Category Archives: Housing

Jul 31 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 31

Tainted Salad Mix Linked to Parasite Outbreak in Two States; 13 Other States Still Looking for Answers
State and federal health officials have narrowed in on a prepackaged salad mix as the possible source of a cyclospora outbreak that has sickened 370 people in 15 states. Both Nebraska and Iowa officials have identified the salad as the source; a total of 221 people in those states have fallen ill so far from the stomach-sickening parasite. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still working to identify the cause in the 13 other states. “FDA will continue to work with its federal, state and local partners in the investigation to determine whether this conclusion applies to the increased number of cases of cyclosporiasis in other states,” the FDA said in a statement. ”Should a specific food item be identified, the FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local partners will work to track it to its source, determine why the outbreak occurred, and if contamination is still a risk, implement preventive action, which will help to keep an outbreak like this from happening again.” Read more on food safety.

New Model Shows Kids Consuming Far More Calories than Previously Realized
It takes far more calories for kids to gain weight than was previously realized, according to a new study in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. And, given the high rate of childhood obesity, this means kids are consuming far more calories than either their parents or health care providers realize. The new caloric model takes into account the energy requirements for boys and girls; the fact that kids generally have higher metabolisms than adults; the average drop in physical activity as kids age; and the energy required to maintain a bigger body size as they age. Whereas the old model said a normal-weight girl at age 5 would need to consume about 40 extra calories a day to be 22 pounds overweight by age 10, the new model shows its actually 400 extra calories. "Importantly, given the rather large calorie excesses fueling childhood obesity, this model is a rebuttal to the food industry arguments that exercise alone can be the answer," said David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and editor of the journal Childhood Obesity, who was not involved in the study. "For our kids to achieve healthy weight, control of calories in, not just calories out, will have to be part of the formula." Read more on obesity.

Sequester to Close all HUD Offices on Friday, August 2
Every office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be closed on Friday, August 2 as part of the sequester which is being felt across all of government. The automatic spending cuts took effect March 1. HUD’s plan is to pair its seven required furlough days with holidays and weekends. HUD is encouraging people and businesses that work with the agency to plan around the schedule day of shutdown. Read more on budgets.

Jul 9 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 9

Percentage of Single-father Households Up Dramatically
In 1960 only about 1 percent of households with children under the age of 18 were headed by single fathers. Today that number is a record 8 percent, or about 2.6 million in 2011. About one quarter of all single-parent households are headed by fathers. The climb in single fathers is due to largely the same reason as the climb in single mothers, according to data from Pew Research Trends. These include a dramatic increase in non-marital births and high divorce rates. However, there are notable differences between households headed by a single father or a single mother, with perhaps the greatest being that single fathers are generally better off financially. Read more on housing.

One in Seven Skin Cancer Patients Returns to Tanning Booth
Even after being diagnosed with skin cancer, one in seven people who use indoor tanning will return to a tanning booth within the next year, according to a new study in JAMA Dermatology. Research consistently shows that indoor tanning, which can emit up to 15 times the ultraviolet A radiation of the sun, dramatically increases the risk of cancer. "The situation may be analogous to that of lung cancer patients who continue to smoke after diagnosis," said study author Brenda Cartmel, a cancer prevention researcher at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., to Reuters. "Just as tobacco is known to be addictive, our research suggests that some patients may become dependent on tanning, with new intervention approaches needed to change these behaviors." About 20 million American visit tanning beds each year; the majority of them are young white women. Read more on cancer.

Majority of OB/GYNs Do Not Follow Guidelines on Cervical Cancer Prevention
Fewer than one-third of U.S. obstetricians-gynecologists vaccinate eligible patients against HPV and only about half follow the guidelines for cervical cancer prevention, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend Pap tests beginning at the age of 21 and then gradually decreasing the rate of testing, depending on patient age and history. "In the current survey and others, providers stated that the largest barrier to HPV vaccination was patients and parents declining to receive the vaccine," said lead investigator Rebecca Perkins, MD, of the Boston University School of Medicine, in a release. "However, studies indicate that most patients support HPV vaccination, and that a strong physician recommendation is the most important determinant of vaccine uptake in young women." Read more on vaccines.

