Category Archives: Sexual Health
Slightly more than half of U.S. teenage girls who had a child between 2004 and 2008, and reported that the pregnancy was unintended, did not use any form of birth control. A third of these respondents didn't think they could get pregnant at the time, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although the number of teens who get pregnant in the U.S. has fallen in recent years, the U.S. teen birth rate is still the highest of any developed country, with more than 400,000 births in 2009, according to the CDC. Read more on teen pregnancy.
Most states did a poor job of combating tobacco-caused disease in 2011, according to the 2012 State of Tobacco Control report from the American Lung Association. No state passed a strong smokefree air law, and Nevada weakened its existing law. Washington virtually eliminated a tobacco prevention and quit-smoking program, which a recent study found saved the state $5 for every $1 spent from 2000 to 2009. And, for the first year since the Lung Association released the first report in 2003, no state raised its tobacco tax significantly.
The report noted some federal progress:
- On January 1, 2011, the federal government began offering comprehensive quit-smoking benefits to its millions of employees and their families.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in June that the government will give states partial reimbursement for quit-smoking counseling services provided to Medicaid enrollees through state quit lines.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service is releasing more than $863 million to help low-income households with their heating and other home energy costs. Read up on health and housing.
A review of fourteen studies in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine finds that the more physically active a child is, the better their grades are likely to be. Read more on education.
Just over 20 percent of girls surveyed in a recent study say getting the HPV vaccine means they no longer have to practice safe sex. The researchers, who published their findings in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine says physician practices should make sure to include an education component when they give the vaccine. Read up on sexual health news.
Concerned about developmental delays and physical health problems, a growing number of hospitals are refusing to allow cesarean deliveries before a baby reaches 39 weeks gestation, according to a joint report from Kaiser Health News and National Public Radio. Read the latest in maternal and infant health.
It's been an exciting year for us at NewPublicHealth! We launched in March, and nine months, nine conferences and 568 posts later, we are ready to ring in the new year.
Here's a glimpse into the inaugural year of NewPublicHealth, and the top posts by popularity.
- Power of Health IT for Public Health: A NewPublicHealth Q&A With Farzad Mostashari. This piece was a conversation with the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about the evolving public health informatics field.
- Dr. Douglas Jutte: My Patient's Most Pressing Health Concern Was a Broken Carburetor. Dr. Jutte provided a personal commentary on how unmet social needs—like access to nutritious food, transportation assistance and housing assistance—were sometimes the most critical in treating his patients. (Also check out a round-up of reader responses to this post.)
- Public Health and the Community Benefit: A NewPublicHealth Q&A With Abbey Cofsky. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that non-profit hospitals, starting in 2012, perform a community health needs assessment, and that the assessment serve as the foundation of an implementation plan to address identified needs. NewPublicHealth spoke with Abbey Cofsky, program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about the public health opportunities this provision offers.
- The National Prevention Strategy: A NewPublicHealth Q&A With Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. Upon its launch, we spoke with the Surgeon General about the nation's plan for increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.
- Teen Birthrates Down in U.S. But Still Lag Behind Other Developed Nations. This article looked at the April Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the latest stats on teen childbirth, such as, "Girls born to teen mothers are about 30% more likely to become teen mothers themselves."
- Health Literacy: Reducing the Burden of a Complex Healthcare System. During Health Literacy Month, NewPublicHealth caught up with Linda Harris of the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and Cindy Brach of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality about federal efforts to improve health literacy and to reduce the burden of a complex healthcare system.
- The County Health Rankings 2011: Mobilizing Action to Improve Health. NewPublicHealth's very first post announced the second annual County Health Rankings, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that provides a standard way for counties to see where they are doing well and where they are not so they can make changes to improve health.
- What to Expect at the Health Data Initiative Forum: A Q&A With Todd Park. The Forum, presented by HHS and the Institute of Medicine, convened more than 500 people to showcase how health data can provide a rich seeding ground for new tools to support more informed decision-making by consumers, healthcare systems and community officials. NewPublicHealth spoke with Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at HHS, to get his take on health innovation.
