Category Archives: Aging

Jan 16 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: January 16

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HHS: Guides, Tools to Improve Safe Use of EHRs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a new set of guides and interactive tools to assist health care providers in more safely using and managing electronic health information technology products, such as electronic health records (EHRs). The resources—which include checklists, practice worksheets and recommended practices to assess and optimize the safe use of EHRs—are available at HealthIT.gov. Each guide is available as an interactive online tool or a downloadable PDF. The new tools are part of HHS’s plan to implement its Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan, released last July. Read more on technology.

Traumatic Brain Injury Linked to Higher Risk of Early Death
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is linked to a higher risk of premature death, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, analyzed the records of all patients born in 1954 or later in Sweden who were diagnosed with TBI from 1969 to 2009, finding an increased risk of dying among patients who survived six months after TBI compared to those without TBI, with the risk remaining for years afterward. In particular, the study found an increased risk of death from external causes such as suicide, injury and assault, also was higher. “Current clinical guidelines may need revision to reduce mortality risks beyond the first few months after injury and address high rates of psychiatric comorbidity and substance abuse,” wrote the study authors. Read more on mental health.

Heavy Drinking During Middle Age Can Cause Earlier Memory Loss in Men
Heavy drinking during middle age can bring on earlier deterioration of memory, attention and reasoning skills in men, according to a new study in the journal Neurology. Researchers studied data on 5,000 men and 2,000 women whose alcohol consumption was assessed three times over a 10-year period before also taking three tests of memory, attention and reasoning, with the first test happening at the average age of 56. They found that men who drank at least 2.5 servings of alcohol a day experienced mental declines between 1.5 and 6 years earlier than the other participants. "Heavy alcohol consumption is known to be detrimental for health, so the results were not surprising...they just add that [it's] also detrimental for the brain and the effects can be observed as [early] as 55 years old," said study author Severine Sabia, a research associate in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London. Read more on alcohol.

Dec 24 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: December 24

HUD to Grant Millions in Rental Assistance for Senior Housing Developments
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced $14.8 million to preserve affordable rental assistance for elderly tenants living in subsidized properties. This funding is provided through HUD’s Senior Preservation Rental Assistance Contracts and is targeted for properties in HUD’s “Supportive Housing for the Elderly” program, where rental assistance may expire without the new funding. Read more on aging.

U.S. Forest Service Will Waive Some Recreation Fees Five Times in 2014
The U.S. Forest Service will waive fees at most of its day-use recreation sites on: Jan. 20, 2014, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day; President's Day weekend Feb. 15-17; National Get Outdoors Day on June 14; National Public Lands Day on Sept. 27; and Veterans Day weekend from Nov. 8 to 11.

Get Outdoors Days helps to raise awareness that nature encourages healthy, active outdoor fun. In addition to waiving fees, various Forest Service units participate in a variety of public events on agency lands and in nearby cities and towns. Public Lands Day is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort in support of public lands. Agency units plan their own events, which range from educational programs to trash pick-up to building trails.

National forests and grasslands include more than 150,000 miles of trails, which include hiking, biking, equestrian and motorized trails, and more than 10,000 developed recreation sites, as well as 57,000 miles of streams, 122 alpine ski areas, 338,000 heritage sites, 9,100 miles of National Scenic Byways, 22 National Recreation Areas, 11 National Scenic Areas, seven National Monuments, one national preserve and one national heritage area.

Many sites are already free; fees that could be waived under the program include picnic grounds and admission to visitor centers. Read more on physical activity.

Healthier Holiday Ideas from the USDA
As its holiday gift, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers some healthy tweaks for consumers to help make holiday celebrations healthier including ideas for lighter cocktail fare, lower sugar and lower fat  recipes for baked goods, and gift-giving ideas that focus on physical activity. Read more on obesity.

