Category Archives: Maternal and Infant Health
Missed Work by Smokers Costs Economy Billions
Smokers miss work more often than nonsmokers and costs their employers—and the economy—billions of dollars each year, according to a new study in the journal Addiction. Researchers analyzed studies covering approximately 71,000 public and private sector workers across the globe, finding that in the U.K. alone the average loss of an extra two or three days of work meant a loss of $2.25 billion in 2011. Smokers are 33 percent more likely to miss work than their nonsmoking coworkers. "Clearly the most important message for any individual's health is, 'Quit smoking,' but I think that message is pretty well out there," said Douglas Levy, a tobacco and public health researcher from the Harvard Medical School in Boston. "I think (the study) does point to the fact that this is something that doesn't just affect the individual, it affects the economy as well." Levy was not part of the study. Read more on tobacco.
Public Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy to Linger
As workers struggle to begin repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, officials are warning that the storm’s lingering effects will likely mean a variety of public health issues in the coming months. Immediate dangers include lack of electricity and the inability to access basic medical care—especially important for the elderly. Experts also expect long-term issues such as lack of clean drinking water and an increase in pollens, molds and other allergens. "Immunocompromised people and elderly people are probably at highest risk for complications from mold exposure and these are the people who should stay away from water-logged buildings, especially for prolonged periods of time," said Pavani Ram, MD, associate professor of social and preventive medicine at the University at Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions, according to HealthDay. Read more on disasters.
Smoking, Being Overweight During Pregnancy Increase Odds of Overweight Kids
Mothers who are overweight and smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have overweight children, according to a new study in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. Researchers analyzed 30 studies looking at early-life health of approximately 200,000 people. The link between smoking and overweight children could be a sign of overall social and lifestyle risk factors, according to Stephen Weng, MD, of the U.K. Center for Tobacco Control Studies at the University of Nottingham. "Several risk factors for both overweight and obesity in childhood are identifiable during infancy," Weng and colleagues concluded in the report. "Future research needs to focus on whether it is clinically feasible for health care professionals to identify infants at greatest risk." The study also found that breastfeeding and late weaning reduced the likelihood of obesity. Read more on maternal and infant health.
Smartphone Pro-Tobacco Apps Targeting Kids
Pro-smoking apps for smartphones are increasingly common and demonstrate the need for greater regulation, according to a new study in the journal Tobacco Control. While the apps, many of which target children, seem to be slipping through a regulatory loophole in the United States, they are in violation of a ban on smoking advertisements from the World Health Organization. The apps include smoking simulators, tobacco wallpapers and instructions on rolling cigarettes. There are currently 36 simulators available on the iPhone and 10 on the Android. Read more on tobacco.
Caffeine in Energy Drinks a Danger to People with Heart Conditions
The excessive amounts of caffeine in some energy drinks can be especially dangerous for people with underlying heart conditions, according to Health Day. Recent reports link Monster energy drinks to five deaths over the last three years, with one family filing a lawsuit against Monster Beverage Co. Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said some energy drinks have as much as seven times the caffeine of a can of soda. Such high levels can dramatically increase the heart rate and blood pressure. Current U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations do not require companies to show caffeine levels on beverage containers. Read more on nutrition.
Study: Severe Complications from Childbirth Up in the U.S.
Severe complications from childbirth are up in the United States, according to a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 129 cases for every 10,000 women in 2008-2009, an increase up approximately 75 percent over the previous 10 years. Complications include heart attack, stroke, severe bleeding and kidney failure. While noting that complications are still relatively uncommon, researchers indicated that obesity, older women giving birth and various health conditions are all possible contributors to the trend. William M. Callaghan, MD, of the CDC, said the findings indicate women need to pay close attention to their health while pregnant. Read more on maternal health.
CDC: Teen Drinking and Driving Down 54% From 1991 to 2011
Drinking and driving by high school students ages 16 and older dropped 54 percent in the 20 years between 1991 and 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Vital Signs study showed that only 10 percent of the students in that age group drove after drinking in 2011. “We are moving in the right direction. Rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half in 20 years,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “But we must keep up the momentum -- one in 10 high school teens, aged 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others.” Read more on alcohol.
New Test Could Improve Genetic Screening in Newborns
A simple blood test could help doctors quickly diagnose and treat genetic conditions in newborns, according to a new study. The test is still in its early stages. Newborns are already screening for genetic disorders, but the tests can be costly and time-consuming, according to Stephen Kingsmore, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. If successful, this new test would speed up the process and allow for quicker treatment. "Genome analysis is moving from being a research tool that holds promise to being something that's ready to ... be used for real medical care in real patients," he said, according to HealthDay. Read more in infant health.