- HHS Leading Health Indicators: Health By Some New Numbers. NewPublicHealth was on the ground at the APHA Annual Meeting covering top news, including the announcement of the latest Leading Health Indicators from HHS, a set of the top national high-priority health issues and actions that can be taken to address them.
- Housing Policy is Health Policy: A NewPublicHealth Q&A With HUD's Raphael Bostic. Raphael Bostic of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spoke with NewPublicHealth about the role of housing in health, and new collaborations across sectors that recognize that providing healthier, more affordable housing can lead to significant health outcomes.
Runners up included Q&As with CDC Director Thomas Frieden and Virginia Comonwealth University researcher Steven Woolf; a post on public health mobile phone apps and a commentary on the popular movie Contagion.
These were just a handful of the conversations that captured our readers' interests this year. Keep reading in 2012 for the latest in public health and new ways to prevent disease and health crises where they begin—in our communities.
Thanks for reading and for your always insightful comments. Have a happy, healthy New Year and we'll see you in 2012!
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday rejected an application to make Plan B, an emergency contraceptive pill, available without a prescription for girls younger than 17. The drug is already approved for sale without a prescription for girls and women over the age of 17. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had planned to approve the availability for younger girls. HHS Secretaries are permitted to overrule an FDA decision, though this is the first time a Secretary has done so, according to the FDA. Read more on sexual health.
Women may be able to reduce their risk for breast cancer by avoiding unnecessary medical radiation, avoiding use of use of combination estrogen-progestin menopausal hormone therapy, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and avoiding tobacco use, according to a new report on environmental risk factors for breast cancer released yesterday by the Institute of Medicine.
According to the new report, evidence also indicates a possible link to increased risk for breast cancer from exposure to benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and ethylene oxide, which are chemicals found in some workplace settings and in gasoline fumes, vehicle exhaust, and tobacco smoke. But avoiding personal use of hair dyes and non-ionizing radiation emitted by mobile devices and other technologies probably do not impact a woman’s risk for breast cancer, and there is insufficient data on the link between some other chemicals and an increased risk for breast cancer including bisphenol A (BPA), pesticides, ingredients in cosmetics and dietary supplements. Get more news on developments in cancer research and prevention.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded 17 grants to universities in 13 states aimed at improving the safety of the U.S. food supply. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the grants, which focus on areas including laboratory research and grower and consumer education. Read more on food safety.
Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, reports on some key public health concerns for children and teens in the current issue, published online today.
Giving the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine to children 12 months of age and older has significantly increased protection for infants too young for the shot, according to a study in the December 2011 issue of Pediatrics. The researchers say that before varicella vaccination began for children 12 months of age and older in 1995, infants were four times more likely to die from a varicella infection compared to children ages 1 to 14 years. Researchers tracked cases in children under 1 year of age from 1995 to 2007 and found that the infections declined by 90 percent even though infants were not eligible for the vaccine. The researchers say that because exposure to the virus continues to occur, improving vaccination coverage in all age groups will further reduce the risk for infants. Get more vaccine news.
The recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that infants sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, has resulted in an increase of reports of babies with positional skull deformities (flat heads). The AAP has issued a revised clinical report to help pediatricians differentiate between infants with positional skull deformities and infants with a more serious condition that can lead to neurological damage or severe deformity. According to the report, most positional skull deformities can be corrected with physical therapy and noninvasive measures and special helmets—which can costs hundreds to thousands of dollars and are often not covered by insurance—are rarely necessary. The AAP says that if the condition appears to be worsening by 6 months, referrals should be made to pediatric neurosurgeons to decide if intervention is needed. Read more on maternal and infant health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that in addition to teens receiving a meningococcal vaccine at age 11 or 12, a booster shot should also be given at age 16. Adolescents who get their first dose of meningococcal vaccine at or after 16 years of age do not need a booster dose. Additional booster recommendations are included in the policy statement for children who received the vaccine earlier due to certain health conditions and who are at increased risk of disease.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages pediatricians to discuss age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health issues with adolescent male patients during routine office visits. The report also urges the physicians to deliver appropriate sexual and reproductive health care—including taking a sexual history, conducting an examination, administering vaccinations and providing age-appropriate guidance related to sex, relationships and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unintended pregnancy. Read more on sexual health and teen pregnancy.
