Category Archives: Injury Prevention
We hate to be the bearers of buzz kill, but folks should think about adding “safety” to their holiday wish lists this year. Researchers at the Consumer Product Safety Commission say there are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Last year the most frequently reported holiday accidents seen in emergency departments involved falls (34%), lacerations (11%) and back strains (10%). And from 2009 through 2011, fire departments nationwide responded to an average of 200 fires in which the Christmas tree was the first item ignited—resulting in 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss for those years. Candle-related fires during holidays between 2009 and 2011 resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss.
Best tips for avoiding Holiday fires: discard sets of holiday lights with evidence of damage such as broken sockets and bare wires; water Christmas trees frequently; and always extinguish candles before leaving a room.
Here are our top five safety tips for the holidays culled from the websites of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration:
FDA Proposes New Rules for Proving Effectiveness, Safety of Antibacterial Soaps
A new proposed rule from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to prove not only that their products are more effective than normal soap when it comes to preventing illness and infections, but that they are also safe for daily long-term use. Products that can’t meet these standards would need to be reworked before coming to market. The regulatory move comes as research suggests that not only are antibacterial products not helpful, but they could also be harmful in the long term, leading to bacterial resistance and hormonal problems. Hand sanitizers, wipes and other antibacterial products used in health care settings would not fall under the new regulations. “Antibacterial soaps and body washes are used widely and frequently by consumers in everyday home, work, school, and public settings, where the risk of infection is relatively low,” said Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “Due to consumers’ extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk.” Read more on infectious disease.
NIH, NFL to Research Ways to Diagnose, Treat Traumatic Brain Injuries
New research projects from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) will explore methods to diagnose and treat chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in football players and others who experience head injuries and concussions. Current science only allows health care professionals to diagnose the traumatic brain injuries after death. "This is a public health problem," said Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "We don't know the mechanics of the head injuries that lead to this, the number and severity that is required to get this. We don't know whether certain people based on their genes are more susceptible or not. There are a lot of questions to be answered." The National Football League will cover $12 million of the $14 million in research costs. Earlier this year the league agreed to pay as much as $765 million to former players who accused the league of covering up and downplaying the risks of brain injury. Read more on mental health.
Studies: Multivitamins, Supplements Don’t Improve Overall Wellness
Daily multivitamins and mineral supplements don’t prevent heart problems or memory loss, and are also not linked to longer lives, according to three new studies in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers said the findings indicate that U.S. consumers should stop taking the dietary supplements, which are part of a multibillion-dollar U.S. industry. "We believe that it's clear that vitamins are not working," said Eliseo Guallar, MD, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, adding “"The probability of a meaningful effect is so small that it's not worth doing study after study and spending research dollars on these questions." Read more on nutrition.
Telehealth Technology Could Help Obese Youth Get Better Treatment, Lose Weight
Telehealth technology—a secure computer system that enables patients to speak “face-to-face” with doctors who are far away—could be an effective strategy to help obese youth who are trying to lose weight, according to new research from UCLA. With a multidisciplinary approach often the prescribed for treating obesity, telehealth services would reduce travel time while giving patients access to expertise that might not be available in their area. This would be especially helpful for low-income families. The UCLA study linked UCLA health care providers with patients at their local health clinics, finding that 80 percent of the 45 study subjects were happy with the technology and would use it again. "One surprise was how natural it was to talk with each other through the telehealth system, even though we never met the patients in person," said lead author Wendy Slusser, MD, medical director of the Fit for Healthy Weight program at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and director of pediatric wellness programs at the Venice Family Clinic. "The interaction was very much like being in the same room together. Some kids even thought it was fun to see themselves on the screen." Read more on access to health care.
Study: Psychiatrists Less Likely than Other Doctors to Accept Insurance
Psychiatrists are less likely than other doctors to accept private insurance, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers analyzed government data from 2005 to 2010, which surveyed approximately 1,250 doctors each year, finding that from 2005 to 2010 the percentage of psychiatrists who accepted private insurance dropped from 72 percent to 55 percent. In comparison, over that same time the rate for doctors in other areas only dropped from 93 percent to 89 percent. While the study does not explain the vast difference, Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said reimbursement is a major concern, according to Reuters. "Many doctors can't afford to accept insurance because (insurance companies) don't pay them for the time," he said. "It involves taking more time with the patient and often treating them with psychotherapy.” Read more on mental health.
