Category Archives: News roundups
CDC Study Finds No Significant Change in Use of Smokeless Tobacco
From 2005 to 2010 there was no significant change in the percentage of U.S. working adults who used smokeless tobacco, according to the new National Health Interview Survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2005, approximately 2.7 percent of workers reported using smokeless tobacco, with the percentage climbing slightly to 3.0 percent in 2010; males (5.6 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (4.0 percent) reported the highest usage, followed by adults ages 25-44 years, people with no more than a high school education and people living in the South (all 3.9 percent). By industry, smokeless tobacco use was most common in mining (18.8 percent), and by occupation it was most common in construction and extraction (10.8 percent). According to the CDC, these findings indicate opportunities to engage workers with tobacco cessation efforts, such as providing employee health insurance coverage for proven cessation treatments; offering help for those who want to quit; and establishing and enforcing tobacco-free workplace policies. Read more on tobacco.
6,000 Steps Per Day May Improve Knee Arthritis, Reduce Future Disability Risk
Walking 6,000 steps a day—or about one hour at the average person’s pace—may both help improve knee arthritis and prevent further disability, according to a new study in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. In a study of approximately 1,800 adults who either had knee arthritis or were at risk, researchers found that for every 1,000 steps a person took a day, their functional limitations were reduced by 16-18 percent. The study also pegged 6,000 steps as the target to reach to ensure the healthiest results. Approximately 27 million Americans age 25 and older live with osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis and often referred to as “wear-and-tear arthritis,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Read more on physical activity.
Study: Great Recession Contributed to Additional 10,000 Suicides in North America, Europe
Stress and other health issues resulting from the Great Recession were associated with more than 10,000 additional economic suicides—suicides in response to financial hardship—between 2008 and 2010 in North America and Europe, according to a new study in The British Journal of Psychiatry. While job loss, debt and foreclosure can increase the risk of suicidal thinking, researchers determined that many such suicides could have been avoided. They recommend upstream return-to-work programs, antidepressant prescriptions and other interventions as ways to mitigate the risk of economic suicides if and when another economic downturn strikes. Read more on the prevention.
Adolescents ages 12-17 in foster care are significantly less likely to talk to a parent or guardian about the dangers of substance use compared to other adolescents, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report found that while 58.9 percent of adolescents living with biological parents have these discussions and 57.6 percent of adolescents living with adoptive parent have the talks, that percentage drops to 51.1 for adolescents in foster care. “Youth in foster care may face special challenges that make it essential that they, like other youth, get effective substance use prevention messaging,” said Frances M. Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. “We need to explore innovative approaches to providing this prevention messaging to them—especially in ways that also engage parents and guardians. That’s why we’re very excited about our new national public service campaign, Talk. They Hear You....[which] empowers parents and caregivers to talk to their children as young as nine years old about the dangers of underage drinking.” Read more about substance abuse.
DOT Announces Grants to Improve Transportation that Gets People to Job Training and Other Services
The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced about $100 million in competitive grant funds through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Ladders of Opportunity Initiative. The funds can be used to modernize and expand transit bus service specifically for the purpose of connecting disadvantaged and low-income individuals, veterans, seniors, youths and others with local workforce training, employment centers, health care and other vital services.
Proposals from organizations seeking grants must directly address ladders of opportunity for riders, including:
- Enhancing access to work for individuals lacking ready access to transportation, especially in low-income communities
- Supporting economic opportunities by offering transit access to employment centers, educational and training opportunities, and other basic needs
- Supporting partnerships and coordinated planning among state and local governments and social, human service and transportation providers to improve coordinated planning and delivery of workforce development, training, education and basic services to veterans, seniors, youths and other disadvantaged populations
“Over half of the roughly 10 billion transit trips taken each year in the United States are by bus—and nearly half the buses people depend on are in marginal or poor condition,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan. “This new initiative will help ensure that millions of riders can count on safe, efficient, reliable bus service that connects them with opportunities and services so and services so essential to daily life.” Read more on transportation.
Study Finds Link Between Risk of Breast Cancer and Number of Moles
In the future, physicians may be able to improve early breast cancer screening and treatment with a quick count of the number of moles on a patient’s arm, according to a two new studies in the journal PLOS Medicine. American and French researchers, in two separate studies, found a link between the number of moles on a woman’s arm and their risk of breast cancer—one study found that women with 15 or more moles on a single arm were 35 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than were women with no moles. The scientists said one plausible reason for the link is that these women have higher estrogen levels; estrogen can feed the growth and spread of many breast tumors, and research also connects the hormone to moles. However, researchers also noted that more study was needed to reach a definitive conclusion. "Don't panic,” said Barbara Fuhrman, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, in an editorial accompanying the studies. “This is very interesting biologically, but it probably doesn't tell us a lot about an individual woman's risk of breast cancer. It probably tells us more about the general etiology [causes] of breast cancer." Read more on cancer.
FDA: Pregnant Women Should Eat More Fish Lower in Mercury
Pregnant women should be eating more fish that is lower in mercury, according to new draft advice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the FDA, pregnant women should eat 8-12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week of fish that are lower in mercury to support fetal growth and development. “For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, MD, the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.” The draft advice also includes new guidelines for breastfeeding women, those who might become pregnant and young children. Read more on maternal and infant health.
Study: Direct, Indirect Costs of Autism are Substantial
It costs an average of $2.4 million to support a person with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and an intellectual disability throughout the course of their life in the United States and $1.4 million to support someone with an ASD but without an intellectual disability, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. With children, the largest contributors to that total are special education services and parental productivity loss. For adults, the largest contributors are residential care or supportive living accommodation and individual productivity loss; adult medical costs are also much higher. According to the researchers, these substantial direct and indirect economic effects illustrate the need to develop more effective interventions to alleviate the strain on families. Read more on pediatrics.
