Category Archives: Health and Human Services
Eight new substances have been added to the Report on Carcinogens, a review released periodically by the Department of Health and Human Services. The newly added substances include formaldehyde and styrene, found in a range of materials including cigarette smoke and disposable food containers. The report, required by Congress and prepared by the National Toxicology Program, now includes 240 substances.
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that about 230,000 people were treated for bathroom-related injuries in one year. More than 80 percent of the injuries were caused by falls, and the most common injuries were cuts, scrapes, and bruises. The rates of fractures and hospitalizations were highest among adults ages 65 and older. Installing grab bars could make the bathroom safer for people of all ages, according to the report.
The percentage of American kids getting all their shots has never been higher. However, parents continue to be concerned about vaccines' safety.
Several groups, including the American Public Health Association, have issued an “Action Agenda” to help protect the public from chemical exposures, according to a news release from the APHA.
A recent outbreak of salmonella in several states has been linked to baby chicks and ducklings from a mail order hatchery, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No deaths were reported as a result of the outbreak.
The Food and Drug Administration is beefing up the safety instructions for simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering medication that was the second-most prescribed medicine in the U.S. last year. The agency says the highest approved dose of simvastatin (80 milligrams) has been linked to a higher risk of muscle injury.
Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine will hold a day-long forum bringing together more than 500 people to explore how health data can create tools and applications to support more informed decision-making by consumers/patients, health care systems, and public health and community officials.
Epigenetics researchers investigate the ways that environmental factors -- pollution, emotional stress, physical trauma -- can affect the way people's genetic blueprint is expressed through their physical and emotional development.
As a volunteer for a program organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of Alabama, Robertson is a diplomat, working to erase nagging health disparities between black Americans and all other Americans.
Older people who regularly exercise at moderate to intense levels may have a 40% lower risk of developing brain damage linked to ischemic strokes, certain kinds of dementia and mobility problems.
Health: There's an app for that.
Technology, data, and innovative health apps will be the focus Thursday, June 9, when the Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine hold the second annual Health Data Initiative Forum. The Forum, held at the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, Maryland, will bring together more than 500 people to showcase how health data can create tools and applications to support more informed decision-making by consumers, patients, health care systems and community officials. NewPublicHealth spoke with Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at HHS, about the forum.
NewPublicHealth: How is the conference different this year?
Todd Park: A year’s time makes a substantial difference in turn out. There has been a lot more activity as the ecosystem of innovation has grown. First of all, HHS and partner agencies of the federal government have been liberating broader and broader swaths of data. For example, last year the data was really oriented toward community health performance and quality. The kinds of data that are going to be demonstrated on Thursday as incorporated into solutions on how to improve health and health care--it’s much more diverse, much broader--a deeper array of data than last year. And the range of solutions that are going to be demonstrated and discussed are similarly much more diverse and broader and deeper just because an additional year has passed.
NPH: What are examples of government data that is available for use now?
Todd Park: I’ll start with community health data. We launched something called the Health Indicators Warehouse. It was launched in February of this year. It’s a website that contains national, state, regional, and local community health and health care performance metrics, as well as drivers of health. For example, smoking rates, obesity rates, rates of access to healthy food. It includes over 150 Medicare indicators of prevalence of disease, utilization of services, quality and prevention at the community level, which Medicare has never released before.
NPH: The County Health Rankings make use of government data to compile their rankings. How has this project demonstrated how government data can be used to improve community health?
Todd Park: I think the County Health Rankings is one of the best applications of government data to help mobilize action and improve health performance. The stories I’m hearing about communities gaining additional awareness of their health performance through the rankings and mobilizing local action to improve health have been absolutely terrific.
NPH: What is a new data tool you’d like to highlight?
Todd Park: Another type of data that we actually are liberating is provider directory and quality data. iTriage was an app that was part of last year’s forum. It’s a really cool mobile and web app that helps users research medical situations and find providers. Last year for the forum, they integrated community health centered data that we had made newly downloadable and it was incorporated into the app so community health centers started popping up as options. And thousands of iTriage users have found community health centers through the app as a result. The idea is that instead of making people jump out of their work flow to go to another web site entirely, bring the data to a platform where people already are searching for health information. It strikes me as a much more effective way to do this. And iTriage this year is going to be demonstrating the incorporation of mental health provider data into their platform.
NPH: What else would you point to?
Todd Park: There are going to be over 45 applications demonstrated at the Forum. And there were many more that we would have liked to fit in--we just literally didn’t have the room, [like]:
* Finding healthy food in a food desert
* Clinical trials based on location
* Applications that help providers find and communicate securely with other providers
* Apps that help local leaders--like mayors and county commissioners make better informed decisions
NPH: How is the government-generated health data used beyond apps?