Jul 3 2013
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Grassroots Efforts Help Promote Residential Fire Sprinklers, Save Lives

Approximately 362,100 residential fires left 2,555 civilians dead and another 13,275 injured in 2010, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They also caused about $6.6 billion in property damage.

According to FEMA, automatic fire sprinklers are the “most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure with respect to both life and property.” The numbers regarding just home fires are especially impressive: the risk of death drops 80 percent and the cost of property damage drops 71 percent, according to Preemption Watch. And when comparing simple costs to the lives saved, they’re without question cheap. Residential sprinkler systems cost only about $1.61 per square foot to install and typically help lower insurance costs.

When seen through the lens of public health, residential fire sprinklers are an inexpensive and easy tool to prevent injuries and save lives. They’re low in cost, quick to respond, small in size and require little work to install, which makes for a high return on investment.

The successful implementation of more than 300 local ordinances since the 1970’s demonstrates the power of grassroots movements in public health. And, in the reactions by many state governments, it helps illustrate the “preemptive” legislation that can hinder efforts to advance public health.

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Jul 1 2013
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Building a More Resilient New York City

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In several recent and upcoming posts, NewPublicHealth is connecting with communities that have faced severe weather disasters in the last year. New York City, for example, is continuing to regroup and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy struck the region eight months ago. The city, and its health department, recently announced several initiatives aimed at “building back better” while supporting residents still facing housing as well as mental health problems since the storm last October. Some examples are detailed below.

  • The New York City Building Resiliency Task Force, an expert panel convened after Hurricane Sandy to help strengthen buildings and building standards, recently issued a report with recommendations for buildings and homes of all sizes in the city. The report recommends establishing backup power in the event that primary networks fail; protecting water supplies and stabilizing interior temperatures if residents need to shelter in place. ”Making our city’s buildings more resilient to coastal flooding and other climate hazards is a challenge that requires collaboration among government, designers, engineers, and building owners, among others,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden. “The Task Force's work exemplifies the kind of innovation and cooperation necessary to prepare our city for a changing climate.”  To create the report, the Task Force convened over 200 volunteer experts in architecture, engineering, construction, building codes and real estate.

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Jun 20 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 20

HPV Vaccine Has Lowered HPV Infection Rates in Teen Girls
A new study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases has found that since the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, vaccine-type HPV prevalence decreased 56 percent among female teenagers 14-19. About 79 million Americans—most in their late teens and early 20s—are infected with HPV. Each year, about 14 million people become newly infected. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States about 19,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women, with cervical cancer the most common. About 8,000 cancers caused by HPV occur each year in men in the United States, with oropharyngeal (throat) cancers the most common. “This report shows that the HPV vaccine works well, and the report should be a wake-up call to our nation to protect the next generation by increasing HPV vaccination rates,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Unfortunately only one third of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine.” Routine vaccination at age 11-12 for both boys and girls is recommended in the US, but according to recent national immunization surveys, only about half of all girls in the United States and far fewer boys, have received the first dose of HPV vaccine. Read more on vaccines.

AMA Announces New Policy Aimed at Removing Sugared-Beverages from SNAP Program
The American Medical Association (AMA) passed a policy at its annual meeting yesterday calling on the association to work to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for low-income families. SNAP replaced the U.S. Food Stamp program several years ago. The new policy also encourages state health agencies to include nutrition information in routine materials sent to SNAP recipients. According to the AMA, 58 percent of beverages bought with SNAP dollars are sugar-sweetened ones. The AMA also passed a resolution recognizing obesity as a disease “requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.” “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said AMA board member Patrice Harris, MD. Read more on obesity.

