Category Archives: Safety

Aug 30 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 30

NHTSA: Free VIN Searches Will Let Drivers Check for Safety Recalls
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will next year require that automakers and motorcycle manufactures provide free online search services for Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) so that consumers can search for information on uncompleted recalls. Consumers will also be able to use a central government site (SaferCar.gov) to determine whether a recall has been issued on a vehicle and whether the remedy has been performed. "Every day NHTSA is working for the American consumer to ensure that automakers and motorcycle manufacturers address safety defects and non-compliances, and that they also recall affected vehicles in a timely manner," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "By making individual VIN searches readily available, we're providing another service to car, light truck and motorcycle owners and potential owners—the peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe." Read more on transportation.

Quick Change to Mellow Music Reduces the Risk of Road Rage
Smooth jazz could save your life—or at least keep you from doing something impulsive behind the wheel. According to a new report in the journal Ergonomics, switching to mellow music in a car can help drivers stay calm during stressful situations that could lead to road rage. Studies have already linked “upbeat” music to more aggressive driver behavior and “downbeat” music with more relaxed, safer behavior. However, the question before the researchers was whether a quick change or a gradual change to calmer music was more effective; they determined that drivers in both conditions would reach the same calm state, but drivers who changed the music abruptly would become calmer—and driver safer—sooner. The results show that "during high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance and were thus safer and more effective," concluded researcher Marjolein van der Zwaag, of Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, and colleagues in the Netherlands and at Stanford University in California. Read more on safety.

HUD: $12.8M in ‘Sweat Equity’ Grants to Create Affordable Homes
Through its Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded approximately $12.8 million in “sweat equity” grants to create at least 718 affordable homes. The four non-profit, self-help housing organizations that received the funds will work to reduce the cost of the homes for working families. “Sweat equity” is the increased value of a property due to restoration and upkeep efforts by the owners. “Today, we make another investment in the American Dream for hundreds of working families,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Using their own labor, along with sweat equity from armies of volunteers, these families will construct their own homes and become stakeholders in their own neighborhoods.” To qualify, a minimum of 50 sweat equity hours is required from a household of one person and a minimum of 100 sweat equity hours is required from a household of at least two people. The work can include landscaping, foundation work, painting, carpentry, trim work, drywall, roofing and siding for the housing. Read more on housing.

Aug 21 2013
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Back to School: Bus Safety

School students waiting by a school bus.

Kids and their parents aren’t the only ones who need to do some back-to-school prep as the fall term starts. A new survey of U.S. school bus drivers released by the National Association of Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NADPTS) last week found that more than 80,000 vehicles illegally passed a stopped school bus on a single day this past year. That translates to nearly 15 million violations during the 180-day school year, according to the association.

Laws and regulations can vary somewhat by state, but generally drivers must come to a full stop when they are behind or across the street from a school bus when it has its stop sign out and its lights are flashing. The NADPTS maintains a list of state laws regarding what cars must do when they see a stopped school bus.

No one organization keeps tabs on all children injured and killed by drivers who didn’t stop for a school bus, but three children were killed in such accidents in North Carolina alone last year, bringing that state’s total of children killed in such accidents to a dozen since 1998.

“There are nearly a half million school buses on the road each day in the United States,” said Max Christensen, NADPTS president, and, “any driver who passes a stopped school bus illegally is gambling with a child’s life.” According to the association, some states are adopting more stringent safety measures, such as improved motorist education, increased fines, and more law enforcement, including the use of photo evidence in court cases from cameras mounted on the sides of school buses.

>>Recommended Reading: To help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities related to school bus accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a school bus safety website stocked with information.

Aug 19 2013
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Grassroots Fire Prevention: Q&A California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover

file Chief Tonya Hoover

NewPublicHealth is partnering with Grassroots Change: Connecting for Better Health to share interviews, tools, and other resources on grassroots public health. The project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group supports grassroots leaders as they build and sustain public health movements at the local, state and national levels.

