Category Archives: Safety
FDA Issues New Food Safety Measures for Foreign Imports
As part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two new rules regarding the safety of imported foods. The first rule requires that importers verify that suppliers utilize modern, prevention-oriented safety practices. The second rules establishes third-party food safety auditors in the foreign countries that supply food to the United States. Each year the U.S. imports food from about 150 countries, accounting for about 15 percent of the nation’s food supply. “We must work toward global solutions to food safety so that whether you serve your family food grown locally or imported you can be confident that it is safe,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “Today’s announcement of these two new proposed rules will help to meet the challenges of our complex global food supply system. Our success will depend in large part on partnerships across nations, industries, and business sectors.” Read more on food safety.
Study: U.S. Adults with Atrial Fibrillation to Double by 2030
At the current rate, the number of U.S. adults with atrial fibrillation (AF) will more than double to an estimated 12 million cases by 2030, according to a new study in the American Journal of Cardiology. About 5 million Americans suffered from the dangerous irregular heartbeat in 2010, which can lead to severe chest pains, limit the ability to exercise or even cause heart failure. "Even AF patients without symptoms are at five-fold increased risk of stroke, which often leads to major disability or death," said study coauthor Daniel Singer, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The risk for the illness, which is most common in older people, can be reduced through preventive health care that includes the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea, as well as by getting exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight. Read more on heart health.
Tips on Preventing Playground Injuries
About 600,000 kids were injured at playgrounds in 2012, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, including about 210,000 on monkey bars/climbing structures, 151,000 on swing sets, 125,000 on slides, 10,000 on seesaws/teeterboards and 56,000 on other playground equipment. However, with proper knowledge and care, it’s possible to prevent injuries, according to the Commission. "Parents and caretakers should steer clear from playgrounds with asphalt or concrete surfaces, metal or wood swing sets, or any apparatus that can trap a child's head,” said Jennifer Weiss, MD, an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons spokeswoman. “Before children start to play, remind them of basic playground rules, such as one person on the slide at a time, and no running in front of moving swings and teeter-totters. Make sure that you can clearly see your child on the playground at all times.”
Other safety tips for parents and caregivers include:
- Use age-appropriate playground equipment
- Avoid swing sets with metal or wood seats—stick to plastic and rubber
- Be careful in the sun
- Make sure there is enough space for play
Read more on safety.
CDC Foundation Releases Website, App to Help Prevent Concussions in Kids
The CDC Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a “Heads Up to Parents” website and mobile app that provide resources for parents and coaches to protect kids against brain injuries, such as concussions. The website includes customizable fact sheets, videos, tools, tips and online training courses, while the app includes basics on brain injuries, safety tips and a helmet selector. Emergency rooms treat about 170,000 young athletes for suspected traumatic brain injuries each year. Read more on safety.
Soy Does Not Reduce Recurrence of Prostate Cancer
Soy supplements do not reduce the risk of recurrence of prostate cancer, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer for men. While some doctors have believed that the isoflavones found in soy could help prevent prostate cancer, the study involving men who’d had their prostates surgically removed was stopped early because no benefit was seen. "When we did the analysis and there was an absolute absence of the effect, I was a little surprised. But in a way, it was good because the outcome was clear," said Maarten Bosland, the lead author from the University of Illinois at Chicago, to Reuters. Read more on cancer.
Five Things for Kids to Tell their Asthma Doctor
The key to making sure a child’s asthma is being treated properly is to make sure the child is fully involved when meeting with an allergist, according to a study in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "Our research shows that physicians should ask parents and children about the effects asthma is having on the child's daily life," said lead author Margaret Burks, of the pediatrics department of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in a release. "Parents can often think symptoms are better or worse than what the child is really experiencing, especially if they are not with their children all day.” With that in mind, the study identified five things kids should make sure to tell their asthma doctor:
- If they can't play sports or participate in gym class and recess activities
- When symptoms get worse outside or at home
- If they often feel sad or different from other kids because of asthma
- If they miss school because of asthma
- When the asthma appears to have gone away
Read more on pediatrics.