Nov 8 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: November 8

Study: Children, Teens Exposed to Far Too Many Alcohol Ads on Television
Children and teens continue to see too many television ads for beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks, with the industry failing to follow its own voluntary standard covering the number and frequency of ads, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The voluntary standards call for alcohol companies not to advertise during programs when more than 30 percent of the viewing audience is likely to be younger than 21. However, using data from 25 of the largest markets in 2010, the study found that nearly one in four of the alcohol ads on the most popular programs for viewers aged 12-20 violated the voluntary standards. Alcohol contributes to an estimated 4,700 deaths among underage youth in the United States each year, with studies showing that exposure to alcohol marketing increases the likelihood of underage drinking. "Underage drinking harms teens, their families and their communities," CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD. "Exposing teens to alcohol advertising undermines what parents and other concerned adults are doing to raise healthy kids." The findings appeared in the latest CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Read more on alcohol.

Kaiser Family: Most Americans Support Global Health Efforts, Although Don’t Fully Understand It
A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that while the majority of Americans support the current U.S. efforts to improve public health in developing countries, there remain misconceptions about the levels of U.S. spending and how it is allocated. The 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health was conducted in August 2013, through a random phone survey of 1,507 adults. According to the survey, 31 percent of Americans says we spend too little and 30 percent say we spend enough. However, the average American also believes foreign aid accounts for 28 percent of the federal budget, when in reality it is approximately 1 percent. Most people polled also don’t realize that most of the aid goes toward specific program areas, and is not simply a blank check to be allocated by the recipient country. Read more on global health.

About 10 Percent of Americans, 25 Percent of Adults Suffer from Arthritis
About 10 percent of Americans have arthritis, with half of them so severely affected that they can’t perform normal daily activities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report found that about 52.5 million adults—or about one quarter of all U.S. adults—had some form of arthritis; experts expect that number to climb to 57 million by 2030 as the population grows older. However, there are other possible explanations for the increasing problem. "The increase in arthritis definitely has to do with the aging of our population, but it's also potentially linked to the obesity epidemic," said the study's lead author, CDC epidemiologist Kamil Barbour. Read more on aging.

Oct 16 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: October 15

American Heart Association: Doctors Should Routinely Ask About Physical Activity
A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association says that doctors should evaluate their patients’ physical activity habits as routinely as checking blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. The statement was published in the journal Circulation.

The statement says that an exercise checkup should cover types, frequency, duration and intensity of physical activity at work, home and during leisure time.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week or more, or at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week or more and moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening at least two days a week. Read more on heart health.

People with Mental Health Problems More Likely to be Uninsured
A new University of Minnesota study published in Health Affairs finds that people with mental health problems are more likely to be uninsured and rely on public insurance than people without mental health problems. The study reviewed national insurance coverage rates from 1999 to 2010. The study authors say the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will give many more people with mental health problems access to health insurance – particularly in states such as Minnesota that have that have opted to expand their Medicaid programs. The researchers also say that people with mental health problems on public insurance have better access to care and lower cost barriers than the uninsured or those with private health insurance coverage.
 
Kathleen Rowan, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student in health services research, policy, and administration at the University of Minnesota School of Public, says, “unfortunately, most persons with mental illness do not receive needed care due in part to a lack of health insurance coverage and the cost of treatment.” Read more on mental health.

Study: Research to Delay Aging is a Better Investment Than Cancer, Heart Disease Research
A new study in current issue of Health Affairs finds that research to delay aging and the infirmities of old age would produce better health and economic returns than advances in some fatal diseases such as cancer or heart disease.

The study found that even modest gains in the scientific understanding of how to slow the aging process would result in an additional 5 percent of adults over the age of 65 remaining healthy rather than disabled every year from 2030 to 2060, or 11.7 million more healthy adults over age 65 remaining healthy by 2060.

The analysis was conducted by scientists from a consortium of research centers. “Even a marginal success in slowing aging is going to have a huge impact on health and quality of life. This is a fundamentally new approach to public health that would attack the underlying risk factors for all fatal and disabling diseases,” said S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the UIC School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors. “We need to begin the research now. We don’t know which mechanisms are going to work to actually delay aging, and there are probably a variety of ways this could be accomplished, but we need to decide now that this is worth pursuing.” Read more on aging.