Todd Park: Healthdata.gov is the site that we launched in February that is the universal inventory of all the data that we’re making publicly available. On healthdata.gov, there is an apps expo run by health 2.0, which showcases a growing array of examples of applications that leverage health data to do useful things. The health data is going everywhere. It’s going into a lot of the apps in the app stores, on smart phones. But, it’s also going into services, products, and programs that are just really diverse, and being harnessed by innovators in ways that are very powerful and very subtle. It is making products and services more effective with better data to help do a better job of helping patients and consumers and doctors and employers and millions of other folks who can benefit.
NPH: Where is a place where a public health department might find applications or new technologies that would help them improve the delivery service or information retrieval to an entire community?
Todd Park: There are actually going to be apps and services on Thursday along those lines as well. For example, there’s an application service called Network of Care for healthy communities. It’s a service that can set up a public website for any community that allows citizens to easily see where they are in terms of health status on key indicators versus where they wanted to be. They can find out what other communities are doing to help improve performance on that particular indicator. The web site also makes resources available online to individuals who are looking for help on particular health issues. And ESRI is going to be debuting a new tool called Community Analyst, which is also meant for people looking at health at the community level.
Read previous NewPublicHealth.org Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.
A new multimedia ad campaign, “Conoce las Preguntas” (Know the Questions), from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality and the Ad Council, aims to arm individuals who are Hispanic with questions to ask health professionals.
AHRQ says the campaign is crucial because too few Spanish speakers are asking questions and visiting health professionals right now. Studies conducted by the agency found that some Spanish speakers think asking doctors questions shows disrespect, or they avoid questions because they feel intimidated or embarrassed.
"While Hispanics face challenges in getting access to health care services and a higher rate of [no] insurance, good communication with health care professionals is one step they can take to improve their health and health care quality,” says AHRQ director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.
The campaign includes TV, radio, print and internet ads which offer tips to help Spanish speakers prepare for physician visits by thinking ahead about questions and by using resources on AHRQ’s Spanish language website. And a mobile optionlets users receive health tips text messages on their cellphones.
AHRQ is hoping the new campaign will increase the number of Spanish speakers who visit health professionals. Recent AHRQ data show that 47 percent of adult Hispanics reported not having seen a doctor in 2008, compared with 29 percent of adult non-Hispanics. This included 37 percent of insured Hispanics ages 18 to 64, compared with 29 percent of insured non-Hispanics, as well as 15 percent of older Hispanics versus 10 percent of non-Hispanic seniors. Dr. Clancy says Hispanics are more likely to ask family members, friends and even acquaintances for health information than a health professional.
The new campaign is part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities released in March. The goal of the plan is to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. Read a recent interview NewPublicHealth conducted with Garth Graham, M.D., deputy assistant secretary for minority health, about the Action Plan.
A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that over 75% of U.S. hospitals participating in a national preparedness program met at least 90% of all-hazards preparedness measures.
The Food and Drug Administration has released final manufacturing guidance to manufacturers for measuring devices packaged with non-prescription liquid drugs. The goal of the new guidance is to encourage use of the measuring devices to help prevent accidental overdoses of the products, especially in children.
The United States seems to be on track to have more measles cases than any year in more than a decade, with virtually all cases linked to other countries, including Europe where there's a big outbreak.
Several drug manufacturers have announced that they will stop making and selling infant versions of the pain reliever acetaminophen by later this year. The products have been associated with overdoses that resulted in serious injuries and deaths in infants.
Adding in doctor visits, missed work days and medications bring annual spending in the U.S. on food allergy-related care to $500 million according to a new study. Food allergies impact 4% to 6% of children and 1% to 2% of adults in the U.S., according to the study.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants your thoughts on the new proposed voluntary guidelines for marketing food to children. Comments are due by June 13. The FTC will hold a half-day forum on Tuesday, May 24 for anyone who wants to be heard in person.
The proposed guidelines were released last week by a working group representing four federal agencies — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Food and Drug Administration; the Federal Trade Commission; and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The guidelines include two basic nutrition principles:
- Encourage children to choose foods that contribute to a healthy diet — including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat, extra lean poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and beans.
- Limit foods that include unhealthy ingredients such as saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and sodium.
The proposal calls for food companies to implement the guidelines by 2016; they would have until 2021 to implement the sodium guidelines.
NewPublicHealth recently addressed marketing to children with a post about popular online games created by food companies. And a recent piece from the Public Health Law Network looked at local laws that limit food companies from offering free toys with certain foods.
CONTRIBUTE: Please share your thoughts on the proposed guidelines in the comments area below.