In this excerpted Q&A, conducted by Grassroots Change, California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover shared her thoughts on a quiet but highly successful public health movement: fire sprinkler requirements as a cost-effective measure to reduce civilian deaths, injuries, and property damage while protecting fire fighters and the natural environment. Tonya Hoover is a 20-year veteran of the fire service and an experienced advocate for fire prevention. She has promoted residential fire sprinkler ordinances as a local fire marshal in California and a statewide requirement that went into effect on January 1, 2011.

>>Read the full Q&A on GrassrootsChange.net.

Grassroots Change: Tell us about the grassroots movement for residential fire sprinklers.

Tonya Hoover: California has seen the passage of residential sprinkler laws since the first local adoption in San Clemente in 1978. Since that time, over 160 local ordinances have passed [fire sprinkler requirements for all new construction, including 1- and 2-family homes].

Other states have also adopted residential sprinkler ordinances for many years. Residential sprinklers aren’t new. What is new is they’re getting their time in the sun with the public because we already sprinkler apartments and larger buildings. People are used to seeing sprinklers in commercial buildings and office spaces. Most apartments in California – the complexes that have been going up in the past 20-25 years – have sprinklers. We hope to get people to look up and say: “Why isn’t my house sprinklered? This is supposed to be my safe haven.”

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Aug 15 2013
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Child Car Seats: "Am I Doing This Right?"

The following post originally appeared on the Harvard Law School blog, Bill of Health, launched in September 2012 by Harvard's Petrie-Flom Center. The blog explores news, commentary, and scholarship in the fields of health law policy, biotechnology, and bioethics. This post examines the policies that impact proper use of child car seats and booster seats.

Author Kathleen West is an intern with the Public Health Law Research program. Her summer work has included researching and creating a comprehensive dataset on child restraint systems across the United States using LawAtlas, a gateway database to key laws aimed at improving our health or access to health care. Read more on LawAtlas.

As the world watched Prince William place the new royal baby, reluctantly snug in his car seat, into a vehicle a few weeks ago, my thoughts were not limited to, “Oh, how cute!” After two months researching and collecting a dataset to capture the U.S. laws and regulations for child passenger restraint systems, I also thought, “I wonder if he took a class and knows how to do that correctly?” Perhaps an odd thought, but misuse and faulty installation of child restraint systems is actually a major concern.

According to the CDC, proper restraint use can reduce the risk of death or injury by more than 50 percent. Yet, ongoing studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are finding that as many as 20 percent of drivers with child passengers are not reading any of the instructions regarding proper installation, while 90 percent of drivers of child passengers are reporting that they are confident that they are properly installing and using child restraint systems.

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Aug 13 2013
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Public Health Campaign of the Month: Werner Herzog’s “From One Second to the Next”

>>NewPublicHealth continues a new series to highlight some of the best public health education and outreach campaigns every month. Submit your ideas for Public Health Campaign of the Month to info@newPublichealth.org.

“Oh my gosh, what have I done?” That’s the first question a man asked himself after he looked up from texting “I Love You” to his wife, to find that his car had crashed into a buggy carrying an Amish family and killing three of their children. That story, and three others, make up a new 36-minute video by acclaimed documentary film maker Werner Herzog, “From One Second to the Next.” The video was produced for AT&T and supported by Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, to show drivers of all ages what can happen when texting while driving. In the documentary, what happens is that five people die, two have their health ruined and bills pile up into the millions, and one sees his injuries put an end to his career.

Wireless firms hope to distribute the film to tens of thousands of high schools, safety organizations and through government agencies for maximum impact.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2011 alone. “When you get a message while driving, it’s hard not to pick up your phone,” said Herzog. “With this film, we want to help make people more aware of the potential consequences of that action.”

Watch the Werner Herzog film, "From One Second to the Next"

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Jul 29 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 29

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.

Jul 10 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 10

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.

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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Jun 21 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 21

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.

Jun 12 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 11

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.