Category Archives: Housing
Study: Genetics Could Keep People from Quitting Tobacco
Is genetics to blame for a recent plateau in the numbers of people who smoke? Quite possibly, according to a new study by Jason Fletcher, PHD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Yale School of Public Health. Cigarette smoking in the United States dropped sharply after the release of a landmark Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco was released in 1964, according to Fletcher, a former Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society scholar. But in the last two decades smoking cessation has stopped its descent, despite increased efforts from both the private and public sectors. Fletcher’s study, published in PLOS ONE, says some smokers may have a variation of a nicotine gene receptor that does not respond to social efforts to reduce smoking, such as higher taxes and clean-air laws that prohibit smoking in many public places. The study found that smokers with a specific nicotine genetic variant decreased their tobacco use by nearly 30 percent when faced with high tobacco taxes, while smokers with an alternative genetic variant had no response. Fletcher says the study “is an important first step in how to further reduce adult smoking rates.” Read more on tobacco.
Regular Exercise Can Add Years to a Person’s Life
Regular exercise can help extend a person’s life for years, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Specifically, researchers found white men who were physically active at the age of 20 lived about 2.5 years longer than non-active white men. However, the most dramatic findings were for black women, who lived an average of six years longer if they exercised for about 2.5 hours a week. "We were able to show that if black women engage in an hour of vigorous activity like jogging or swimming, that would extend their lives by 11 hours,” said Ian Janssen, study author and an associate professor who studies physical activity at Queen's University in Ontario. Researchers said there could be other contributing factors to the longer lifespans, such as diet, and the subject needed further research. Read more on aging.
HUD: Number of Homeless People Down Slightly in 2012
The number of homeless people is down slightly—0.4 percent—from last year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “We continue to see a stable level of homelessness across our country at a time of great stress for those at risk of losing their housing,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a release. “We must redouble our efforts to target our resources more effectively to help those at greatest risk. As our nation’s economic recovery takes hold, we will make certain that our homeless veterans and those living on our streets find stable housing so they can get on their path to recovery.” The analysis is a part of HUD’s 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness. Read more on housing.
Though temperatures early this week in New York City have climbed to nearly 60 degrees, by Wednesday the overnight low is expected to drop below freezing. That’s why the city’s health department has issued a hypothermia warning to people in homes still without heat. As of last week, according to the Mayor’s Office, 11,000 people in the region still had not had their power restored. Some families have power but still no heat because pipes damaged by the storm have not yet been fixed.
“The weather is getting colder,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, MD, MPH, told New Yorkers. “Living in cold buildings is not good for your health. If your building heat is not going to be restored very soon, look for another warm place to live until it is. And check on your family, friends and neighbors, especially those who are vulnerable, to see if they need help getting to a warm place. Hypothermia, or very low body temperature is a life-threatening condition. It occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Hypothermia can happen gradually and without the person realizing how serious it is.”
According to Farley, the symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, weakness, sleepiness, confusion, and lack of coordination. In infants, signs of hypothermia may include cold, bright red skin, or very low energy. A body temperature below 95°F (35°C) is a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately.
Substandard housing has been linked to a variety of health problems including higher blood lead levels in children and an increased asthma risk. Now a new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy finds kids living in poor housing may also be at an increased risk for fire and scald burns. The research was published in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers surveyed the homes of 246 low-income families in Baltimore with at least one young child, and found homes with more housing quality code violations were less likely to have a working smoke alarm and safe hot water temperatures. "The effect of substandard housing on children’s risk of diseases such as asthma is well-known, however little was known about how it affects injury risk,” says Andrea Gielen, ScD, ScM, the study’s lead author and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. “The results of this study clearly demonstrate that substandard housing is also related to home injury risks, Gielen adds. "Even more disturbing is the finding that virtually all of the children in our urban sample were living in substandard housing."
Injury is the leading cause of death for young people in the U.S., and is responsible for more than180, 000 deaths annually, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from fires and burns are the third leading cause of fatal home injury. Smoke alarms and lower water temperatures reduce the risk of burns, says Gielen, but living in substandard housing appears to be a barrier to having these protective measures in place.
- Read a NewPublicHealth post on how low income families can get free smoke alarms
- Read a NewPublicHealth National Prevention Strategy series interview with Estelle Richman, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the intersection of housing and health.
- Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Andrea Gielen on injury prevention.
Childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable. So what's stopping us from eliminating it all together?
This week marks the 13th annual National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a chance to energize efforts to keep all kids safe from the dangers of lead-based paint.
Nearly one million children are affected by lead poisoning in the United States today, with 38 million U.S. households currently at risk. Lead poisoning knows no boundaries and can affect children of all races and ethnicities, in rural and urban communities, and at every socioeconomic level.
Recently, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Ad Council rolled out a new partnership with the goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning in the United States. Facts about lead poisoning:
- If not detected early, lead paint poisoning causes lifelong learning disabilities, hearing loss, speech delays, developmental disabilities and aggressive/violent behaviors
- Children under age 6 are most at risk for lead poisoning
- Any home built before 1978 is at risk for lead-based paint hazards
Lead poisoning prevention resources are available at www.LeadFreeKids.org, including information on:
Watch a Public Service Announcement from the Ad Council about the danger lead-based paint continues to have on young children.