Oct 11 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: October 11

Study: Majority of U.S. Medical Schools Still Lack Proper Clinical Conflict of Interest Policies
Despite recent efforts to improve policies, most U.S. medical schools still do not meet national standards regarding clinical conflicts of interest (CCOI), according to a new study from the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP). The study looked at changes in a dozen areas from 2008 to 2011, finding that by 2011 about two-thirds of the schools did not have policies to limit industry ties in at least one of the areas, such as drug samples, travel payments and speaking. No school was perfect across the board. "There has been a broad and rapid transformation in how academic medicine manages industry relationships since we looked at this in 2008, but much room for improvement remains," says co-author David Rothman, PhD, president of IMAP. To facilitate continued improvements, IMAP last launched a Conflict of Interest Policy Database that enables anyone to search a school's CCOI policies and compare them to other schools. "Our hope is that the database will encourage deans, compliance officers, faculty and students to compare their school with others and take steps to meet national recommendations," said IMAP investigator Susan Chimonas, PhD. Read more on education.

Online Tools Can Help Diagnose Mental Health Disorders
While it can’t replace in-person observations, an online diagnostic tool has proven to be effective at screening adults for mental health disorders and giving preliminary diagnoses, according to a new study in the journal Family Practice. The TelePsy eDiagnostics system is used in primary care practices in The Netherlands. Patients completed a questionnaire, which was then analyzed by a psychologist who would perform a phone consultation with the patient. The result would be a report submitted to a primary care provider, which would include a preliminary diagnosis and recommendations on whether the patient should be referred to mental health care, as well as the extent of the care. "The great advantage of an electronic system is that patients can complete diagnostic tests at home,” said lead author Ies Dijksman, according to Reuters. “This could lead to a more accurate information collection process compared to conventional clinical interviews.” However, experts were careful to note that in-person diagnostics meant physicians could also account for things such as visual cues, which could help improve diagnoses. Read more on mental health.

Study: No Reason for Healthy Adults to Take Vitamin D Supplements to Prevent Osteoporosis
Regular vitamin D supplements do not prevent osteoporosis in healthy adults who do not already suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, according to a new review publish in The Lancet. Researchers reviewed data from 23 studies covering more than 4,000 healthy adults with an average age of 59, finding no evidence that two years of supplements had an effect on bone mineral density at the hip, spine, forearm or the body as a whole. "The review supports previous studies that found that vitamin D alone is not preventative in healthy adults," said Victoria Richards, an assistant professor of medical sciences at the Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. "From this study, consumers may no longer feel the need to continue purchasing vitamin D supplements for the prevention of osteoporosis.” Read more on aging.

Oct 10 2013
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Age-friendly Cities

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“What aging is, is the greatest success of public health,” said Ruth Finkelstein, director of the Age-Friendly Initiative of the New York Academy of Medicine.

The City of New York has released a progress report on Age-friendly New York City, a cross-agency, public-private partnership created in 2009 to improve the lives of older New Yorkers. The report highlights progress in several areas including pedestrian safety, parks access and innovative senior centers among others initiatives. New York City is home to 1.3 million older New Yorkers, a number expected to increase by close to 50 percent by 2030. In 2007, the City Council provided funding to the New York Academy of Medicine to begin creating a blueprint to help New York City become a model of an age-friendly city.

The report’s release coincides with the city’s announcement of its recognition as the Best Existing Age-friendly Initiative in the World through a competition sponsored by the International Federation on Aging.

 “It’s a fact of life that everyone gets older and we need to make sure our City is prepared to meet the needs of our aging population,” said Department for the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. “Our success is due to the collaborative efforts of our sister City agencies, the New York City Council and the New York Academy of Medicine. Without this uniquely innovative partnership and the grassroots community efforts from local businesses and neighborhood organizations, we would not have been able to build the foundation for what makes New York City a better place to live for our seniors.”

The city’s age-friendly initiatives include:  

Read more

Sep 18 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: September 18

Report: U.S. Poverty, Uninsured Rates Remain Stagnant
Despite an improving economy that included the creation of more than 2 million jobs last year, the U.S. poverty rate in 2012 remained relatively equal to the previous year, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012. About 46.5 million people lived at or below the poverty line in 2012, or about 15 percent of the nation. That’s about 2.5 percentage points higher than 2007, right before the economic recession. About 48 million people were without health insurance in 2012, only slightly lower than the 48.6 million in 2011. While the recession seems to have leveled out, the fact that poverty rates have yet to truly rebound has many experts concerned. “We’re supposed to be in recovery,” said Austin Nichols, a researcher at the Urban Institute. “Poverty rates should be falling because long-term unemployment is falling. And they're not.” Read more on poverty.