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.
NIH: $12.7M in Grants to Explore New Uses for Existing Compounds
Approximately $12.7 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants will go toward helping academic research groups explore new treatments in eight disease areas. They include Alzheimer’s disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and schizophrenia. The “Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules” hopes that, by finding new uses for existing compounds, new treatments can advance to clinical trials more quickly. “Innovative, collaborative approaches that improve the therapeutic pipeline are crucial for success,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “This unique collaboration between academia and industry holds the promise of trimming years from the long and expensive process of drug development.” Read more on research.
Emergency Contraception Officially Available to All Women Without a Prescription
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially followed through on its plan to make the Plan B One-step emergency contraceptive available to all women regardless of age and without a prescription. It was previously available over-the-counter only to women age 17 or older and with a prescription for women who were younger than 17. Earlier this year it the nonprescription age was lowered to 15, but a U.S. District Court ruling ordered it be made to all women and girls without a prescription, at the time calling the FDA’s decision to reject a citizen petition related to the restrictions "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." Read more on sexual health.
Study: Listening to Music While Driving Doesn’t Negatively Impact Response Time
Listening to music while driving does not have the same negative effective on response time as other actions marked as distractions, and in fact might even improve focus under certain conditions, according to a new study. "Speaking on a cellphone or listening to passengers talking is quite different than listening to music, as the former types are examples of a more engaging listening situation," said study author Ayca Berfu Unal, an environmental and traffic psychologist. "Listening to music, however, is not necessarily engaging all the time, and it seems like music or the radio might stay in the background, especially when the driving task needs full attention of the driver.” The study looked at college-aged drivers, finding that louder music actually improved the response time to changes in the speed of cars ahead of the driver. Approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured each day in the United States because of distracted driving, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on safety.
Britain to Regulate, Improve Quality of E-Cigarettes
The British government plan to regulate electronic cigarettes as non-prescription medicine starting in 201, according to Reuters. E-Cigarettes are battery-operated devices that contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that can be inhaled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that, "As the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, consumers of e-cigarette products currently have no way of knowing:
- whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use,
- how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or
- if there are any benefits associated with using these products."
The devices do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes. Currently, e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the FDA. According to Reuters, "Under the new British system, manufacturers will have to prove the quality of their products and demonstrate that they deliver the correct amount of nicotine. But they will not need to conduct clinical trials." Read more on tobacco and nicotine.
Even Hands-Free Devices Create Unsafe, Distracted Driving Conditions
A new report from AAA finds that even hands-free mobile devices create mental distractions that can drain attention away from focusing on the road and safe driving. The study found that mentally-distracted drivers—those who may not have even taken their eyes off the road but were distracted by speaking with someone through a hands-free device—missed visual cues, had slower reaction times, and even exhibited a sort of "tunnel vision" by not checking side- and rear-view mirrors or actively scanning the full roadway for potential hazards. Activities like listening to the radio or an audio book was mildly distracting (but likely not enough to effect driving safety); conversing with others (whether with fellow passengers, with someone via hand-held device or with some via hands-free device) was moderately but significantly distracting; and using a device with speech-to-text technology to send text messages or e-mails was highly distracting. Researchers hope these findings can be used to help craft science-based policies on driver distraction. Read more on safety.
CDC Partners with 104 Businesses to Improve Employee Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through its partner Viridian Health Management, has identified 104 employers in eight counties across the nation that have voluntarily chosen to participate in the National Healthy Worksite Program, a new initiative aimed at reducing chronic disease and building a healthier, more productive U.S. workforce—while also cutting health care costs. The initiative primarily focuses on small and mid-sized employers. a national evaluation will document best practices and models on how to successfully implement workplace health programs in small worksites more broadly. Read more on what businesses are doing to create healthier communities.