Study Links Aspirin, Slower Mental Decline in Older Women
A daily dose of aspirin could help slow mental decline in older women as it also helps protect against heart attacks, according to a study in the journal BMJ Open. The five-year Swedish study looked at approximately 700 women ages 70 to 92. The reason for the connection is not yet known, but may be related to a “neuro-protective effect” caused by the aspirin, according to study co-author Silke Kern, MD. The study found a correlation, but not causation, according to HealthDay. "I would not start taking aspirin because of this study," said Deepak Bhatt, MD, director of the integrated cardiovascular intervention program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "This needs to be tested in a larger number of patients before we can say that aspirin has a role in preventing cognitive decline in women or men." Read more on heart health.
Study: Kids Encounter 4 Hours of Background TV Daily
A new study in the journal Pediatrics reveals that U.S. children encounter an average of about four hours of background television daily. The study surveyed approximately 1,500 parents and caregivers of children ages 8 months to 8 years. Noise from background television “appears to impede social skills, impulse control, and the ability to concentrate, focus and complete tasks,” according to HealthDay. "We think the problem may come from the sound effects, the changes in dialogue and voice pitch, which as a whole constantly recruits a kid's attention and causes them to shift back and forth between their play task and the TV," said study author Deborah Linebarger, associate professor of education at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. "And that constant shifting makes it more difficult to learn how to concentrate and attend appropriately." Read more on pediatrics.
Serious Child Abuse-Related Injuries Up, Despite Overall Drop
Serious injuries from child abuse were up from 1997 to 2009, according to a review of the Kids Inpatient Database in the journal Pediatrics. This is despite an overall decrease in reported child abuse cases over that period. While child protective service records recorded a 55 percent decrease in injuries, hospital statistics showed an increase of 4.9 percent of serious injuries — such as fractures and head trauma. Study co-author John Mishel Leventhal, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, said the difference is likely due to different groups looking at different data sources. "Prevention messages must be clearer, louder and heard in various settings including health care, daycare, parent support groups," he said. Read more on violence.
Study: IVF-Related Birth Defects Becoming Less Common
Birth defects in children born through in vitro fertilization are becoming less common, according to a new study from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Subiaco, Western Australia. Assisted-reproduction techniques generally mean a higher risk of birth defects than traditional conception. The study looked at 207,000 births overall. The study authors were careful to note that they did not know how much exactly the rate of defects has decreased, nor why it is higher in the first place. "Changes to clinical practice may be largely responsible with improved (laboratory techniques) leading to the transfer of 'healthier' embryos," said Michele Hansen, the lead author of the study, to Reuters. Read more on maternal and infant health.
Ruth Ann Shepherd, MD, division director for maternal and child health in the Kentucky Department for Public Health, was an early pioneer in recognizing the critical public health problem of preterm births in Kentucky, and that the troubling trend was common to most states in the country. Dr. Shepherd’s research revealed that babies born at 37 or 38 weeks had far worse health outcomes than babies born at 39 or 40 weeks. With support from the leadership at the Kentucky Department of Health, and many other organizations who have since taken up the cause of helping to create conditions for healthier babies, many states are beginning to make strides in preventing early births. Last week, Dr. David Lakey acknowledged her leadership in preventing preterm birth and infant mortality by awarding her the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Presidential Meritorious Service Award.
Charles Kendell, MPA, chief of staff at the Kentucky Health Department, accepted the award on behalf of Dr. Shepherd, who was unable to attend the ASTHO meeting. NewPublicHealth caught up with Kendall to get his take on Kentucky’s role in catalyzing a national movement around healthier babies.
NewPublicHealth: Tell us about the award Dr. Shepherd received and what it was for.
Kendell: The award today was given by David Lakey as President of ASTHO for the last year. The Presidential Meritorious Service Award is given at the ASTHO president’s discretion for those he feels have contributed the most to the President’s Challenge that he or she has championed for the year. This year, he awarded it Dr. Ruth Shepherd, who was one of the early advocates for doing something about the prematurity birth rates in the country.
Dr. Shepherd has long championed that concern, and it was through her efforts that much of the initial data and advocacy and publicity about the issue became apparent to a lot of people. Through the connection of Dr. Shepherd to David Lakey, he was able to put a voice and a voice to the issue through his presidency. It’s really taken off from there, and connected with an awful lot of people.
NPH: What did the data Dr. Shepherd uncovered show?
