already making low- and zero-emission buses. According to the DOT, in addition to the environmental benefits, the new buses will also save money for transportation agencies because they can more than double the fuel economy of buses that run on diesel and other fuels. Read more on transportation.

Assistance for Paying Heat Costs
The polar vortex deep freeze much of the country experienced this past week is ending, but there are still many more weeks left of winter. People having trouble paying for heating costs can contact the National Energy Assistance Referral project at: 1-866-674-6327, e-mail energy@ncat.org or access the LIHEAP website to find out where to apply for help to pay for heating costs. Read more on community health.

Jan 2 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: January 2

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NIH: 10 Percent of Driving Time Spent Distracted by Secondary Tasks
About 10 percent of an average driver’s time behind the wheel is spent engaged in something besides focusing on the road, which is especially dangerous for younger drivers, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Common distractions include eating, reaching for a phone, texting, or simply taking their eyes off the road. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Virginia Tech used video technology and in-vehicle sensors to determine their findings. “Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road can be dangerous,” said study co-author Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH institute where the study was conducted. “But our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers, who haven’t developed sound safety judgment behind the wheel.” The study found that novice drivers were:

  • Eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing
  • Seven to eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when reaching for a phone or other object,
  • Almost four times more likely to crash or have a near miss when texting, and
  • Three times more likely to crash or have a near miss when eating.

Read more on transportation.

Study: Tripling Global Tobacco Taxes Could Prevent 200M Premature Deaths
Tripling the taxes on tobacco could prevent 200 million premature deaths worldwide while dramatically cutting into the total number of smokers, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Approximately 1.3 billion people smoke; tobacco currently kills about 6 million people per year, with that total expected to climb to more than 8 million by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. To support their findings, scientists from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) pointed to success in France, where raising taxes well above inflation reduced smoking by half from 1990 to 2005. "The two certainties in life are death and taxes. We want higher tobacco taxes and fewer tobacco deaths," said Richard Peto, the CRUK epidemiologist who led the study. "It would help children not to start, and it would help many adults to stop while there's still time." Read more on tobacco.

HUD Grants to Help Families Get Access to Education, Job Training, Employment
This week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded approximately $57 million in grants as part of its Housing Choice Voucher Program, which will go toward helping residents gain access to education, job training and employment. The grants will be used to hire or retain more than one thousand service coordinators who will work to connect the families with the supportive services. “This is a modest investment that can make a world of difference for families looking to find their path to self-sufficiency,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “As America’s economy continues to recover, it’s critical that we work to make sure every American has the skills and resources they need to successfully compete for jobs in the 21st Century.” Under the program, participants sign a five-year contract requiring the head of the household to obtain employment and no longer receive welfare assistance by the end of the contract. Read more on housing.

Dec 31 2013
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Top 10 NewPublicHealth Posts of 2013

Infographics, public health news and innovative efforts to improve community health were the topics of the most widely read posts on NewPublicHealth this year.

Take a look back at our most popular posts:

  1. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America will release new recommendations on early childhood education and improving community health on Monday January 13. Earlier this year, new city maps to illustrate the dramatic disparity between the life expectancies of communities mere miles away from each other. Where we live, learn, work and play can have a greater impact on our health than we realize.
  2. Three of the infographics created for the NewPublicHealth series on the National Prevention Strategy, a cross-federal agency emphasis on public health priorities, were among the most popular posts of 2013. Stable Jobs = Healthier Lives, the most widely viewed NPH infographic, tells a visual story about the role of employment in the health of our communities. One example: Laid-off workers are 54 percent more likely to have fair or poor health and 83 percent more likely to develop a stress-related health condition.
  3. Better Transportation =Healthier Lives, another 2013 infographic, tells a visual story about the role of transportation in the health of our communities. Consider this important piece of the infographic as we head into 2014: The risk of obesity increases 6 percent with every additional mile spent in the car, and decreases 5 percent with every kilometer walked.
  4. Top Five Things You Didn’t Know Could Spread Disease was the best read of the very well read stories on NewPublicHealth during Outbreak Week—an original series created by NPH to accompany the release in late December of Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Disease, a pivotal report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health.
  5. Better Education=Healthier Lives, another widely viewed—and shared—infographic on NewPublicHealth, shared the critical information that more education increases life span, decreases health risks such as heart disease and—for mothers who receive more years in school—increases the chance that her baby will die in infancy.
  6. How Healthy is Your County? In 2014 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will release the fifth County Health Rankings, a data set more and more communities rely on to see improvements—and room for change—in the health of their citizens. NewPublicHealth’s 2013 coverage of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps included posts on the six communities that won the inaugural RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize for their innovative strategies to create a culture of health by partnering across sectors in their communities.
  7. The Five Deadliest Outbreaks and Pandemics in History, was our seventh best read post of the year. Read it again and ask: Are we prepared as a nation for the next big outbreak?
  8. What does architecture have to do with public health? Visit the Apple Store in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, Texas’ Red Swing project, or....view our post from earlier this year.
  9. Less than a month after the shootings in late 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the Harvard School of Public Health held a live webcast town hall meeting on gun violence on the legal, political, and public health factors that could influence efforts to prevent gun massacres. And toward the end of 2013, NewPublicHealth sat down with former Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, MPH, to talk about the role of research in preventing gun violence.
  10. NewPublicHealth covered the release of a report by Trust for America’s Health that found that most states are not implementing enough proven strategies to prevent prescription drug abuse. But the year ended with some better news on the critical public health issue. An NPH news roundup post reported on a study funded by the National Institutes of Health which found that rates of prescription drug abuse by high school students have dropped slightly.

