Category Archives: Sexual Health

Aug 31 2012
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Cell Phones as Public Health Tools

While the syringe has often been the visual image most closely associated with public health, in just a short time the cell phone could be the go-to icon.The Yale School of Public Health has announced a novel, two-year clinical trialthat will use participants’ cell phones, and the text messages those cell phones transmit, to develop mobile phone-based health interventions that target specific peer groups. The trial is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The participants in this first trial are young men ages 18 to 25 who have agreed to allow their cell phones to be tracked by Yale researchers. Each participant’s physical location will be tracked through global positioning systems, and a computer program will register all incoming and outgoing calls and text messages, which will not be shared outside the trial. The clinical trial will have three social networks which will each start with a single person and then recruit his friends, and then their friends, until each of the three groups has 40 active members. The researchers are specifically looking for text messages that relate to sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse.

“Cell phones have made it easier to maintain and develop network ties,” says Trace Kershaw, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, and leader of the trial. “The nature of how this communication flows and how it relates to network characteristics and risk within networks will allow us to develop communication technology-delivered peer interventions by suggesting the most effective modes, frequency and patterns of information delivery.”

>>Bonus Link: Read about a smartphone-based trial being run by Asthmapolis, a Madison, Wisc., company that is using sensor-enhanced smart phones to help better understand when and where people with asthma develop symptoms.

>>Weigh In: What novels efforts is your community, company or research group using to collect or disseminate public health information?

Aug 10 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: August 10

CDC Recommends Against Using Popular Gonorrhea Treatment
Infectious disease experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week that the antibiotic Suprax (cefixime) no longer be used to treat gonorrhea. The CDC is discouraging use of Suprax because patients are developing resistance to the drug. As first line treatment, the CDC recommends use of the drug ceftriaxone in combination with azithromycin or doxycycline. Read more on sexual health.

Alcohol Ad Violations More Common in Magazines with High Youth Readership
As the youth readership level of a magazine goes up, so too does the likelihood that alcohol advertisements in the publication are in violation of industry standards, according to a new study. The study was conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study looked at 1,261 advertisements for alcopops, beer, spirits or wine that appeared more than 2,500 times in 11 different with youth readership levels of at least 15 percent. CAMY Director and study co-author David Jernigan, PhD said the findings indicate the industry standards should be strengthened. Read more on alcohol.

SAMHSA Awards $11M to Treat Substance Abuse in Pregnant and Postpartum Women
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded up to $11 million in grants under the Service Grants Program for the Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women (PPW). There are seven total grants to be utilized over the next three years. They will go toward improving substance abuse treatment, prevention and recovery support services for pregnant women, new mothers and their minor children. “This program offers vital help and hope to women at a crucial time in their lives and in the lives of their children,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a release. “By including families in the supportive services that are being provided for these women, we acknowledge that people with substance use disorders are more than just their addictions.” Read more on substance abuse.

Jul 26 2012
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Girls, with Cameras and Computers, on the Road to a Better Life

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

Mandisa Madikane, a 20-year old, HIV-positive, newly minted journalist from Soweto, South Africa, was the star at a high-wattage Washington D.C. event Wednesday night hosted by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief in conjunction with the 2012 AIDS International Conference meeting this week. Her co-panelists, who spoke about empowering women to protect them from rape, poverty, discrimination and humiliation included Tom Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control; Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues. Discussion was helped by a video, “Mandisa’s Story,” aired at the event. Directed by the young journalist, it tells the story of her rape by a neighbor at age six, which is how Mandisa contracted HIV.

Mandisa is one of three HIV-positive young women from South Africa covering the AIDS conference who received their journalism training through GlobalGirl Media (GGM), a non-profit that teaches teenage girls from disadvantaged communities around the world, including the U.S., to become citizen-journalists. Launched in 2010 by a group of women broadcasters and journalists, GGM teaches girls to use print, video and electronic media to tell their stories in order to build their self-esteem and champion the role of girls throughout the world. The project currently has bureaus in South Africa, Morocco, Los Angeles and one opened just this month in Chicago. “The girls who train with GGM are a family, and we all have important stories to tell,” said Evelyn Mokele, one of the South Africa journalists in Washington this week. “When I found out I was HIV positive, I almost gave up on everything. But instead of letting my status be a death-sentence, I used it as a tool to find my voice.”

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Jul 25 2012
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HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C.