Read more on lead poisoning prevention:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a map of healthy home efforts from health departments across the country.
- HUD’s Healthy Home Rating System helps identify household conditions that affect health and safety. Download the HHRS Hazards Chart to learn more about all dangers – in addition to lead – found in the home.
>>Read a Q&A on local lead laws and their impact on ending childhood lead poisoning.
$5M in HUD Grants to Improve Communities, Housing
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is giving nearly $5 million in grants to 17 communities. The Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants will go toward improving distressed neighborhoods—both public and HUD-assisted housing—with grantees collaborating with local stakeholders. “While many of these grantees have already collaborated to get to this stage, this funding enables them to take their initial discussions further to plan out strategies to build stronger, more sustainable communities that will address distressed housing, failing schools, rampant crime, and all that plagues the nation’s poor neighborhoods,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative represents the next generation in a movement toward revitalizing entire neighborhoods to improve the lives of the residents who live there.” Read more on housing.
Study: HPV Vaccine Does Not Increase Girls’ Sexual Activity
A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows receiving the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination does not make girls more likely to become pregnant or contract sexually transmitted diseases. The concern over either is one of the main arguments of groups who believe the vaccination will make girls more likely to be sexually active, according to Reuters. "Some parents have expressed it as a concern," said Saad Omer, an Emory University researcher who worked on the study. "Parents can be reassured at least based on the evidence that young girls who receive HPV vaccines did not show increased signs (of) clinical outcomes of sexual activity.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends girls and boys ages 11-12 be vaccinated. Read more on vaccines.
Even Regular Sitters Who Exercise at Greater Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease
Even people who exercise regularly are risk of diabetes and heart disease if they sit too regularly—double the risk of those who do not, according to a new study in the journal Diabetologia. Researchers compared the results of nearly 800,000 people, demonstrating that even those who meet the recommended daily activity level put themselves at greater risk by sitting for prolonged periods. "Our study also showed that the most consistent associations were between sitting and diabetes," said Emma Wilmot, MD, a research fellow in the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Leicester. "This is an important message because people with risk factors for diabetes, such as the obese, those of South Asian ethnic origin or those with a family history of diabetes, may be able to help reduce their future risk of diabetes by limiting the time spent sitting." Read more on obesity.
Suicide Kills More Americans Than Car Crashes
More Americans now commit suicide than die in car crashes, making suicide the leading cause of injury deaths, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 2000 to 2009 and found that the leading causes of unintentional deaths were car accidents, poisoning and falls; for intentional deaths they were suicide and homicide. Deaths from intentional and unintentional injury were 10 percent higher in 2009 than in 2000. Read more on injury prevention.
Secondhand Smoke’s Toll Heavy on African-Americans
A study of the impact of secondhand smoke in 2006 found that more than 41,000 American adults and nearly 900 infants died of secondhand smoke-related diseases, according to new study in the American Journal of Public Health. The study also found that African-Americans had a much greater exposure to secondhand smoke than whites, particularly among African-American men ages 45-64. African-American women ages 20-44 had a higher exposure rate than any other group of women. Read more on tobacco.
Mental and Physical Health Improves for Many When People Move Out of Poorer Neighborhoods
A new study published in the journal Science finds that when families were given vouchers to move from impoverished neighborhoods to ones that were less poor, the adults in those families experienced lasting improvements in mental health and physical well-being. Read more on housing.
IDSA Issues New Strep Throat Guidelines
Most sore throats are the result of a virus—not the bacteria that causes strep throat—so should not be treated with antibiotics, according to new guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) appearing in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Strep throat, caused by streptococcus bacteria, should be treated with penicillin or amoxicillin, assuming the patient is not allergic. The IDSA also recommends against removing the tonsils of children who suffer repeated cases of strep throat. Read more on infectious disease.
USDA Grants to Provide Housing for Farm Workers in Rural Communities
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced new grants to develop farm labor housing. “These grants will help communities submit quality applications to increase their chances of getting funding to build much-needed affordable housing for farm workers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Increasing the supply of affordable housing in rural communities not only helps the residents, it helps the entire community.” You can go here to read more about submitting applications. Read more on housing.
Climate Change Could Lead to Increase in Avian Flu
A new report in Biology Letters by researchers from the University of Michigan says that climate change—among all its other many effects—could also increase the rate of avian influenza in wild birds. They utilized a mathematical model to show how climate change could alter the interactions between birds and crabs in Delaware Bay, increasing the rate of infection and expanding from there to other areas. “We’re not suggesting that our findings necessarily indicate an increased risk to human health,” said Pejman Rohani, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, a professor of complex systems and a professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health. “But every single pandemic influenza virus that has been studied has included gene segments from avian influenza viruses. So from that perspective, understanding avian influenza transmission in its natural reservoir is, in itself, very important.” Read more on environment.