Even Mild Hits to the Head Can Cause Brain Damage
Even mild hits to the head that don’t cause concussion can still lead to problems with memory and thinking, according to a new study in the journal Neurology. Researchers equipped 80 football and ice hockey players with special helmets that gathered data on mild hits; while none of the players were diagnosed with a concussion, they still showed signs of deficits in thinking after the season. "This suggests that concussion is not the only thing we need to pay attention to," said Tom McAllister, MD, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "These athletes didn't have a concussion diagnosis in the year we studied them ... and there is a subsample of them who are perhaps more vulnerable to impact. We need to learn more about how long these changes last and whether the changes are permanent." Read more on injury prevention.
HealthCare.gov: After Fixes, More Enroll in First Two Days of December than Did in All of October
The five weeks spent working on many of the problems of the HealthCare.gov website seem to have been time well spent, with more people signing up for the new health insurance in the first two days of December than were able to enroll in all of October. About 29,000 signed up for the insurance, made possible by the Affordable Care Act, on Sunday and Monday; only about 27,000 people signed up in October when the site first went live. While the final numbers have not been released, about 100,000 are estimated to have signed up via the site in November. The website is used in 36 states, with fourteen states and Washington, D.C. running their own sites. Read more on the Affordable Care Act.
Boston Adds Rentable Bicycle Helmets to Bikeshare System
Boston is working to improve the safety of people who use Hubway, the city’s popular bikeshare system, by installing the first vending machine for renting bicycle helmets. The HelmetHub street kiosk will be located at the Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue Hubway Station. Riders will be able to rent a helmet for 24 hours for $2, or purchase one to keep for $20; they will be sanitized and inspected after each use. The city intends for this test kiosk to be the first of many throughout Boston. Read more on safety.
Study: Social Ties, More than Biology, Responsible for Changes in Teen Sleep Times
Social ties—especially with parents and friends—may be more responsible than biology for whether a teenager gets enough sleep. While past studies have linked biological development factors to why children tend to sleep less as they age into teenagers, a new study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior ties the trend more closely to the quality of the teen’s social ties. In an analysis of data on almost 1,000 kids ages 12 to 15—during with the average sleep time drops from 9 hours per school night to 8 hours—researchers concluded that teens who felt that they were a part of school, who were close to their friends and especially who had parents who were active in their life were more likely to get more sleep. "Research shows that parents who keep tabs on their kids are less likely to see them get into trouble or use drugs and alcohol," said David Maume, a sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati. "My findings suggest a similar dynamic with sleep. Parents who monitor their children's behavior are more likely to have kids that get adequate rest. Given that children generally get less sleep as they become teenagers, parents should be ever more vigilant at this stage.” Read more on pediatrics.
NHTSA: Motorcoaches, Large Buses to Require Seatbelts for All Passengers and Driver
New motorcoaches and large buses will be required to provide lap and shoulder seatbelts for all passengers and driver, under a new rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While the buses are an overall safe way to travel, the large numbers of people they carry and the high speeds at which they travel mean a single collision can lead to a significant number of injuries, according to NHTSA. An average of 7,934 riders are injured each year in motorcoaches, and an average of 21 passengers are killed. "Buckling up is the most effective way to prevent deaths and injuries in all vehicular crashes, including motorcoaches," said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro, in a release. "Requiring seat belts in new models is another strong step we are taking to reach an even higher level of safety for bus passengers." The rule will apply to buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 pounds,) excluding transit buses and school buses. Read more on transportation.