Economic, Mental Toll of Economic Crisis Likely Responsible for Global Jump in Men’s Suicide Rates
The economic and mental toll of the 2008 global economic crisis was likely a major contributor to the surprising increase in the U.S. and global male suicide rates in 2009, according to a new study in the journal BMJ. There were about 5,000 more suicides than expected that year. The male suicide rate in the United States climbed almost 9 percent in the United States in 2009; the overall global rate climbed 3.3 percent, with the largest increases seen in the European Union and North and South American countries. Depression and stress can lead to increased alcohol and drug abuse, which are also suicide risk factors. The study concluded that immediate action, such as job-creation programs, may help prevent a continued increase in suicides. "Unemployment appears to lead to an increase in anxiety and depression -- two psychiatric symptoms that might be intermediate steps toward suicide," said Robert Dicker, MD, associate director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at North Shore-LIJ, in New Hyde Park, N.Y., who was not a part of the study. "More unemployment, more family distress, more losses [of status and friends] also most likely are involved." Read more on mental health.

Study: Two Simple Questions on Mobility Can Help Assess, Treat Older Adults’ Physical Declines
Two simple questions about mobility could help doctors more accurately assess and treat an older adult’s physical decline, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • For health or physical reasons, do you have difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile?
  • Because of underlying health or physical reasons, have you modified the way you climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile?

The answers could help determine whether physical therapy or mobility-assistance devices are needed. The findings emphasize the importance of increased physical activity and exercise in health aging, according to Cynthia Brown, MD, of the division of gerontology, geriatrics and palliative care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "With an increasing older population in the United States, it is incumbent on us to find ways to help older Americans continue to live well and independently,” she said. “The major barriers—lack of physical activity, obesity and smoking—are all risk factors that can be successfully overcome with appropriate treatment and assistance." Read more on aging.

Aug 23 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 23

Public Health Accreditation Board Awards National Accreditation to Five High-Performing Health Departments
The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) this week awarded five-year national accreditation status to five more public health departments. The decisions bring the number of public health agencies now recognized by PHAB as high-performing health departments to 19. PHAB is the independent organization that administers the national public health accreditation program, which aims to improve and protect the health of the public by advancing the quality and performance of the nation’s Tribal, state, local and territorial health departments.

Accreditation status was awarded Aug. 20 to:

  • Central Michigan District Health Department, Mount Pleasant, Mich.
  • Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago, Ill.
  • El Paso County Public Health, Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • Kansas City Missouri Health Department, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Tulsa Health Department, Tulsa, Okla.

Read more on accreditation.

Needlestick, Sharps-related Injuries Cost Health Care Industry $1B Every Year
Improved safety-engineered devices, combined with better education and techniques, could save the health care industry more than $1 billion in preventable costs every year, according to a Safe in Common review of U.S. healthcare industry statistics. With approximately 1,000 skin puncture injuries per day in U.S. hospitals, needlestick and sharps-related injuries affect more than half a million health care personnel every year—both physically and emotionally. "The desperate need for attention to the risk of needlestick injuries and their dangerous implications for both patients and personnel are startling when you look directly at the impact to healthcare costs," said Safe in Common chairperson Mary Foley, PhD, RN. "Learning how to permanently prevent these types of injuries—with more education and the introduction of advanced safety devices—will ultimately reduce a significant cost burden and, most importantly, the pain and emotional trauma that the needlestick victims and their families are enduring." Read more on prevention.

Study: Volunteering Linked to Greater Happiness, Longer Lives
Volunteering is not only linked to greater happiness and improved mental health, but could also help people live longer, according to a new study in the journal BMC Public Health. The analysis of 40 published studies found that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death, as well as lower levels depression and increased satisfaction with their lives. "It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place,” said leader Suzanne Richards, PhD, of the University of Exeter Medical School in England. "The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them," she explained. People often cite a desire to give back to their community as a reason for volunteering; gaining work experience and meeting new people are also popular reasons. Approximately 27 percent of U.S. adults and 23 percent of European adults actively volunteer. Read more on aging.