Smoking Cessation, Three Other Simple Lifestyle Behaviors Dramatically Improve Overall Health
Utilizing four simple lifestyle behaviors can reduce the risk of both heart disease in particular and death in general, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine identified regular exercise, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and—in particular—quitting smoking as the four keys. "Of all the lifestyle factors, we found that smoking avoidance played the largest role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality," said study senior author Roger Blumenthal, MD, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Hopkins and director of the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins. "In fact, smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviors still had lower survival rates after 7.6 years than did nonsmokers who were sedentary and obese." The researchers said the findings support American Heart Association recommendations regarding health and illustrate that there are many health factors that people can control. Read more on tobacco.
TSA Abandons Plans to Allow Small Knives, Sports Equipment on Planes
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has dropped its plans to allow passengers to carry knives and certain sports equipment on planes amid loud protests from lawmakers, the airline industry, labor unions and law enforcement, according to the Associated Press. TSA first announced its intentions back in March; 145 members of the U.S. Congress recently signed a letter requesting the prohibitions to stay in place and the House was nearing passage of legislation that would counter TSA’s plans to loosen regulations. "After getting the input from all these different constituents, I realized there was not across-the-board support that would serve us well in moving forward," TSA Administrator John Pistole. "It is a recognition that, yes, these items could be used as weapons, but I want our folks to focus on those things that, again, are the most concern given the current intelligence.” Read more on safety.
California Law Reduces Payments for Millions of Uninsured Patients
California’s Hospital Fair Pricing Act is successfully helping low-income populations by limiting exactly how much hospitals can collect from uninsured patients and can serve as a diagram for how other states can address the public health issue, according to a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation appearing in the journal Health Affairs. The law was passed in 2006. There are more than 6.8 million people in the state without insurance; 97 percent of California hospitals offered free care to such patients with incomes at or below the federal poverty level. Read more on access to health care.
As we learn more about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), the public health focus is increasingly on prevention in youth sports. A recent study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the American Journal of Public Health found that while 44 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted youth sport TBI laws, they all deal with identifying and responding to the injuries—not preventing them.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Robert Faherty, VP and Commissioner of the Babe Ruth League Inc., about what the baseball league in particular—and youth sports in general—are doing to improve the prevention of and response to traumatic brain injuries. The league includes about 1 million players across its Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth divisions.
>>Read more in a related Q&A with the author of the youth sports TBI law study.
NewPublicHealth: How is the Babe Ruth League working to prevent primary traumatic brain injuries in youth baseball?
Robert Faherty: One of the things that we really pride ourselves on— and, first of all, our organizations are entirely made up of volunteers, from the league administration level right down to the coach—is providing that league with the best insurance program we possibly can. Through Babe Ruth League, you have the opportunity to buy accident, or liability insurance. That's because we wanted to make sure that there would be no reason that a player wouldn’t go get checked out or a league wouldn’t send a player to a doctor or to an emergency room. We weren’t worried about the parents having insurance, we weren’t worried about somebody’s liability being in question—you can go to the doctor and have it covered.
The second part of that would be our ongoing attempt to educate and prevent injuries right down to the simplest practices. In our coaching certification and coaching education courses, which are mandated, not only are there safety issues that we include that in our score books that we provide to the teams, but it’s also the smallest things about how to run a practice. One of the most common injuries is being hit by a baseball, but it’s not the batter being hit by a baseball or a fielder being hit by a baseball—it’s an overthrow by kids warming up improperly, and not throwing all in the same direction.
USDA and HUD Offer Housing Help for People Affected by the Tornadoes in Oklahoma
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have announced efforts to help find housing for Oklahoma residents displaced by the recent tornadoes. The USDA is offering help through its Rural Development portfolio, which has programs designed to help improve life in rural communities. HUD is offering help through foreclosure assistance, temporary housing, and federally guaranteed loans for repair. Click here for more information on HUD assistance following a disaster. Read more on disasters.
New CDC Campaign Encourages Smokers to Talk with their Doctor about Quitting
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has launched a new campaign to urge smokers to speak with their doctors about strategies for quitting. CDC research finds that getting help from a physician can double the odds of quitting smoking. To help promote the campaign, CDC is partnering with five physician groups: the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The campaign also encourages clinicians to ask patients if they smoke and offer assistance in helping them to quit. Almost 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Through the physician group partnerships, doctors will be offered training on cessation interventions. Read more on tobacco.