Study: Women With Breast Cancer Should Get Mammograms Every 12 to 18 Months
Breast cancer patients should undergo mammograms every 12 to 18 months to determine whether their cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, according to a new study to be presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Study researcher Lilian Wang, MD, evaluated more than 300 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer because of a routine mammogram, dividing them into three groups based on their treatment history. She found that only 9 percent of the women who had 12- to 18-month intervals between mammograms saw their cancer spread to their lymph nodes; the rates were 21 percent for those who waited one-and-a-half to three years and 15 percent for those who waited three or more years. "If you catch someone with early stage cancer, they are going to need less extensive surgery, and maybe no chemo," said Laura Kruper, MD, director of the Cooper-Finkel Women's Health Center at the City of Hope Cancer Center, in Duarte, Calif., who was not a part of the study. "[The new study] adds more power behind the fact that we do need screening mammograms starting at age 40 and every year.” Read more on cancer.
FDA: Certain HeartStart AEDs May Not Work During Cardiac Emergencies
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that certain automated external defibrillator (AED) devices made by Philips Medical Systems may not function properly when needed. In a new safety communication, FDA revealed that the devices may not deliver the needed shock to restore normal heart rhythm during a cardiac emergency. “The FDA advises keeping all recalled HeartStart AEDs in service until you obtain a replacement from Philips Healthcare or another AED manufacturer, even if the device indicates it has detected an error during a self-test,” said Steve Silverman, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Despite current manufacturing and performance problems, the FDA considers the benefits of attempting to use an AED in a cardiac arrest emergency greater than the risk of not attempting to use the defibrillator.” Read more on heart health.
Earlier this year, fans of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks set a record for outdoor stadium noise with a volume of 136.6 decibels. That record stood for a mere four weeks—the Kansas City Chiefs hit 137.5.
The fans revel in it—both records were set in part through the encouragement of fan organizations—and this record-seeking behavior is encouraged by teams and the league.
“Fans know they are going to a football game and not searching for a book at a library,” said Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman.
However, according to a recent story in The New York Times, such loud revelry at sporting events comes with severe costs for people’s hearing health. Elliott Berger, an acoustical engineer at 3M, said the average volume during an NFL game hovers at around 90 decibels. Considering the fact that an average NFL game lasts about three hours—and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends limiting exposure to levels that high to 60 minutes—by going to football games people are putting themselves at serious risk for partial deafness and ringing, or even hyperacusis, an intolerance to sound that sometimes can cause pain.
While this may be alright (although very unhealthy) for the casual fans who only attend a few games per year, people who already have auditory problems are at substantial risk. And it’s something that even a simple set of earplugs or earmuffs can prevent.
“People think it’s cool or funny or whatever, but there is increasing evidence that if your ears are ringing, damage is happening,” said M. Charles Liberman, a professor of otology at Harvard Medical School and the director of a hearing research lab at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. “There’s something irreversible going on. It’s only going to worsen as you get older.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.
Study: State Car Seat, Seatbelt Laws Leave Children Vulnerable to Injury, Death
Many state laws on car seats and seatbelts are not current with regards to modern research or are inconsistent from state to state, leaving children vulnerable to injuries or even death, according to a new study in the journal Social Science and Medicine. Researchers look at child passenger safety laws from 1978-2010 across all 50 states [Editor’s note: Go here for an interactive map]. “These laws do not keep up with the published evidence, and even when they do, there are some cases where the laws are unclear,” said Jin Yung Bae, JD, MPH, the study’s lead author, and associate research scientist at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. Approximately 250,000 children are injured and 2,000 are killed each year in the United States because of vehicle crashes, which many of these preventable, according to the study authors. The study was conducted by a team from New York University in collaboration with Temple University, and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Public Health Law Research. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also funded the study. Read more on injury prevention.
USDA Announces Grants to Improve Rural Housing
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that organizations in 45 states, the Western Pacific and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive grants to make housing repairs and improve housing conditions for limited-income rural residents. The funding is through the USDA Rural Development's Housing Preservation Grant program and will be provided to intermediaries such as local governments; public agencies; federally-recognized Indian Tribes; and non-profit, faith-based and community organizations. The organizations distribute the grants to homeowners and owners of multi-family rental properties or cooperative dwellings who rent to low- and very-low-income residents. Grants may be used to make general repairs, such as installing or improving plumbing, providing or enhancing access to people with disabilities and making homes more energy efficient. Read more on housing.