The choice of Washington, D.C. as the site of the 2012 International AIDS Conference is an important one – about 3 percent of the adult and teen residents of the city are HIV positive. That exceeds the definition of an AIDS epidemic by UNAIDS – 1 percent of a population.

new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation says that, “In many ways, the D.C. epidemic is a microcosm for what is happening nationally”: D.C. is a small, densely populated community with overlapping sexual networks that can fuel transmission, and also faces significant health care access challenges, poverty, drug use, high rates of other sexually transmitted infections, stigma and lack of knowledge about HIV status.

Blacks in D.C. have the highest HIV prevalence rates per 100,000 adults and adolescents (4,264.6)—more than twice the rate among Latinos (1,836.4) and three times the rate among whites (1,226.3). One difference is that in D.C., there is a higher prevalence of HIV among Black women (2.6%) compared with white men (2.4%).

Importantly, though, the report finds gains in HIV awareness and testing in the city. Over 100,000 HIV tests were done in DC last year, triple the number in 2007. And, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, D.C. was the first jurisdiction to adopt CDC recommendations for routine HIV testing in health care settings and actively works with providers to expand testing. More than four in 10 D.C. residents, ages 18-64, report being tested for HIV within the past year, the highest share of any state.

>>Bonus Link: The Washington Post has been live blogging the AIDS conference this week and the site also has some notable features including an important story on the stigma of AIDS in the South and obstacles in the U.S. to successful treatment for HIV/AIDS.

Jun 7 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: June 7

Growing Number of Boomers Abuse Drugs

Data from national surveys reviewed by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that the number of 50 to 59-year-old adults reporting past-month abuse of illicit drugs — including the nonmedical use of prescription drugs — more than doubled from 2002 to 2010. The number increased from 907,000 in 2002 to 2,375,000 in 2010, or from 2.7 to 5.8 percent of this population.

The NIDA researchers say younger baby boomers were more likely than previous generations to have used illicit drugs in their youth, but abusing these drugs may be particularly harmful in older adults. "As people get older, it is more difficult for their bodies to absorb and break down medications and drugs," says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIDA. "Abusing these substances can worsen age-related health conditions, cause injuries and lead to addiction.” Read more on substance abuse.

Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea Across Countries Prompts WHO Action Plan

Millions of people with gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, may be at risk of running out of treatment options, according to an action plan released this week by the World Health Organization (WHO). Several countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, are reporting cases of resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics — the last treatment option against gonorrhea.

According to the WHO, every year an estimated 106 million people are infected with gonorrhea. The action plan calls for increased vigilance on the correct use of antibiotics, more research into alternative treatment regimens for gonorrhea, increased monitoring and reporting of resistant strains, and better prevention, diagnosis and control of the infections. Read more on sexual health.

Just Two to Three Head CTs May Increase Brain Tumor Risk in Kids

Two or three computed tomography (CT) head scans in kids can triple the risk of brain cancer later in life, according to a new study published in The Lancet. The study, which spanned twenty years, also found that the accumulated radiation in five to 10 scans during childhood may increase the likelihood of a child developing leukemia.

Recommendations include keeping radiation doses as low as possible and using alternatives to CT scans such as MRI and ultrasound, when possible.

The risk is about 1 in 10,000 according to the researchers, which may help physicians weigh the risk and benefit in each case. The study comes at a time when concern over sports-related head injuries may be increasing the number of head CT scans for kids. Read more on sports-related head injuries.

Apr 11 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: April 11

Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups

The U.S. teen birth rate declined 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching a historic low at 34.3 births per 1,000 women age 15 through 19. The rate dropped 44 percent from 1991 through 2010. Teen birth rates by age and race and Hispanic origin were lower in 2010 than ever reported in the United States, and fewer babies were born to teenagers in 2010 than in any year since 1946. Read more on sexual health.

Online Tool Estimates Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads on the Radio

A new online tool from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health determines the extent of exposure to radio alcohol advertisements among young people ages 12 to 20 in 75 different media markets. The free tool is the first service to provide parents, health departments and other key audiences with customizable information on youth exposure to radio alcohol advertising. Read more on alcohol and public health.

Non-cancerous Brain Tumors Linked to Frequent High-dosage Dental X-rays

A new study published in the journal Cancer suggests that risk of meningioma, a potentially debilitating type of non-cancerous brain tumor, was associated with receiving frequent dental X-rays before X-ray dosages were lowered.

Researchers from the Yale University School of Public Health analyzed data from 1,433 patients who were diagnosed with the tumor as well as a control group of 1,350 individuals with similar characteristics who did not have the tumor. The study found that over a lifetime, individuals who developed meningioma were more than twice as likely as those in the control group to report having received "bitewing exams" (which use X-ray film held in place by a tab between the teeth) on a yearly or more frequent basis.