HUD Releases First-Ever Same Sex Housing Discrimination Study
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released the nation’s first-ever national study examining housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the private rental market. The study found that same-sex couples experience unequal treatment more often than heterosexual couples when responding to internet ads for rental units, and that gay male couples experience more discrimination than lesbian couples. “A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing,” said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to making sure that LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.” HUD’s study is based on nearly 7,000 email tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the country between June and October of 2011. For each paired test, two emails were sent to the housing provider regarding the unit advertised online. The only difference between the emails was whether the couple was same-sex or heterosexual. Unfavorable treatment was measured by whether the tester was told the unit was available, asked to contact the landlord, invited to the see the apartment, or received any response at all. Read more on housing.

Jun 19 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 19

HHS Updates Guidelines to Prevention Disease Transmission from Organ Transplants
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has updated its guidelines on reducing unexpected disease transmission through organ transplantation. The 2013 PHS Guideline for Reducing Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hepatitis B Virus and Hepatitis C Virus Transmission through Organ Transplantation updates the 1994 U.S. Public Health Service guidelines designed to improve patient safety. The recommendations include additional screening, revised risk factors and more sensitive laboratory testing. “Transmission of infections through organ transplants is a critical concern for patients, their families and healthcare personnel involved in transplant procedures,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH. “Putting these new recommendations into practice will allow doctors and patients to make better, more informed decisions when accepting organs for transplantation.” Read more on prevention.

HUD: $40M in Housing Counseling Grants to Improve Choices, Opportunities
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is providing $40 million in housing counseling grants to help people find housing, to make more informed choices and to improve their ability to keep their existing homes. The grants will help more than 1.6 million households via 334 national, regional and local organizations. “Make no mistake: these grants will do a lot of good,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a release. “The evidence is clear that housing counseling works. These grants are a smart investment to help families and individuals find and keep housing which helps promote neighborhood stability in the long term.” Read more on housing.

Majority of Adults Unaware of their Whooping Cough Vaccination Status
As the number of U.S. cases of pertussis—or whooping cough—rises, many adults are completely unaware of their need to remain up to date on their vaccinations. Only 20 percent say they’ve received the vaccine within the past decade and more than 60 percent do not even know their vaccination status. The lack of adult vaccinations can increase transmission rates to children; the majority of whooping cough deaths are children younger than 3 months. "Teens and adults who have received the [whooping cough] vaccine are less likely to get whooping cough themselves, and therefore less likely to spread whooping cough to other people, including infants who have not yet been protected by the recommended [whooping cough] vaccinations," said Matthew Davis, MD, director of the new University of Michigan National Poll on Children's Health. Read more on vaccines.

Jun 17 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 17

APHA, National Center for Healthy Housing Release Housing Standards to Improve Health
The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) have released a National Healthy Housing Standard aimed at improving the health of Americans by addressing serious health and safety hazards in U.S. homes. About 30 million families live in unsafe and unhealthy housing with broken heating and plumbing; holes in walls and windows; roach and rodent infestation; falling plaster; crumbling foundations; and leaking roofs. Millions more live in housing with serious health and safety hazards that can cause allergies, asthma, injuries, cancer and lead poisoning, which add billions of dollars to health care costs and harm children’s health, development and wellbeing, according to the APHA. The new standard would not apply to new construction or housing renovation, but will be used by government agencies to ensure that the existing housing stock—with more than 100 million units across the country—is maintained to protect the health and safety of Americans. The housing standard would be implemented through adoption by federal state and local agencies. NCHH is requesting comments from health and housing practitioners, advocates and other stakeholders in healthy housing on the standard through July 31, 2013 at NCHH.orgRead more on housing.