CDC’s Emergency Management Program Receives Full EMAP Accreditation
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has become the first federal agency to achieve full accreditation of its emergency management program from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP). “Accreditation is a serious accomplishment for CDC and the emergency management community we support,” said Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. “Preparing for and responding to emergencies of any kind—natural disasters, bioterrorism events, chemical terrorism or pandemics—is a core function of public health. Everyone at CDC has a hand, at one point in time, in emergency management and execution.” EMAP’s six steps to accreditation are subscription, self assessment, application, on-site assessment, committee review and accreditation decision. Thirty one states; the District of Columbia; and 14 U.S. cities and counties are accredited. Read more on preparedness and accreditation.
Workplace Injuries Cost U.S. Healthcare System $13.1B in 2011
With nearly the highest injury rate of all U.S. industries, workplace injuries cost the U.S. healthcare system approximately $13.1 billion and more than 2 million lost workdays in 2011, according to a new study in the journal Professional Safety. “Healthcare worker injury rates are only less than outdoor wilderness professions, such as commercial loggers and fishermen. The injury rates are sky high," said report author Scott Harris, PhD, MSPH, the director of EHS advisory services for UL Workplace Health and Safety. The study found that 15.2 million employees were injured that year alone, with the most common injuries coming from slips, trips, falls, violence and chemical exposure; nurses experienced the highest rates. The report concluded that hospitals “would benefit from more rigorous and frequent inspections from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” Read more on injury prevention.
Even Healthy Overweight People at Increased Risk for Heart Disease
Even overweight people who are otherwise healthy are at increased risk for heart disease, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. Previous research indicated that higher-than-normal risk was linked to a collection of risk factors known as “metabolic syndrome,” including large waist circumference, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low "good" cholesterol and diabetes. People have metabolic syndrome if they have at least three of the risk factors. However, in a study of 71,527 adults without heart problems, researchers determined that risk went up as weight went up, even if metabolic syndrome factors were absent. "Whether you call someone as having or not having metabolic syndrome as kind of a yes/no variable, is not helpful clinically and it doesn't make sense biologically," said Meir J. Stampfer, from the Harvard School of Public Health, according to Reuters. "It's basically just that the metabolic syndrome is waiting to happen to those people." Read more on obesity.
New Statin Guidelines Call For Greater Use
New guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology could dramatically increase the number of people taking cholesterol-lowering statins. The guidelines call for people to take statins if they already have heart disease, if their bad (LDL) cholesterol is extremely high (190 milligrams per deciliter of blood or more) or if they're middle-aged with type 2 diabetes. They also advise statins for people who are 40-75 years old with an estimated 10-year risk of heart disease of 7.5 percent or more. Previous guidelines had advised doctors to follow rigid clinical guidelines that trigger statin use when cholesterol levels reach a certain threshold. The new policy "suggests treatment should be individualized and that, depending on your risk, you may need a higher dose of a more potent statin than if your risk is lower," said Hector Medina, MD, a cardiologist at Scott & White Healthcare in Round Rock, Texas, according to HealthDay. Read more on heart health.
Construction Workers Frequently Impacted by Pain and Stress
Construction workers are frequently stressed about work-related injuries and pain, but often fail to get help for either, putting themselves at risk for additional injuries and mental health issues, according to a new study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The researchers, based at the Harvard School of Public Health, reviewed data compiled by the School’s Center for Work, Health and Wellbeing and found that the construction industry has one of the highest rates of work-related injuries and suicides in the U.S. workplace, as well as a high prevalence of musculoskeletal pain among its workers. The researchers also conducted a mental health survey of 172 New England construction workers at four construction sites. Sixteen percent of the workers reported being distressed, 75 percent had experienced musculoskeletal pain over the previous three months and 42 percent reported one or more work injuries in the preceding month. A follow-up survey found that more than half of those who previously said they felt distressed had not sought professional help—likely, say the researchers, because of fear of stigmatization or job loss. Read more on injury prevention and mental health.