A policy statement just released by the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that incarcerated youth are entitled to the same standards of medical and mental health care as their peers in the community. The policy statement stresses that clinicians caring for incarcerated youth should have training and expertise in pediatrics or adolescent medicine. According to the policy statement, youth in the juvenile justice system should receive:
- A comprehensive history and physical exam
- Dental screening
- Mental health screening for psychiatric illness, substance abuse and neurological and developmental disorders
- HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing
- Pregnancy screening for all girls beyond the age of puberty
The policy statement also points out that that youth in prison have higher rates of substance abuse and mental health disorders and urges pediatricians to advocate for interventions that will be linked to continued care in the community following prison release.
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report finds that the number of new syphilis cases in the U.S. has fallen for the first time in ten years, but cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea are up. The report also finds that sexually transmitted diseases continue to impact minority groups disproportionately. Read more on sexual health.
A parent survey in the journal Academic Pediatrics finds that drivers of four to nine year-old children say their children’s seat belts often don’t fit correctly. The researchers suggest that clinicians should encourage the use of size-appropriate child passenger restraint systems, including car seats and booster seats, instead of seat belts, which may not fit well for this age group. Read more safety news.
New HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic, according to a new report by the United Nation’s Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS. New HIV infections decreased by 21 percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005. Read about a recent effort to usher in a global AIDS-free generation.
Some of the most interesting conversations overheard at the recent American Public Health Association annual meeting were among public health students discussing their plans to work in the developing world after graduation. Those plans often include a round trip ticket, says Jennifer Kates, Vice President and Director of Global Health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who says overseas public health posts build skills that often come back home. CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, for example, worked in India for six years where he helped develop that country’s tuberculosis treatment program.
The inter-connectedness of U.S. and global health was underscored in a major address by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week at the National Institutes of Health. The Secretary pointed to recent, significant HIV and AIDS-related research findings and treatment advances largely spearheaded by U.S. funding and scientists. “[U.S.] efforts,” said Secretary Clinton, “have helped set the stage for a historic opportunity… to change the course of this pandemic and usher in an AIDS-free generation.”
“The Secretary’s speech was an important marker to think about in a world that has changed its response to HIV,” said Kates. “It’s a marker because of who it was, that it was a policy goal, and that has not been a goal before,” said Kates.
Among the recent advances:
- Research that shows the potential for voluntary medical male circumcision to reduce HIV incidence
- Earlier initiation of AIDS treatment to reduce the likelihood of one partner passing HIV to another, uninfected one
- Studies on the effectiveness of using vaginal microbicides to prevent infection in women
- Pre-exposure preventive treatment in heterosexual and homosexual populations
“These approaches, combined with behavioral interventions, condom access, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, syringe exchange programs, and other initiatives present the opportunity to make real progress against the epidemic, said Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, in response to Secretary Clinton’s address.
Secretary Clinton went on to explain exactly what she meant by an AIDS-free generation: “one where virtually no children are born with the virus; second, as these children become children and adults, they are at far lower risk of becoming infected than they would be today thanks to a wide range of prevention tools; and third, if they do acquire HIV, they have access to treatment that helps them from developing AIDS and passing the virus on to others.”
Additional advances are expected to be announced when the annual International AIDS Conference returns to the U.S. this July for the first time in 22 years. Conferences organizers decided decades ago not to allow the conference to be hosted by countries that banned entry to travelers who are HIV-positive. The U.S. ban was lifted in July 2010.
