Category Archives: Military

Jan 24 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: January 24

GAO Report: Number of Female Homeless Veterans Has More than Doubled in Four Years

A new General Accounting Office report released yesterday found that the number of women veterans identified as homeless more than doubled, from 1,380 in fiscal year 2006 to 3,328 in fiscal year 2010. Almost two-thirds were between 40 and 59 years old, over one-third had disabilities and many of the women live with children under age 18.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • In order to help achieve the goal of ending homelessness among veterans, the Secretaries of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should collaborate to ensure appropriate data are collected on homeless women veterans, and use these data to strategically plan for services.
  • In order to ensure homeless women veterans have an appropriate place to stay while they await housing placement, the Secretary of VA should ensure implementation of the agency’s referral policies.
  • To better serve the needs of homeless women veterans with children, the Secretary of VA should examine ways to improve transitional housing services for those veterans.
  • To ensure that women veterans are safely housed, the Secretary of VA should determine what gender-specific safety and security standards are needed for housing programs, especially for those serving both women and men.

Read more on military health and housing.

Online Gathering for Cancer Advocates during the State of the Union Address

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network will hold an online chat for cancer advocates during the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Information during the chat will include updates on 2012 cancer issue campaigns. Get more cancer news.

Only One in Four Teens Regularly Uses Sunscreen

Children who have had sunburn at an early age are at almost double the risk for developing melanoma in adulthood, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Despite that, a new study in the journal Pediatrics found that half of 360 children for whom sunscreen data was recorded in Massachusetts had sunburn before age 11. The researchers followed up with the same group three years later and found that their rates of sunburn remained high and that sunscreen use had dropped to 25 percent. The authors say that studies are needed to determine how best to promote sun protection in settings that attract teens such as beaches, after-school sites and sporting events. Read more on children's health.

GAO Report: Federal Agencies Tackling Prescription Pain Reliever Abuse Need to Better Coordinate Efforts

Agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration use a variety of strategies to educate prescribers about issues related to increasing abuse of prescription pain relievers, but more education is needed, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is working to develop a legislative proposal to require education for prescribers who register with the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe controlled substances. The GAO recommends that the Director of ONDCP establish outcome metrics and implement a plan to evaluate proposed educational efforts, and ensure that agencies share lessons learned. Read more on prescription drugs.

Dec 13 2011
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Public Health News Roundup: December 13

First U.S. Cell-Based Flu Vaccine Facility Opens

The first U.S. flu vaccine plant to use cultured animal cells instead of the conventional process of using fertilized eggs, opened in Holly Springs, N.C., yesterday. The facility is a public-private partnership of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. In a release, HHS said the cell-based vaccine technology is faster and more flexible, and could provide vaccine supplies sooner in an influenza pandemic. Get more flu news.

New DOD-Funded Study to Explore Virtual Reality Treatments for Veterans With PTSD

Researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center have been awarded an $11 million, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a large-scale clinical study of the comparative effectiveness of virtual reality and traditional treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with 300 veterans in three cities. Virtual reality exposure therapy uses three-dimensional graphics delivered through special goggles to gradually immerse the patient into simulations of scenes of traumatic events, accompanied by other sensory stimulation like chair vibrations. The study will also search for genetic markers that may predispose people to the disorder. Read more on military health.

One in Five Workers Experience Mental Illness

Three in four workers with a mental disorder report reduced productivity at work, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Work absences are also much more frequent for workers with mental illness. Report authors say the share of workers exposed to work-related stress, or job strain, has increased in the past decade all across the countries included in the study. Read more on mental health.

Nov 11 2011
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Recommended Listening: Veterans and Suicide

A veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes, according to reported information from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Unreported deaths may push those numbers even higher.

Foundations and government agencies are addressing the issue through screenings that begin during deployment and with continued follow-up after a service member comes back to the U.S. In observance of Veterans Day, Washington, D.C., talk show host Diane Rehm discussed the issue with experts including Barbara van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that provides free mental health services to veterans and their families, Ranjeev Ramchand of the Center for Military Health Policy Research at the RAND Corporation and Jan Kemp, National Mental Health Program Director for Suicide Prevention, Department of Veterans Affairs.

The show’s website also includes resources that can help prevent suicides among veterans:

  • Veterans' Crisis Line: Connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text message program.
  • Give an Hour: Provides free mental health services to U.S. military personnel and their families affected by current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: Offers support for those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the U.S military.

>>Listen to the program.

>>Read more on military health.

