Category Archives: Health and Human Services

Jul 25 2011

Public Health News Roundup: July 25

HHS Seeking Public Comments on Protecting Human Research Subjects

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is requesting public comment on issues related to the ethics, safety, and oversight of human research, according to a news release. The proposed changes are designed to strengthen protections for human research subjects. The comment period ends in late September.

Deaths from Chicken Pox Decline Sharply with Vaccination Introduction

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that use of the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine in the U.S., first introduced in 1995, has reduced the death rate from the disease by 97 percent among children and adolescents. The researchers reviewed data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics from 1990-2007. The authors note that the previous one dose recommendation was changed to two doses as of 2006, which may reduce the death rate from chicken pox even further.

Women More Likely to Self-Test than Return To a Clinic for Follow-Up Chlamydia Screening

A study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology finds women at risk for chlamydia are more likely to undergo screening if they can do the testing at home rather than at a clinic.

Kids With ADHD Less Likely to Follow Crosswalk Rules

A new study in Pediatrics finds that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are less likely than children without the disorder to cross safely at crosswalks. The children with ADHD crossed with smaller gaps in traffic and less time to spare between reaching the end of the crosswalk and the next car driving by.



Jul 15 2011

Public Health News Roundup: July 15

Smoking in Movies Aimed at Kids Drops for Fifth Straight Year

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that smoking in top grossing child-oriented films has dropped for the fifth year in a row. The study shows a nearly 72 percent drop since 2005 in smoking images in top-grossing movies rated G, PG or PG-13, from 2,093 incidents in 2005 to 595 in 2010.

HHS Awards $95 million to 278 School-Based Health Clinics

The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $95 million to 278 school-based health centers that serve close to 800,000 students, according to a news release from the agency. HHS expects the award to help the centers to expand their services by over 50 percent.

Social Security Adds 12 Heart Conditions to Expedited Benefit Process

The Social Security Administration has announced compassionate allowances for twelve heart conditions, which can expedite benefits for people who meet the agency’s criteria.

Smoking in California Hits Record Low

California health officials say smoking rates in the state are down to 11.9 percent, a new low. And the latest figures make it only the second state so far to achieve a federal target of reducing adult smoking rates to 12 percent by 2020 so far.

>> NEWS ROUNDUPS: Catch up on previous stories you may have missed

Jun 29 2011

Public Health News Roundup: June 29

U.S. Agencies Launch Food Safety Campaign

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration have launched a joint national multimedia public service campaign, Food Safe Families, to help prevent food poisoning at home.

Study Confirms Mammograms Save Lives

A 29-year Swedish study published in the journal Radiology has found that mammogram reduce breast cancer deaths even more than had previously been thought. The study included over 130,000 women ages 40 to 74. For the entire group, the study found 30 percent fewer deaths from breast cancer compared to women who did not receive mammograms. The benefit was smaller, but still apparent, for women in their 40s.

Study: Tobacco Sales to Minors at Record Low

Tobacco sales to minors fell to an all-time low in 2010 after increasing in 2009, a new report shows.

Obesity Responsible for Many Premature Deaths in Non-Smoking Women

Obesity is an important contributor to premature death in women who have never smoked, especially among women in low income groups, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

Low-Income Families Taking in Too Little of Vital Nutrients

An assessment of the diets of 100 low-income families in Nebraska found that over 70 percent were not taking in adequate levels of certain nutrients, including vitamins A and C, protein, calcium and iron. The study was published in the Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal. The researchers say eating together as a family, particularly at breakfast, might help individuals consume more of the food groups that will help supply vital nutrients, such as dairy products, fruit and fruit juices.

Jun 27 2011

HHS Emergency Text Message Tool Kit: Txts Cn Sv Lives

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a toolkit of public health emergency text messages. In an emergency such as flooding, power outages, or severe storms, for example, public health departments can send the messages to community members who have signed up for the service.