CDC: Millions of Americans with High, Untreated Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects 67 million of U.S. adults, or almost one-third, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And as many as 36 million of those aren’t treating the condition properly. High blood pressure contributes to about 1,000 deaths each day and about $131 billion each year in health care costs. The CDC says the key to treating high blood pressure in U.S. adults is for everyone—from patients to providers—to act together as a team. “We have to roll up our sleeves and make blood pressure control a priority every day, with every patient, at every doctor’s visit,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “With increased focus and collaboration among patients, health care providers and health care systems, we can help 10 million Americans’ blood pressure come into control in the next five years.” Read more on heart health.
HUD Releases New Lead-Paint Guidelines for Housing Providers
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released new Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing, updating its guidance from 1995. The guidelines are designed to help property owners, government agencies and private contractors dramatically reduce childhood exposure to lead while still keeping renovation costs as low as possible. “HUD is committed to providing healthier housing for all families,” said Jon L. Gant, Director of HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. “These Guidelines will help communities around the nation protect families from lead exposure and other significant health and safety hazards.” Read more on housing.
People More Likely to Guzzle Beer from a Curved Glass than a Straight One
A new study in PLoS ONE shows social drinkers will drink beer almost twice as fast from a curved glass than they will from a straight one—meaning they will become intoxicated far quicker. Researchers at the University of Bristol School of Experimental Psychology said this could be because it is harder to judge the amount consumed when using a curved glass. “Due to the personal and societal harms associated with heavy bouts of drinking, there has been a lot of recent interest in alcohol control strategies,” said Angela Attwood, PhD, adding that “[p]eople often talk of ‘pacing themselves’ when drinking alcohol as a means of controlling levels of drunkenness, and I think the important point to take from our research is that the ability to pace effectively may be compromised when drinking from certain types of glasses.” Read more on alcohol.
Study Details Bullying Involvement for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Approximately 46 percent of adolescents with autism are the victims of bullying, according to a new study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Network publication. Bullying is harmful behavior coming from a position of power, whether physical, social or cognitive. There is still very little research on bullying related to adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the study’s researchers. The study’s authors concluded that bullying intervention strategies need to address core ASD deficits, such as conversational ability and social skills, while also increasing social integration, empathy and social skills. Read more on bullying.
The twelfth HIA International Conference held this week in Quebec will be the first to take place in North America. Health impact assessments (HIAs) bring together scientific data, health expertise and public input to identify potential health effects of proposed laws, regulations, projects and programs, providing decision-makers with the information they need to advance smarter policies for safe, healthy, thriving communities.
Alain Poirier, MD, chair of the conference local organizing committee and former minister of health and social services in Quebec says the location provides an excellent opportunity for Americans and Canadians, who have not attended this HIA conference in large numbers previously, to learn what is going on in the field across the world, particularly now that HIA is a burgeoning field in the United States. An updated map from the Health Impact Project, a joint program of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, offers an updated look at HIAs completed or underway in the United States. According to the Health Impact Project, in 2007, there were only 27 completed HIAs in the U.S. but the map now counts 100 completed and more than 200 total HIAs. The built environment is the most popular field for HIAs in the country right now, with over 70 completed or in process, followed by transportation, agriculture and food, natural resources, and food and housing.
The map details some recent critical examples of HIAs in the United States:
Economic Policy: New Hampshire State Budget. An HIA will inform lawmakers on how funding changes in parts of the state budget might affect the health of residents.
Built Environment: San Pablo (CA) Corridor. This HIA addressed the health implications of placing affordable housing units along the San Pablo Corridor, a high traffic transit and retail corridor in Richmond and El Cerrito, Calif.
Housing: Trinity Plaza Housing Redevelopment. This HIA examined a proposed redevelopment project in San Francisco that would demolish an older apartment building with over 360 rent-controlled units, and replace them with 1,400 market-rate condominiums.
>>Recommended Reading: NewPublicHealth frequently covers emerging HIA projects across the country. Read about HIAs that examined the potential health impacts of:
How does housing impact health?
A new commentary in the journal Health Affairs tracks the history of health and housing in the United States and says that while a connection between housing conditions and public health has been known since the 1800s, federal housing policy only began during the Great Depression. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has increased awareness of that connection since the agency was founded in the 1960s.
HUD’s housing initiatives have included:
- Prohibitions on lead and gasoline in HUD housing
- Programs to allow HUD tenants to move to more affluent neighborhoods
- Integration of health-oriented policies with other departments including the Department of Health and Human Services
Authors of the commentary worry that current congressional funding policies lead to “predetermined silos,” which could impede the needed integration of projects among federal agencies. HUD’s adoption of a health in all policies approach, according to the authors, “signals an active recognition that the investments have implications for social determinants of health and ultimately for the health of the populations HUD serves.”
>>Read the full article.
>>Bonus Links: Read a NewPublichealth interview with one of the commentary authors, Raphael Bostic, called “Housing Policy is Health Policy” and an interview from our National Prevention Strategy Series with Estelle Richman, senior advisor to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.