USPSTF: Cannot Recommend For, or Against, Vitamin Supplements to Help Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease
Citing the fact that there is simply too little evidence to make a conclusion either way, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded at this time that it can’t recommend for or against taking vitamin and mineral supplements to help prevent cancer and heart problems. In a draft statement, the panel also ruled that neither beta-carotene nor vitamin E should be taken to prevent heart disease or cancer; beta-carotene was previously found to exacerbate the risk of lung cancer for people who were already at high risk. The researchers analyzed data from 26 studies between January 2005 and January 2013, which included people across an array of demographics, finding no difference between those who took the supplements and those who took placebos. Vitamin supplements are a $12 billion per year industry in the United States. Read more on prevention.
Study: Simple Urine Test Could Identify Young Type 1 Diabetes Patients with Highest Risk of Heart, Kidney Disease
A basic urine test could help doctors prevent heart and kidney disease in kids who are at higher risk due to their type 1 diabetes, according to a new study in the journal Diabetes Care. As many as 40 percent of youth with type 1 diabetes may be at increased risk for the health problems. Researchers at the University of Cambridge, in England, analyzed data on more than 3,300 diabetes patients between the ages of 10 and 16; an estimated 490,000 kids worldwide have type 1 diabetes. "Managing type 1 diabetes is difficult enough without having to deal with other health problems," study lead author David Dunger. "By using early screening, we can now identify young people at risk of heart and kidney disease. The next step will be to see if drugs used to treat heart and kidney disease—such as statins and blood-pressure-lowering drugs—can help prevent kidney and heart complications in this young, potentially vulnerable population.” Read more on pediatrics.
Study: Acetaminophen Use and Even Light Drinking Dramatically Raises Kidney Dysfunction Risk
Acetaminophen use when paired with even moderate or light drinking can increase the risk of kidney dysfunction by 123 percent, according to a new study released today at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting in Boston. Using data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers analyzed data on more than 10,000 people who were asked questions about their alcohol consumption, use of acetaminophen and health conditions. “Pain is the most common symptom among the general public and is also most frequently self-treated with acetaminophens,” noted Harrison Ndetan, lead researcher of the study. “Where this becomes a greater concern is among young adults, who have a higher prevalence of alcohol consumption. These findings highlight a serious concern among health professionals who deal frequently with pain patients, particularly those with mild pain who are more susceptible to consuming both.” Read more on substance abuse.
Flight Attendants: Expanded Use of Electronic Devices In-flight Needs Reworked Safety Messaging for Flyers
The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week to let passengers use electronic devices—but not make cell phone calls—during all phases of a flight has flight attendants concerned that the ruling could compromise passenger safety if flyers are distracted by the devices when the cabin crew makes its safety announcements before takeoff.
Most airlines will introduce the new rule on devices by the end of the year. To qualify they have to assure the FDA that their fleet’s airplanes can tolerate any potential radio interference from the devices. Flight attendants would like heavy devices stored under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing for added safety. In a statement released just after the FAA ruling, the Association of Flight attendants said “AFA will work diligently alongside the FAA and industry to find creative, science-based approaches to ensure that passengers comply with the new operator policies and that their attention is not diverted from the important safety information provided by cabin crew during routine pre-flight briefings and unexpected emergencies, and that risks posed by loose items in the cabin are safely managed during the most critical portions of [a] flight.” Read more on injury prevention.
Two Questions Could Help Diagnose Strep, Reduce Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescriptions
“Do you have a cough and have you had a fever in the last 24 hours?” These two simple questions could help people determine whether they need to see a doctor for strep throat, which could in turn limit unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. While high fevers can indicate strep, coughs do not. The study found the questions, when paired with an accounting of how common strep infections were in a particular area, where nearly as effective as lab tests at determining whether a patient actually had a strep infection. "This enables us to use the test of time," said co-study author Dr. Kenneth Mandl, a professor of bioinformatics at Harvard. "If we determine that you're low risk and most cases will not have an important complication from strep anyway, then you can be followed clinically rather than come in for a test right away, and you may improve." About 15 million people in the United States see a doctor for a sore throat each year, with 70 receiving antibiotics; estimates indicate that only 20-30 percent of children and 5-15 percent of adults actually benefit from the medications. Read more on prescription drugs.