Latinos May Be More Vulnerable to Type 2 Diabetes
A new study in Diabetes Care shows Latinos are more susceptible to type 2 diabetes than other groups due to how they store fat in the pancreas and release insulin into the body. The study was conducted by Cedars-Sinai’s Heart Institute, Biomedical Imaging Research Institute and Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute. “Prevention of diabetes is our goal,” said Richard Bergman, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute. “Not all people who are overweight or obese and who have insulin resistance go on to develop diabetes. If we can determine who is most likely to develop diabetes and why, then we can make strides toward preventing it in those individuals. Read more on diabetes.
NIH Expands Safe Infant Sleep Campaign
The National Institutes of Health is expanding its “Back to Sleep Campaign” into the “Safe to Sleep Campaign.” Where before the campaign focused on reducing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it will now cover all sleep-related deaths for infants in the United States. The original campaign, founded in 1994, educated parents, caregivers and health care providers on how to prevent SIDS. “In recent years, we’ve learned that many of the risk factors for SIDS are similar to those for other sleep-related causes of infant death,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, MD, Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Placing infants on their backs to sleep and providing them with a safe sleep environment for every sleep time reduces the risk for SIDS as well as death from other causes, such as suffocation.” Read more on infant health.
HHS Releases Common Application for AIDS Drugs to Help Streamline Access for Many Patients
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has started its program to help uninsured HIV patients apply for multiple assistance programs with a single application. The Common Patient Assistance Program Application (CPAPA) is a product of HHS and seven major pharmaceutical companies and foundations. Patient Assistance Programs help approximately 30,000 people in the United States each year. “The last thing someone living with HIV wants to think about is filling out another form,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “This application streamlines and simplifies the process, reduces barriers to medication access, and speeds access to lifesaving drugs.” Read more on HIV.
USC Study Finds Marijuana May Increase the Risk of Testicular Cancer
Recreational marijuana use may increase the risk of certain types of more serious testicular cancer, according to a new study from the University of Southern California published online in CANCER. The study looked at results of recreational drug use in 163 men with the testicular cancer—the most common type of cancer in men ages 15-45—and found they were twice as likely to suffer from non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. The findings support previous studies showing a link between marijuana use and testicular cancer. Read more on cancer.
David L. Lakey, MD, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, ends his term as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, (ASTHO)at the group’s annual meeting in Austin this week. NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Lakey about his tenure and about his Presidential Challenge to reduce the number of preterm births.
NewPublicHealth: Did anything surprise you during your tenure as ASTHO president?
Dr. Lakey: I don’t think there was a specific surprise. It’s been a very busy year. Perhaps the one surprise might be that four years ago ASTHO started the Presidential Challenge under Judy Monroe, MD (then state health commissioner of Indiana, and now the head of the Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) started this thing called the Presidential Challenge. Dr. Monroe started it as a charge to the state health officers to kind of walk the talk related to physical activity. And now, four years later, the Presidential Challenge really had its own legs and with a lot of support. This year’s challenge—reducing preterm births–became a pretty big initiative. We now have 49 states that have signed on to that initiative.
NPH: What specific actions do you think have helped the decline of preterm births?
New Report Finds Decline in U.S. Preterm Birth Rate
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the nation’s preterm birth rate has dropped to less than 12 percent and that full-term births (babies born at 39 weeks of pregnancy) increased 11 percent from 2006-2010. The increase in the percentage of full-term births is important because babies born even just a few weeks too soon have higher rates of death and diseases than those born at 39-41 weeks of pregnancy. The report also points out that the decline in preterm births may be associated with programs to reduce early elective deliveries.
1,700 People May Have Been Exposed to Hantavirus in Yosemite
More than 1,700 visitors to Yosemite National Park may have been exposed to the Hantavirus—and two people have already died from the rodent-borne lung disease, according to Reuters. The two people who died had stayed in the Curry Village camping area; a third Curry Village camper is recovering and officials are trying to determine whether a fourth was infected. The deadly virus first manifests as a fever, headache and muscle ache. “We are encouraging anyone who stayed in Curry Village since June to be aware of the symptoms of Hantavirus and seek medical attention at the first sign of illness,” said Park Superintendent Don Neubacher in a statement.
U.S.’s Preventable Death Rate Higher than Those of Major Western European Countries
The United States has a higher rate of amenable mortality—deaths that could have been avoided with timely and effective health care—than France, Germany and the United Kingdom, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund. The report appeared in Health Affairs. From 1999 to 2006/2007, the U.S. rate among men ages 74 and under declined 18.5, compared to a decline of approximately 37 percent in the United Kingdom. The U.S. rate for women dropped only 17.5 percent, compared to about 32 percent in the United Kingdom. “Despite spending about twice as much per person each year on health care as France, Germany or the U.K.— $8,400 in 2010—the U.S. is increasingly falling behind these countries in terms of progress in lowering the potentially preventable death rate,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis in a release.