Black, Hispanic Kids With Autism Less Likely to See Specialists
Black and Hispanic children with autism are less likely than their white counterparts to access specialists such as gastroenterologists, neurologists and psychiatrists, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Study author Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD, a fellow in the department of pediatrics at MassGeneral and Harvard Medical School, said that while she expected to see differences, she was surprised by the extent of the disparity. Diagnosing and treating the disorders that often accompany is critical so that they do not lead to further health complications. "I do worry because autism is such a complicated disorder," she said. "The children have some sort of communication difficulty, so if they have stomach problems or sleep problems they may have difficulty expressing that. I always worry these kids are not getting all the care they need in general, and minority kids are more at [risk] of not getting the care they need." The study indicated that doctors need to be more aware of when to refer patients to specialists. About one in 50 school-age children have autism in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on health disparities.

Volunteer Time Reduces High Blood Pressure Risk in Older Adults
Time spent volunteering can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure in older U.S. adults, according to a new study in the journal Psychology and Aging. Researchers analyzed data on more than 1,100 adults, finding that those who volunteered at least 200 hours per year saw a 40 percent saw a 40 percent cut in high blood pressure risk four years down the line. Approximately 65 million American suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension. "As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interactions,” said lead author Rodlescia Sneed, a PhD candidate in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. "Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes." Read more on heart health.

Jun 13 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 13

Racial and Ethnic Minorities Face Greater Subtle Housing Discrimination
Blatant acts of housing discrimination faced by minority prospective home buyers are declining in the United States, but more subtle forms of housing denial persist, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute. The study found that African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians learn about fewer housing options than equally qualified whites. According to the study, which sent out pairs of “mystery home buyers” — one white and one minority — to contact real estate agents and rental housing providers, the minority pairs were recommended and shown fewer available homes and apartments, which can increase their costs and restrict housing options, according to HUD. “Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic and educational opportunities,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Read more on housing.

After Second or Third Concussion Kids Take Longer to Recover
Children and adolescents who suffer a concussion have a much longer recovery time if they have had a concussion in the past, according to a new study in Pediatrics. The study authors evaluated 280 patients between the ages of 11 and 22 who were treated for concussion symptoms in emergency departments. Children who had a second concussion within a year had nearly three times the average duration of symptoms compared to children whose concussions occurred more than one year apart. The number of previous concussions also affected recovery time. Two or more prior concussions resulted in a much longer duration of symptoms compared to those who experienced no or one previous concussion. Other factors that resulted in a longer recovery time included being age 13 or older and having more severe symptoms at the time of the emergency room visit. Read more on injury prevention.

Hearing Loss in Seniors Can Increase Hospitalizations and Poor Health
A new study published in JAMA finds that seniors with hearing loss are at increased risk for hospitalization, illness, injury and depression. The study authors reviewed records of more than 1,000 men and women age 70 and older with hearing loss, finding that over a four-year period they were 32 percent more likely to have been admitted to the hospital than a comparison group the same age with normal hearing. The hearing-impaired seniors in the study were also 36 percent more likely to have extended stretches of illness or injury and 57 percent more likely to have extended episodes of stress, depression or bad mood. According to the researchers, hearing loss affects two-thirds of men and women aged 70 and older. Among their recommendations to reduce the health burdens of hearing loss are expanding Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for hearing-related services; increased installation of amplification technology in more facilities; and more accessible and affordable approaches for treating hearing loss. Read more on aging.

May 6 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: May 6

HUD Grants $72M to Improve Local Homeless Programs, Services
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced $72 million in grants to strengthen more than 500 homeless housing and service programs. The grants, which are part of HUD’s Continuum of Care Program, will go toward local programs such as street outreach, client assessment and directing housing assistance. This is the second round of HUD funding this year; the agency gave more than $1.5 billion in grants in March and intends to give a third round later in the year. “We know these modest investments in housing and serving our homeless neighbors not only saves money, but saves lives,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Read more on housing.