Close runners up included How Do You Transform a Community After a Century of Neglect?, which looked at how Bithlo, Fla. is working to bring much-needed services to its main street through the “Transformation Village” initiative, as well as ‘Unprecedented Destruction’: Ocean County Public Health Continues to Respond to Hurricane Sandy, which brought together a NewPublicHealth video and a Q&A to illustrate how public health officials and departments worked together to help their regions recover from the devastating superstorm. Also in the top 20 for year was an interview with New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, on the release of the 2013-17 Prevention Agenda: New York State’s Health Improvement Plan—a statewide, five-year plan to improve the health and quality of life for everyone who lives in New York State.

Dec 27 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: December 27

Black Women Have Highest Rates of High Blood Pressure
More black women have high blood pressure than black men and white men and women, according to a new study in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The study included 70,000 people in the 12 southeastern states that are often referred to as the “stroke belt” because they collectively have a high rate of stroke incidence. Among the study participants, the high blood pressure rate among black women was 64 percent. Among white women the rate was 52 percent and among both black and white men the rate was 51 percent.

“For many years, the focus for high blood pressure was on middle-aged men who smoked; now we know better,” said Uchechukwu Sampson, MD, MPH. MBA, a lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. “We should look for [high blood pressure] in everyone and it should be treated aggressively — especially in women, who have traditionally gotten less attention in this regard.”

Dr. Sampson’s work was supported in part by the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Award of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Read more on health disparities.

Over 40 Million Americans Experienced Mental Illness in 2012
Nearly one in five American adults, or 43.7 million people, experienced a diagnosable mental illness in 2012, a similar number to 2011, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA also reported that, consistent with 2011, less than half (41 percent) of these adults received any mental health services in the past year. And among adults with mental illness who reported an unmet need for treatment, the top three reasons given for not receiving help were:

  • they could not afford the cost;
  • they thought they could handle the problem without treatment; and
  • they did not know where to go for services.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently launched MentalHealth.gov to help people find easy-to-understand information about basic signs of mental health problems, how to talk about mental health and mental illness, and how to locate help.

The recent SAMHSA report also found that 9 million American adults 18 and older (3.9 percent) had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year; 2.7 million (1.1 percent) made suicide plans and 1.3 million (0.6 percent) attempted suicide. People in crisis or who know someone they believe may be at immediate risk of attempting suicide can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org, which provides immediate, free and confidential round-the-clock counseling to anyone in need throughout the country, every day of the year. Read more on mental health.

NHTSA Extends Its Partnership with Auto Makers on Technology to Stop Drunk Drivers
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has extended, for five years, its agreement with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), made up of 15 auto makers, to continue researching advanced alcohol detection technology that could prevent vehicles from being driven by a drunk driver.

Under the partnership, NHTSA is working with ACTS to develop a car system that could accurately and reliably detect when a driver is above the legal alcohol limit of 0.08 BAC adopted by all 50 States and territories. The automatic system would be enabled every time the car is started, but not pose an inconvenience to a non-intoxicated driver.

“In this age of innovation, smart technology may be the breakthrough we need to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and endangering the safety of others on our roads,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “The research program has shown significant promise to date, offering real potential in the future to prevent several thousand deaths annually.”

NHTSA expects to have models ready for testing in 2015. In 2012, deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6 percent, resulting in 10,322 deaths — up from 9,865 in 2011. Read about NHTSA’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign.

 

Dec 26 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: December 26

Many Still Have Signup Options for Health Insurance Coverage under the Affordable Care Act
Although the December 23 signup deadline for health insurance coverage beginning January 1 has passed, the White House announced on Christmas Eve that signup has been extended for several days for anyone who was unable to complete their online application because of heavy traffic on the site. States and insurers may impose their own deadlines, however, so people not enrolled should reach out to their state insurance hotlines by calling 800-318-2596. Additional information options include clicking the “what is the marketplace in my state” or “live chat” features on the healthcare.gov home page.

The absolute deadline to sign up for 2014 coverage with no financial penalty is March 31, 2014, but signup after Jan 1, 2014 will generally result in coverage beginning a little later in the year. However there is no deadline for people signing up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Enrollment for those coverage options, for those that qualify, is open throughout the year, with no penalties assessed.  

Healthday.com has a Q&A on what you need to know about signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as 2013 comes to an end. Read more on the Affordable Care Act.

Professional Truck Drivers Offer Safety Tips for Holiday Travel
America's Road Team Captains, members of the American Trucking Associations who are elite professional truck drivers with millions of accident-free miles, have advice on how to navigate through highway traffic and winter driving conditions during the busy holiday driving season. Their tips include:

  • Prepare your vehicle for long distance travel: Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road before you leave your home.
  • Plan ahead: Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.
  • Do not cut in front of large trucks: Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
  • Be aware of truck blind spots: When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots.  If you can't see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can't see you.
  • Pack your emergency kit: Contents should include a battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.
  • Check the weather: Be aware of changes in weather during your travel even if it’s just a trip of a few hours. Temperatures can drop and rain and fog can develop since you got started on the road. Check weather conditions before you leave and each time you stop.
  • Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.

Read more on transportation.

CPSC Recommends Checking to See if Winter Gear, Gifts, Have Been Recalled
As you pull out winter clothes or start to use holiday gifts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends you first check to see if anything you or your family will be using was recalled for a safety hazard. Items recalled in 2013 include children’s clothing with appliques and toys with small pieces that can pose choking risks. Read more on injury prevention.