New HHS Grants to Enhance Public Health Training
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced millions of dollars in new grants to promote public health in the nation’s workforce. They include $23 million in grants to 37 Public Health Training Centers to improve training of health workers and $25 million to support fellowship programs that place workers in state and local public health departments. “These investments are part of our work to promote public health and they will help strengthen our efforts to fight disease and illness before they happen,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
U.S. Court Strikes Down Graphic Warnings for Cigarette
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has backed a lower court’s ruling that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s graphic warning labels for cigarettes constitute a First Amendment violation. Major tobacco manufacturers such as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. have opposed the nine new labels, arguing they “went beyond factual information into anti-smoking advocacy,” accord to the Associated Press. The U.S. Department of Justice can appeal the ruling. Advocacy groups such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are pushing for an appeal, saying the court’s 2-1 ruling “is wrong on the science and law, and it is by no means the final word on the new cigarette warnings.” Read an earlier Q&A with Deputy Director of the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium about the preliminary ruling.
AAP Says Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks, But Decision Should Be Parents’
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised its guidance on newborn male circumcision, stating the health benefits outweigh the risks, but it should still be up to parents to determine whether to perform the procedure. Male circumcision has been linked to reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The rate of circumcision has fallen dramatically since the 1970s, from approximately 80 percent to 55 percent in 2010. Still, AAP says parents should consult with their doctors and that the procedure might not be right for all newborn males. “We recognize that the topic cuts across many paradigms in your life — cultural, religious, ethnic, family tradition, aesthetic,” said Dr. Andrew Freedman, a member of the AAP’s task force that issued the new guidelines, toHealthDay. “We’re not in a position to make recommendations on those paradigms.” Read more on infant health.
Study: Physicians Who Use Electronic Health Records May Overlook Patients’ Mental Health Issues
Medical professionals who use electronic medical records (EMRs) are more likely than those who use paper medical records to overlook signs of depression in their patients, according to a new study University of Florida. The study is in the August issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. “While we don’t know why EMRs are associated with lower odds of depression treatment in patients with multiple conditions, we think that either they reduce the amount of interaction between patients and physicians or they focus a physician’s attention on physical health issues, pushing mental health issues off the radar screen,” said Jeffrey Harman, an associate professor and the Louis C. and Jane Gapenski Term Professor of Health Services Administration at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and the study’s lead researcher. Read more on mental health.
Study: Special Needs Children at Higher Risk for Obesity
A first-of-its-kind study in the International Journal of Pediatrics finds that the majority of children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) suffer from obesity and do not get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. The study was conducted by the Drexel University School of Public Health. While childhood obesity can lead to major health problems late in life—such as heart disease and diabetes—there are no national statistics on CYSHCN obesity. The percentage of typically developing children with obesity has increased to 17 percent from 5 percent over the past 30 years. Read more on obesity.
AHA Identifies Most-Effective Public Health Strategies
American Heart Association researchers have examined more than 1,000 scientific studies to determine 43 of the most effective public health prevention strategies. They include school and workplace interventions; economic incentives to improve access to healthy food; direct mandates and restrictions related to nutrition; local environment efforts; and media and education campaigns. The findings were published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal. “Policy-makers should now gather together and say, ‘These are the things that work—let’s implement many right away, and the rest as soon as possible,’” said Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, chair of the statement writing group. Read more on heart health.
Poor Dental Health May Be Factor in Dementia
A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows a link between poor dental health and a greater risk of dementia. The study looked at the number of natural teeth, dentures worn, the number of visits to a dentist and other general oral health habits of 5,486 adults with the median age of 81 between the years of 1992 and 2010. The link was especially significant in men. A 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations, stressed the importance of providing good oral health care to vulnerable and underserved populations. Read more on aging.
New Federal Report on the Health, Economic Status of Older Americans
While today’s older Americans are healthier and living longer than those of past generations, increased financial obligations and the rising obesity rate are still major considerations, according to Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being, a new report from the National Institutes of Health. The report looks at 37 key indicators to determine which areas are—and are not—improving for older Americans. By 1930 there will be approximately 72 million Americans age 65 and older, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Read more on older adults.
NYU Study Finds Antibiotic Use in Very Young May Increase Childhood Weight
Infants who received antibiotics before the age of 6 months are more likely to be overweight, according to a new study of more than 10,000 children. The study was published August 21 in the International Journal of Obesity and conducted by the NYU School of Medicine and the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. The researchers were careful to note that the study merely showed a correlation—not causation—and that more study is needed. “We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly studies suggest it’s more complicated,” said Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. “Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean.” Read more on infant health.