Survey: 90 Percent of Parents Admit to Driving Distracted with Kids in the Car
Approximately 90 percent of parents who drove a child between the ages of 1 and 12 in the past month admit they were distracted by some sort of technology while they were behind the wheel, according to survey findings discussed at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, D.C. The most common distraction was phone calls, with 70 percent. The survey also found that about that same percentage was distracted by either feeding or dealing with the child, or with self-grooming. "A lot of the attention on the distracted-driving issue has focused on teens and new drivers," said author Michelle Macy, MD, a clinical lecturer in the departments of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the University of Michigan. "But our study is showing that most parents say they were distracted an average of four times when driving their child in the last month, which is more frequent than I had expected.” Read more on safety.

Kids Routinely Injured, Killed by Gun Violence; Easy Access a Serious Issue
While it is often the biggest and scariest incidents that garner media coverage, youth are “routinely” injured or killed by gun violence, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers looked at trauma admissions in two Colorado emergency departments over nine years, finding that 129 of the 6,920 children sought treatment for gunshot wounds. “In 14 percent of these cases children managed to get access to unlocked, loaded guns,” said author Angela Sauaia, MD, associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “In an area with so much disagreement, I think we can all agree that children should not have unsupervised access to unlocked, loaded guns.” Sauaia noted that as this only includes kids who went to emergency rooms, the actual totals are likely much higher. Read more on violence.

Mar 14 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: March 14

Study: Minor Injuries in Some Children May Indicate the Possibility of More Serious Child Abuse Later On
A study in Pediatrics finds that relatively minor abuse injuries often precede more serious abuse of children. The study refers to “sentinel” injuries—a previous injury reported in a child’s medical history that was suspicious or had an implausible explanation. Researchers examined records of infants seen by the child protection team at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin between March 2001 and October 2011. Of the 200 children who were definitely abused, 55 (27 percent) had a sentinel injury. Of those, 80 percent had a bruise, 11 percent had an injury inside the mouth, and 7 percent had a fracture. Of 100 children where abuse was suspected but not confirmed, 8 had a sentinel injury. None of the infants in the control group—who had no history of abusive injuries—had a sentinel injury. The study authors say their findings suggest that in more than a quarter of cases of definite physical abuse, there may be escalating and repeated violence toward the infant instead of a single event of momentary loss of control by a frustrated or angry caregiver. Improved recognition of sentinel injuries and interventions would prevent additional cases of child abuse, according to the researchers. Read more on injury prevention.

HUD Renews Grants for Local Communities’ Response to Homelessness
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) is renewing funding for 7,000 local homeless housing and service programs across the country. The funding ensures the programs will remain open for at least the coming year, according to HUD, which has challenged local communities to review their response to homelessness and to emphasize proven strategies including “rapid re-housing” for homeless families and permanent supportive housing for people who experience chronic homelessness. The amount of renewed funding is $1.5 billion in grants that will support programs including street outreach, client assessment and direct housing assistance. HUD expects to award additional grants later this year. HUD recently announced its 2012 “point in time” estimate of the number of homeless persons in America. Approximately 3,000 cities and counties reported 633,782 homeless persons on a single night in January of 2012. Read more on housing.

Policy and Practice Changes Needed to Improve Survival in People who have Heart Attacks in the Hospital
Policy and practice changes by healthcare institutions, providers and others could greatly improve survival for people who have a have a heart attack in the hospital, according to an American Heart Association (AHA) consensus statement in its journal, Circulation. Each year, more than 200,000 adults and 6,000 children have in-hospital cardiac arrests, and survival has remained essentially unchanged for decades, according to the AHA. Only 24.2 percent of in-hospital cardiac arrest patients survive to hospital discharge.

Key recommendations include:

  • Establishing competency of all hospital staff in recognizing a cardiac arrest, performing chest compressions and using an automated external defibrillator or AED.
  • Ensuring that best practices are used in all stages of care for cardiac arrest.
  • Requiring that all in-hospital cardiac arrests be reported, with survival data, using consistent definitions across hospitals. Definitions currently are not standardized, according to the researchers.
  • Modifying billing codes to allow collection of more specific and accurate data for in-hospital cardiac arrest.
  • Separate guidelines for in-hospital versus out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

Read more on heart health.