DOT 2013 ‘Click It or Ticket’ Campaign Focuses on Night Time Driving
The annual Click It or Ticket Campaign to increase seat belt use from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) takes place around Memorial Day weekend and this year will focus attention especially on night time driving—although police officers will be on the lookout for unbuckled drivers during the day and night this weekend. While DOT data shows that daytime seat belt use is up to 86 percent, night time use of seat belts continues to be lower. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risk of being involved in a serious crash is greater at night than during the day. In 2011, 62 percent of motorists who died in a crash that occurred at night did not have their seat belts on, buckled compared to 43 percent of those who died in a crash during the day. Read more on safety.
While a growing number of major league sports teams have policies on concussion assessment and return to play, many youth and school sports leagues and teams do not have similar rules, despite thousands of sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) reported in children and adolescents every year.
Hosea H. Harvey, PhD, JD, Assistant Professor of Law in Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, has just published an article in the American Journal of Public Health analyzing how this health issue is being addressed across the country. He found that there are laws dealing with concussions in youth sports in 44 states and D.C.—but none are focused on preventing the injuries. The laws only address detecting the injuries or preventing an additional injury after one has already occurred.
The study also revealed that many laws don’t draw on evidence around what works. For example, most state laws establish a minimum 24-hour period of youth athlete removal, but there is no scientific agreement about the optimal minimal time someone who has suffered a sports-related TBI should be removed from play. The study utilized an open source dataset from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantee Public Health Law Research called LawAtlas.
>>Read the full study.
NewPublicHealth previously spoke with Harvey and Kerri McGowan Lowrey, JD, MPH, Senior Staff Attorney with the Network for Public Health Law — Eastern Region, about legal and legislative approaches to addressing concussions in youth sports. The previous interview is included below:
The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, recently announced eight new grant recipients that will receive funding to conduct health impact assessments (HIAs). The projects will bring health considerations into upcoming decisions on topics including education, sanitation infrastructure, and energy.
“Our new grantees will use health impact assessments to uncover opportunities to improve health in a wide range of policy decisions, as well as to identify and avoid potential unintended consequences,” said Aaron Wernham, MD, director of the Health Impact Project. “These eight HIAs are the latest in a fast-growing field, as more cities and states find them a useful way to bring health into decisions in other sectors.”
By the end of 2007, there were 27 completed HIAs in the United States. There are now more than 225 completed or in progress, according to the Health Impact Project map of HIA activity in the United States.
Funding for some of the new proposals was also provided by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation and The California Endowment.
Some of the new HIAs that have received funding include:
- Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc. will undertake an HIA to inform decisions about a proposed casino in western Massachusetts. Decision-makers—including the state gaming commission, local government officials, and voters—will consider siting options as well as licensing, regulation, design and development of the casino. The HIA will examine health risks that might be linked to gambling—including substance abuse, mental health, and injury—and potential health benefits related to employment opportunity, access to health insurance, and community revenues.
- The University of Texas at El Paso, will conduct an HIA on the impacts of proposed water and sanitation improvement projects on the town of Vinton, Texas. Vinton primarily relies on failing septic tanks and cesspools for wastewater removal and domestic wells with poor water quality. Poor water and sanitation are associated with gastrointestinal illnesses and other serious health conditions such as hepatitis, dysentery, and dehydration. Improved systems could not only improve public health but also support economic development and long-term sustainability of local businesses and industry.
- An HIA by the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, in collaboration with the Purchase District Health Department, will examine the potential health benefits and risks of the retrofit or retirement of the Shawnee coal plant in Paducah, KY, operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The HIA will analyze environmental health concerns associated with air and water pollution from the plant and the effects of its closure on the community including employment, individual income, and revenue for local services important to health.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with two of the researchers conducting the Shawnee coal plant HIA, Elizabeth Crowe, executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, and Deborah Payne, energy and health coordinator for the Foundation.
NewPublicHealth: What is the scope of the HIA you’re conducting?