Apr 10 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: April 10

Minorities and Medicare/Medicaid Recipients Less Likely to Get Antidepressants

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health finds that Hispanics and blacks are less likely to be prescribed antidepressants than whites, and Medicare and Medicaid patients are less likely to receive the drugs than those with private insurance.

The study, published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, also found that Medicare and Medicaid patients were significantly less likely to receive newer antidepressants, which may have fewer side effects than older drugs and are often less expensive. Read more mental health news.

HHS Awards Grants for Early Childhood Family Support

Ten states have received grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide early childhood support and home visits to families. The grants will help states expand or establish their home visiting programs.

Initiatives of the program include guidance and assistance in early learning and development, prevention and identification of child maltreatment, improvement of maternal and child health outcomes, and family engagement. Read more on children's health.

GYT: Get Yourself Tested for STDs

The fourth annual "GYT: Get Yourself Tested" campaign kicks off National STD Awareness Month (April) with new initiatives on TV, online and on the ground at college campuses and in more than 5,000 health centers across the U.S. GYT is an ongoing national campaign launched in 2009 between MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation to address the high rates of STDs among people under 25. Read more on sexual health.

Mar 14 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: March 14

HUD Awards $201 Million For New Local Homeless Programs

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $201 million to support 731 new local homeless programs across the U.S. The funding will provide emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent support for individuals and families. Read more on the connection between housing and health.

NIH and Drug Firm to Generate Public Resource of Approved and Investigational Drugs

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Eli Lilly and Company will generate a publicly available resource to profile the effects of thousands of approved and investigational medicines.

The NIH's newly established National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences collection of 3,800 approved and investigational medicines will be screened using Lilly’s advanced testing systems to assess their biological profiles. This could enable biomedical researchers to better predict treatment outcomes and improve drug development, according to an NIH release. Read more on prescription drugs.

CDC Finds Too Few Young Women Tested for Chlamydia

Just 38 percent of sexually active young women were screened for chlamydia between 2006 and 2008, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends annual screening for all sexually active women aged 25 and under. Read more on sexual health.

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Feb 29 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: February 29

FDA Announces Safety Changes to Statin Drug Labels

The Food and Drug Administration has announced some key safety changes to the labeling for some widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. The changes include a revised schedule for monitoring liver enzymes in patients taking the drugs, and new information on rare cases of memory loss, confusion and hyperglycemia. Read more prescription drug news.

National Guardsmen Face Alcohol Abuse Risk

Soldiers in the Army National Guard with no history of alcohol abuse are at significant risk of developing alcohol-related problems during and after deployment, according to a new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal. Researchers found that the soldiers at greatest risk of developing alcohol-related problems also experienced depression or PTSD during or after deployment. Read more on military health.

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Feb 28 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: February 28

Hearing Loss May Be a Risk Factor for Falls

Hearing loss may be a risk factor for falls, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers, including Frank Lin, MD, PHD, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, looked at data from the National Health Examination Survey and found that for about 2,000 participants ages 40 to 69, those with a 25-decibel (mild) hearing loss were nearly three times more likely than those without hearing loss to have a history of falling. The researchers found that for every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss, the chances of falling rose by 1.4 fold.

And research published earlier this month by Dr. Lin found that although an estimated 26.7 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, only about one in seven uses a hearing aid. Read more on the health of older adults.

Pediatrics Update: Sports Injury Prevention, HPV and Active Video Games

The current issue of Pediatrics looks at three important issues:

  • A revised policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends prevention of baseball and softball throwing injuries by instructing kids on proper throwing mechanics, training and conditioning, and encouraging kids to stop playing and seek treatment when signs of overuse injuries arise.
  • A second revised policy statement on HPV Vaccine Recommendations recommends use of the HPV vaccine in both males and females at 11 to 12 years of age.
  • Children who were given active video games were not more physically active than those given inactive games, according to a new study in Pediatrics. Providing explicit instructions to use the active games did seem to lead to increased physical activity, however.

Read more children's health news.

New Flu Virus Discovered in Guatemalan Bats

A new influenza A virus discovered in fruit bats in Guatemala doesn't appear to pose a current threat to humans, but should be studied as a potential source for human influenza, according to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Catch up on this year's flu news.

HUD Releases Charges on Discrimination Against Home Buyers With Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it is charging Bank of America with discriminating against home buyers with disabilities. HUD alleges that Bank of America imposed unnecessary and burdensome requirements on borrowers who relied on disability income to qualify for their home loans and required some disabled borrowers to provide physician statements to qualify for home mortgage loans. Read more on disability.