Aug 8 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 8

New Tools from DOT to Help Keep Pedestrians Safe
The U.S. Department of Transportation has released a new set of tools to help communities reverse a rise in pedestrian deaths in the last two years. As part of the campaign, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is making $2 million in pedestrian safety grants available to cities with the highest rate of pedestrian deaths. States have until August 30 to apply for the grants. In addition, NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration have launched a new website that includes pedestrian safety tips and resources for community officials, city planners and community residents. According to NHTSA data, 4,432 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2011. That’s an 8 percent increase since 2009. Three out of four pedestrian deaths occurred in urban areas and 70 percent of those killed were at non-intersections. The data also shows that 70 percent of deaths occurred at night and many involved alcohol. Read more on injury prevention.

National Farmers Market Week
In observance of National Farmers Market Week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released data showing that that 8,144 farmers market are now listed in USDA's National Farmers Market Directory, up from about 5,000 in 2008. The agency has also announced that the Food and Nutrition Service has increased the number of farmers markets able to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) payments, which will improve access to fresh produce for SNAP recipients. Currently, more than 3,800 farmers markets are authorized to accept SNAP in FY 2012, and farmers markets generate more than $16 million in SNAP sales. Read more on nutrition.

Researchers Create Home Safety Self-Assessment Tool to Help Prevent Falls
One in three adults ages 65 and older suffer falls every year—many at home, since more seniors are continuing to live in their homes as they grow older. To help prevent falls, researchers and occupational therapists at the University at Buffalo SUNY School of Public Health and Health Professions have created the Home Safety Self-Assessment Tool which details ways to prevent falls. The tool includes safety tips and checklists for each room of a home, including common hazards such as area rugs, which account for many home falls when people catch a shoe heel at the edge. Read more on aging.

Jul 18 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 18

Much Like Television, Excessive Cell Phone Use Lowers Fitness Levels
Are you reading this on your smartphone? If so, it’s probably not doing your weight any good. A new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity has linked cell phone use by college students to decreased physical activity and fitness levels. Much like watching television, cell phone use is a largely sedentary activity that is easy to get lost in. It can also lead to casual overeating. Researchers found the average student spent about five hours on the phone each day and sent hundreds of text messages. "We have to look at this similar to what happened in the industrial revolution and how it changed us," said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System, in Great Neck, N.Y. "A study like this raises the importance of how this technology affects how we move, eat and sleep. We have to look at the impact of technology on our health." Read more on technology.

Study Links Bipolar Disorder, Early Death
A new study showing that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to die early and from a variety of causes also illustrates the difficulty of treating the physical effects of the illness. "Whatever we're doing, these people are not dying (just) because of suicide. That's not the reason for increased mortality. That's a hard thing to get across," said David Kupfer, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who was not a part of the study. The study found that people with bipolar disorder—an estimated 1 to 5 percent of the global population—die about nine years earlier and are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, the flu and pneumonia. However, people who knew they were bipolar had the same death rates as those who were not, which suggests "that timely medical diagnosis and treatment may effectively reduce mortality among bipolar disorder patients to approach that of the general population," according to the study. Read more on mental health.

One Dose of ADHD Medication Improves Balance in Older Adults
A single dose of an attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication can improve the balance of older adults who have difficulty walking, according to a new study in The Journals of Gerontology. Methylphenidate (MPH) is also used to treat narcolepsy. Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that it can reduce the number and rate of step errors in both single and dual tasks. "Our results add to a growing body of evidence showing that MPH may have a role as a therapeutic option for improving gait and reducing fall risk in older adults," said Itshak Melzer of BGU's Schwartz Movement Analysis and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences. "This is especially true in real-life situations, where the requirement to walk commonly occurs under more complicated, 'dual task' circumstances with cognitive attention focused elsewhere (e.g., watching traffic, talking) and not on performing a specific motor task." Read more on aging.