Nov 11 2011
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Public Health News Roundup: November 11

SAMHSA and Federal Partners Help Improve the Health and Lives of Returning Veterans

Today is Veteran's Day. Read about initiatives in the Federal government to address emerging health needs of returning veterans including mental health, homelessness and post-traumatic stress disorder. Get more news on military health.

North Carolina Smoke-Free Air Laws Linked to Significant Reduction in Heart Attacks

Emergency room visits by North Carolinians experiencing heart attacks have declined by 21 percent since the January 2010 start of the state’s Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law. Read more on tobacco policy and other news.

CDC Says Most U.S. Smokers Wish They Could Quit

About 70 percent of smokers want to quit, and half of those have tried to quit in the last year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experimental Computer Analysis of Breast Cancer Tissue More Accurate than Analysis By Pathologists

A computer model developed by Stanford University researchers is able to more accurately assess cancer cells in breast tissue than pathologists. Using the model could help determine specific treatment and predict survival, say the researchers. The model may also be able to predict which women with early stage breast cancer do not need to undergo treatment at all. Get more cancer news.

Nov 10 2011
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Public Health News Roundup: November 10

Australia Will Be First Country to Require Plain Cigarette Packaging

The government of Australia has enacted the world’s first law requiring that all cigarettes be sold in plain packaging, free of colorful logos and other branding. Instead, cigarettes will be sold in olive green cartons with graphic images warning of the consequences of smoking. The Australian Senate approved the bill, and the House is expected to quickly agree to minor changes made by the Senate. Get more tobacco news.

First Report on Intentional Poisonings: Women Targeted Most Often

In 2009, nearly 15,000 American women and men ended up in an emergency room after being intentionally drugged by someone else, according to a first-of-a-kind national report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA). The majority of those visits (63 percent) were by females, and alcohol was a factor in 60 percent of all visits. “The danger of being tricked into ingesting an unknown substance is all too real at bars, raves, parties or concerts where alcohol and other substances are shared in a social manner,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde, in a news release. Read our Q&A with Pamela Hyde about mental health and substance abuse as preventable issues.

For Youth, Skin Cancer Interventions Focusing on Looks Rather Than Risk Are More Effective

In counseling youth on skin cancer prevention, a focus on how too much sun exposure can affect their looks now and later in life can be more effective than warning them of risk for skin cancer, according to draft recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendations are for youth ages 10 to 24 with fair skin. The task force found the most success among late-adolescent females, the population most likely to pursue indoor tanning.

DOT to Improve Public Transportation Access for Military Families

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the availability of $34.6 million for 55 projects in 32 states and Guam to enhance access to local, affordable transportation services for military families and wounded warriors. Read more on health in the military and the connection between transportation and health.

Nov 2 2011
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Mental Health as Public Health: Q&A with SAMHSA's Pamela Hyde

Pamela_Hyde Pamela Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator

The recent first-ever Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on mental health issues in America, found that half of all Americans have a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Pamela Hyde, JD, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) a keynote speaker at this year’s APHA annual meeting, focused on what public health can do to identify these issues and improve prevention, treatment and recovery. Watch her opening session speech here, and read an APHA Q&A with her here.

NewPublicHealth: Your keynote speech at the American Public Health Association annual meeting focused attention on the issues of mental health as a pivotal component of public health. What does the American public need to learn about these issues?

Pamela Hyde: Behavioral health is a major public health issue and we in America don’t tend to look at as a public health issue. We tend to look at it as a social problem. The recent mental health parity legislation, which generally requires that insurance coverage is identical for mental and physical health concerns, helps tremendously in the sense that it makes it very clear that mental health and substance abuse services are just as important as healthcare services and that they should be treated similarly.

We use the term behavioral health because we’re trying to encompass everything from prevention to treatment to recovery and we’re trying to encompass both mental illnesses as well as substance abuse and substance use disorders. Behavioral health is a public health issue, just like diabetes or heart problems or hypertension. There are ways to prevent it and there are ways to treat it and people recover from it.

NPH: What are some of SAMHSA’s biggest recent achievements?

Read More

Nov 1 2011
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APHA: New Research Highlights

A number of breaking research studies were released at the APHA Annual Meeting. Here is a round-up of some of the new research highlights:

Sons of Deployed Military More Likely to Engage in Physical Fights, Gang Violence

Teen boys with at least one parent in the military are at increased risk of engaging in physical fights at school, carrying a weapon and joining a gang, according to a study from researchers at University of Washington’s School of Public Health, which looked at data from the 2008 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey of more than 10,000 adolescents in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades of public schools. The study also found that girls in 8th grade with at least one parent in the military were at twice the risk of carrying a weapon. In 2010, 1.98 million United States children had at least one parent serving in the military.

Immigrants’ Health Worsens the Longer they Reside in the U.S.