A new survey from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, published online today in the journal Pediatrics, finds that parents rely on a variety of resources when it comes to vaccine information:
• 76% have “a lot” of trust in their child’s doctor
• 26% have “a lot” of trust in other health care providers
• 15% have “a lot” of trust in family and friends
• 23% have “a lot” of trust in government vaccine experts/officials
Vaccine experts at the Department of Health and Human Services hope a new National Vaccine Plan will help improve that last number. The plan, which was released earlier this year, calls for “informed decision making among consumers and health care providers.”
Other goals of the National Vaccine Plan include:
• Developing new and improved vaccines
• Enhancing understanding of the safety of vaccines and vaccination practices
• Ensuring a stable supply of recommend vaccines in the United States
“This plan is a 10-year vision for the nation to more effectively prevent infectious diseases and reduce adverse reactions to vaccines,” says Bruce Gellin, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the National Vaccine Program Office and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health. HHS is holding stakeholder meetings throughout the summer.
HHS also recently released a new vaccines website, which state and local health departments can utilize as a valuable resource on vaccine information.
Weigh in: What strategies has your health department used to improve vaccination rates in your community?
“If you’re not ready every day, you’re not going to be ready for game day.”
That was a key message Nicole Lurie, M.D., MSPH, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, brought to the researchers, students, academics, and public health practitioners on the last day of the 2011 Public Health Systems and Services Research Keeneland Conference.
Lurie said that research on key health issues is pivotal to the National Health Security Strategy -- HHS’ “comprehensive blueprint for dealing with the health consequences of a major man-made or natural disaster or a devastating terrorist attack.”
To implement the plan, Lurie said, America needs resilient communities, strong health and emergency response capabilities, measurement and accountability, and coordinated, integrated resources and investments to plan for and respond to a public health crisis.
For example, our nation’s response to the H1N1 crisis made it clear that the US needs research on surveillance, epidemiological investigations, and lab capacity. The Haiti earthquake proved the need for research on how to best allocate scarce resources.
Lurie also highlighted the need for the field to look beyond its research: “Be sure you [also] learn and use the skills to do it—you’ve got to use your non-research skills to make a difference, to take those findings out to the real world to health departments, community organizations, schools, and businesses. We can’t forget the [Public Health Systems and Services] part of this field.”
“I firmly believe the things we do day in, day out are the things we have to do in an emergency,” said Lurie.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced Partnership for Patients to improve adoption of proven safety measures in hospitals.
AIDS-related Cancer Cases Fall in U.S. (HealthDayNews)
Use of antiretroviral drugs has resulted in a drop in cases of AIDS-related cancers in the U.S., according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. But other types of cancer have increased in this group.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients with no symptoms can still spread genital herpes, raising the question of whether the general population should be screened for the virus.
In return for sharing flu-virus samples, participating countries would get access to low-cost flu vaccines, under a plan being considered by the World Health Organization.
Most Teen Crashes Are Caused by Driver Error (HealthDay News)
Blame distractions and inexperience, not drugs and alcohol, for most teen crashes, according to a study in Accident Analysis and Prevention.
Public health officials understand that health disparities and inequities exist — but they aren’t inevitable.
In an effort to examine and reduce the disparities, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today released two initiatives: the HHS Action Plan To Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity.
NewPublicHealth sat down with Dr. Garth Graham, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, to ask about the implementation and goals of the initiatives.
Here are some of the questions and answers covered in the discussion.
NPH: Tell us about the reports you released today.
Graham: These are two separate — but related — plans. One has been developed by the community for the community. The second is an HHS strategic plan that describes a set of actions the department will take to reduce health disparities.
NPH: And, what’s the timetable?
Graham: Right now — within the confines of existing resources. And part of the plan will be to evaluate what we’re doing as we go along to see if we need to re-chart our course.
NPH: Which groups does the plan address?
Graham: This plan addresses racial and ethnic minorities. But the department has a number of efforts we’re also going to highlight in subsequent initiatives to address groups such as the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and those with disabilities.
NPH: How are you spreading the word about these initiatives?
Graham: We are going on the road. This is meant to be out there in the community. We’ll start bringing together folks. There was an event today in D.C., but also in eleven other places in the country, reflective of the fact that we want this to be very much a community-driven activity.
NPH: What if you find additional ideas as you travel around?
Graham: This is a roadmap. If folks identify things in communities they want to see happen, it will be changed.
NPH: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the 2011 County Health Rankings last week. How do the initiatives released today correlate?
Graham: This action plan directly complements the County Health Rankings’ ability to look at where the problems are. This provides another data point in terms of what we need to do.