The messages contain brief reminders, toll-free phone numbers and links to websites for more information. Examples include:

  • Prevent child drownings. Keep kids from playing in or around flood water. More info from CDC 800-232-4636 or
  • Keep generators 25 ft outside door/window. Don't grill inside. Fumes can kill. More info from CDC 800-232-4636
  • Don’t drive through floodwater; it can be deeper than you think. More info from CDC 800-232-4636 or

Before, during and after an emergency such as severe flooding, health departments can download and distribute the text messages using their existing cell phone emergency message distribution systems. To receive the texts, community residents can sign up with the local emergency management office.

According to HHS, the messages, all limited to 115 characters, can be used as received or tailored to specific local emergencies. Health departments can register by emailing to receive current, new and updated text messages. Over 400 state and local health agencies have signed up so far.

Weigh In: Have you used text messaging to alert community residents to an emergency or potentially dangerous situation?

Jun 21 2011

Tobacco Label Changes Spur Online Discussion

Today’s release of the final nine tobacco warning labels marks a historic change for public health.

After 25 years featuring just text warnings, tobacco manufacturers will now need to blanket 50 percent of tobacco packaging and 20 percent of tobacco advertising with images and language graphically depicting the health impact of tobacco use.

Today and tomorrow, two live Twitter Q&A events will help put these changes in context and dig deeper into the negative effect of tobacco use on individual and community health.

At 2:30 p.m. ET today, @FDATobacco will host a live Twitter Q&A featuring Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Lawrence Deyton, Director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They will take questions from the audience about the new warning labels. You can participate by using the hashtag #cigwarnings.

At 2:00 p.m. ET tomorrow, @RWJF_PubHealth is proud to host Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman in a live Twitter Q&A about the fight to reduce tobacco use and Livestrong’s recent $500,000 grant to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. You can use the hashtag #AskDoug to weigh in on Wednesday. will also feature a live feed tomorrow allowing readers without a Twitter account to follow along.

More tobacco-related resources from

>> U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin writes about today’s release of the new tobacco labels

>> Interactive store counter photo showing how store displays will change with new warning labels.

>> In-depth Q&A with Doug Ulman of Livestrong

>> Interactive tobacco map shows latest data on state smoking laws

>> Idea Gallery piece from Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Cheryl Healton of Legacy calling on Major League Baseball to ban the use of smokeless tobacco

>> Full tobacco coverage from

Jun 13 2011

Public Health News Roundup: June 13

HHS Adds Eight Substances to Carcinogens List

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.

CDC Issues First Report on Bathroom-Related Injuries

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.

Kids Vaccine Uptake High In USA, But Parental Concerns Persist

The percentage of American kids getting all their shots has never been higher. However, parents continue to be concerned about vaccines' safety.

Groups Release Action Agenda on Chemical Exposures

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.

Multi-State Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Mail Order Chicks and Ducklings

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.

Jun 9 2011

Public Health News Roundup: June 9

FDA: High Dose Of Popular Cholesterol Medicine May Damage Muscles

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.

Live HHS, IOM webcast today: Harnessing the Power of Data to Improve Health

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.

Lifestyle You Lead Today May Affect Generations to Come

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.

Feds Seeks to Close African-American Health Gap

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.

Strenuous exercise may protect brain

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.

Jun 8 2011

What to Expect at the Health Data Initiative Forum: A Q&A with Todd Park


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: is the site that we launched in February that is the universal inventory of all the data that we’re making publicly available. On, 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 Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.

Jun 1 2011

Conoce las Preguntas (Know the Questions)

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 ServicesAction 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.

May 6 2011

Public Health News Roundup: May 6

Majority of U.S. Hospitals Meet Preparedness Benchmarks

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.

FDA Releases Guidance on New OTC Liquid Dose Measuring Devices

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.

US on Track for Most Measles Cases in a Decade

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.

Drug Firms to Discontinue Infant Acetaminophen Drops by Later this Year

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.

Costs Associated with Food Allergies: $500 Million Per Year

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.