Minority immigrants are at higher risk of experiencing poor health outcomes the longer they stay in the U.S., according to an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data between 2007 and 2008, by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Those who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years have a 98 percent greater chance of being obese and 68 percent greater odds of having hypertension compared with those in the country for less than 10 years.

Construction Workers at Significant Risk of Injury, Premature Death

Nearly all construction workers will experience one or more work-related injuries or illnesses over a lifetime plus a greater risk of premature death, according to research from the Center for Construction Research and Training. The study also found that a Hispanic construction worker has a 20 percent higher likelihood of dying from a work-related injury.

Beverage Companies Extensively Market Sugary Beverages to Youth

Researchers from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity released a new study at APHA today, which found that beverage companies extensively market sugary drinks to youths, with a significant focus on minority youth. Companies are beginning to shift dollars from traditional media to online, interactive, and rewards-based marketing designed to appeal to youth.

Oct 5 2011
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Public Health News Roundup: October 5

Post-deployment Mental Health Checks May Overlook Problems in Some Returning Soldiers

Mental health assessments given to all soldiers after deployment may miss many cases of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The standard assessments are not anonymous, but when researchers had returning soldiers complete the assessments anonymously, a larger number of soldiers met the criteria for depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder and a higher number reported suicidal thoughts. Read more on military health.

Drunk Driving Decreases, Still a Problem

A new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drunk driving incidents peaked in 2006, and decreased nearly one-third through 2010. However, the latest data shows that drunk drivers got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010, resulting in about 300,000 incidents a day. A different report found that distracted driving (driving while texting or talking on the phone) resulted in half a million injuries.

Latest Update on Listeria Outbreak

The death toll from an outbreak of listeria linked to tainted cantaloupes has risen to 18, and at least 100 people in 20 states have become ill from the bacteria, according to the CDC. The agency says that even though the cantaloupes implicated in the outbreak were recalled Sept. 14, more cases can still emerge because the bacteria has a long lag time between diagnosis and laboratory confirmation and because it can take up to two months from eating contaminated food to develop the infection. Read more on the latest outbreaks and infectious diseases.

Sep 22 2011
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Public Health News Roundup: September 22

Traffic Pollution May Boost Heart Attack Risk

Exposure to pollution caused by motor vehicle traffic may boost the risk of a heart attack in people already at risk, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal.

CDC Proposes New Guidelines for Organ Transplantation

CDC is proposing new guidelines for organ transplants to help protect patients receiving transplants from infections. Major changes from the last update in 1994 would include hepatitis B and C screening in addition to the current HIV screening of donors, and a revised set of donor risk factors that can give clinicians a more thorough picture about possible risks associated with donors? organs.

Shorter Pediatric Visits May Be Sufficient

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that parents like longer visits, but that shorter visits may be sufficient for the appropriate examinations and discussion. The study authors found that when time was limited, pediatricians were more likely to cover traditional topics, such as breastfeeding and immunization, and then widen the discussion as time allowed. Development assessment was conducted half the time in shorter visits, and 70 percent of the time in longer visits.

VA Telephone Service Helps Family Members Encourage Veterans to Seek Medical Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a telephone service, Coaching into Care, to provide assistance to family members and friends trying to encourage a veteran to seek health care and mental support. The program offers unlimited, free coaching. Callers can reach the program at 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and can find more information online.

Aug 1 2011
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Public Health News Roundup: August 1

Equal Access to Insurance Doesn’t Guarantee Similar Breast Cancer Treatment for Black, White Women

A new study in the journal Cancer that looked at Black and White women in the military, found that despite having equal access to health care through military health insurance, black women with breast cancer were less likely than white women to receive certain aggressive treatments. Cultural decisions to forego very aggressive treatments may be one reason for the disparity, according to the researchers.

Gene Variant May Predispose Some Blacks to Asthma

Variations in a particular gene may account for the high risk of asthma in African Americans according to a new study in the journal Nature Genetics.

FDA Seeking Public Comment on IOM Device Report

The Food and Drug Administration has opened a public comment period on a recent Institute of Medicine report that sharply criticized the FDA’s approval process for some lower-risk medical devices, according to a news announcement. The IOM report recommended that the current approval process be scrapped and a new one developed. The FDA says some of the suggestions the IOM report are already underway.

"Lab on a Chip" Detects HIV, Syphilis in the Field

The first field trial for a “lab on a chip” a rapid, cheap HIV test accurately detected both HIV and syphilis among a Rwandan population, researchers reported in Nature Medicine. This kind of test could offer a faster, cheaper and easier way to detect infectious diseases, according to the report.