>>This continues a series of discussions around the impact of global health efforts here in the U.S. Read a related Q&A with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jennifer Kates around the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases. In a Q&A with Public Health Newswire about the U.N. meeting and other topics, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who was a delegate at the meeting, said, “all nations need to apply what we can learn from other countries beyond our borders that are facing very similar public health challenges—and from leaders around the world who are on the vanguard of addressing the risk factors.” Read the full Public Health Newswire Q&A with Lavizzo-Mourey here.
>>Read more on global health.
The birth rate for U.S. teens age 15 to 19 years hit a record low in 2010, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, the birth rate for teenagers in this age group has declined for the last three years and 17 out of the past 19 years, falling to 34.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in 2010. That’s a 9 percent decline from 2009 and the lowest rate ever recorded in nearly seven decades of collecting data. And birth rates for younger and older teenagers and for all race/ethnic groups reached historic lows in 2010, according to the report. Read more on teen pregnancy.
By 2050, the number of people 90 and older may reach 9 million, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, commissioned by the National Institute on Aging. In 1980, there were 720,000 people aged 90 and older in the United States. By 2010, there were 1.9 million people aged 90 and older. Read more on the health of older adults.
More than 100,000 primary care providers have signed up to adopt certified electronic health records with help from Regional Extension Centers, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). ONC is supporting investment in electronic health record in hopes they will help improve quality of care and ultimately lower health care costs. Read more on health technology and public health informatics.
Advocates say the immediate response should be a call to 911. “That’s an emergency, a child is being assaulted,” says Mitru Ciarlante, director of the Youth Initiative at the National Center for Victims of Crime. Trained operators will then contact the police and dispatch experts trained to handle the specific assault that has occurred. “Every one of us is responsible for keeping children safe,” says Ciarlante.
If you suspect abuse is taking place but haven’t witnessed it, calling the police can be a more intimidating step, says Ciarlante, who suggests instead calling Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD. The hotline line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 170 languages. The hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential.
Almost all groups who handle children crises have updated their websites since the news broke at Penn State to better help the public seek out help for children who might be in trouble, says Ciarlante. While many are baffled by the alleged hesitation to call authorities at Penn State, Ciarlante says many people hesitate to report crimes against children for a variety of reasons. They may not be sure abuse is taking place, for example, or may not be able to admit the seriousness of the problem for a range of personal reasons.
Experts at Stop It Now, the Child Sex Abuse Prevention and Protection Center, say they hope the cases being investigated at Penn State can be a catalyst to bring attention to the issue of sexual abuse of children in the U.S. Over 90,000 children are sexually assaulted in America each year. Many more take place but are never reported, says Ciarlante.
“The indicators help communicate high-priority health issues to the public and actions that can be taken to address them,” said Howard Koh, MD, Assistant Secretary of Health at HHS, at the briefing this morning. The indicators also give health professionals a chance to narrow their focus when it comes to the health of Americans. Healthy People 2020, which the leading indicators are linked to, contain 42 topic areas, nearly 600 objectives, and close to 1200 measures. “Through these… measures, communities can identify vital health issues and track how they are doing compared to other communities,” said Dr. Koh.
The new indicators include some of the usual, though critical, suspects including violence and injury prevention but also include two new measures that public health officials cheered at the announcement today—oral health and social determinants. The other indicators include access to health services, clinical preventive services, environmental quality, maternal, infant and child health, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and obesity, reproductive and sexual health, substance abuse and tobacco. According to HHS, preparedness was not selected because the topic is new and there’s a lack of historical data, however the agency will continue to monitor the issue to see if it should be included in the future.
The indicators were developed by HHS advisory groups and the Institute of Medicine, which released a report on leading health indicators several months ago.
Todd Park, HHS Chief Technology Officer, today announced a related app challenge at this morning’s briefing. “We’re launching a new application development challenge to bring technology innovators and public health mavens together to develop tools that can be used to help communities apply the power of the Leading Health Indicators to improve health,” said Park. The contest ends in March, and will be available at challenge.gov.
Weigh In: Do you have an idea for a leading health indicator app that would benefit communities?
>>Follow the rest of our APHA 2011 Annual Meeting Coverage here.