CDC: 29M People in the U.S. have Diabetes—and One in Four Don’t Realize It
More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes—and one in four don’t even realize it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The total estimate is up from 26 million in 2010. According to the CDC, one in three U.S. adults (86 million) have prediabetes, meaning their sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes; an estimated 15-30 percent of these people will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years unless they lose weight and increase their physical activity. “These new numbers are alarming and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country,” said Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “Diabetes is costly in both human and economic terms. It’s urgent that we take swift action to effectively treat and prevent this serious disease.” Read more on diabetes.
NIH Researchers Publish Review of Key Marijuana Adverse Health Effects
As more states consider legalizing marijuana, researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—a division of the National Institutes of Health—have published a review of adverse health effects of the drug, including impaired driving. The review was published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine and the study authors consider a number of key concerns including:
- Rising marijuana potencies
- Possible health consequences of secondhand marijuana smoke
- Long-term impact of prenatal marijuana exposure
- According to the reviewers, research suggests that marijuana impairs critical thinking and memory functions during use and that these deficits persist for days after using
- A long-term study showed that regular marijuana use in the early teen years lowers IQ into adulthood, even if users stopped smoking marijuana as adults.
“It is important to alert the public that using marijuana in the teen years brings health, social, and academic risk,” said lead author and NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. NIDA offers additional information on the consequences of marijuana here. Read more on substance abuse.
Social Media is a Largely Untapped Communications Tool for Health Policy Researchers
As social media use continues to expand, it also presents a growing opportunity for health policy researchers to communicate with both the public and policy makers. However, few of these researchers appear to be using social media to the best of its potential in this field, according to a new study in the journal Health Affairs. The study, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, examined 325 health policy researchers, finding that only 14 percent of participants reported tweeting and only 21 percent noted blogging about their research in the past year. Many cited fears that social media would not be compatible with their research, the creation of professional risks and the lack of respected it is given by their peers or their academic institutions as obstacles to social media use. “Historically, the communication gap between researchers and policy makers has been large,” concluded the authors. “Social media are a new and relatively untested tool, but they have the potential to create new communication channels between researchers and policy makers to help narrow that gap.” Read more on technology.
Study: Many Preschool-aged Children Spending Too Much Time in Front of TVs, Computers
Many three- and four-year-olds are spending more than twice the recommended amount of time—two hours—in front of computers and television screens, according to a new study in the journal Child Indicators Research. Utilizing data on 2,221 preschool-aged children from the 2007 Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey, researchers found that 55.7 percent of children had a television in their bedroom and 12.5 percent had high home screen time, defined as more than four hours each weekday. They also found that 56.6 percent of children had access to a computer at home and 37.5 percent had used it on the last typical weekday. In addition, 49.4 percent of children used a classroom computer for more than one hour each week and 14.2 percent played computer games at school for more than five hours each week. “This research should be used as a foundation for additional studies-- particularly those that look at educational screen time versus entertainment screen time,” said Erica Fletcher, a PhD student at Ohio State’s College of Public Health and lead on the project. “It’s a critical time to dive deeper into that. Since the data were collected, devices with screens like tablets and smart phones have become more affordable and are increasingly being used in the classroom. That has helped narrow the economic ‘digital divide’ on accessibility.” Read more on pediatrics.
Overly Clean Homes Can Increase Child’s Risk of Asthma, Allergies
Living in an overly clean home can actually increase an infant’s risk of developing allergies or asthma as they grow older, as their bodies are not given the chance to develop appropriate responses, according to a new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The researchers behind the study were surprised by the results, as they had been looking deeper into data that found that exposure to roach, mouse and pet droppings and other allergens increased asthma risk. "What we found was somewhat surprising and somewhat contradictory to our original predictions," said study co-author Robert Wood, MD, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, according to HealthDay. "It turned out to be completely opposite—the more of those three allergens you were exposed to, the less likely you were to go on to have wheezing or allergy." Approximately 40 percent of the allergy- and wheeze-free children in the study were raised in homes with high amounts of allergens and bacteria, while only 8 percent who suffered from both conditions had been exposed to allergens and bacteria while infants. Read more on pediatrics.
Study: Prenatal Medicaid Policy Reduces Smoking, But Doesn’t Improve Preterm Birthweights
While a Medicaid policy that fast-tracks applications of pregnant women helps reduce smoking during pregnancy, it has no significant effect on improving preterm birth rates or low birth weights, according to a new study in the journal Health Affairs. The study specifically looked at Medicaid’s presumptive eligibility and unborn-child option, which provides coverage for prenatal care. “Although the prevalence of prenatal smoking in the United States has declined in recent decades, it is nearly twice as high among low-income women enrolled in Medicaid than it is in the U.S. population as a whole,” said Marian Jarlenski, PhD, lead author of the paper. “Our research shows that Medicaid’s presumptive eligibility policy led to a nearly 8 percentage-point decrease in smoking during pregnancy, but neither policy significantly improved rates of preterm birth or babies born small for their gestational age.” Read more on maternal and infant health.
CDC: Watercress Tops ‘Powerhouse’ Fruits and Vegetables List
With a “nutrient density score” or 100.00, watercress tops the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new list of “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables. The list of 41 foods was created as a tool for nutrition education and dietary guidance. The study defined “powerhouse” as foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk, which are often green leafy, yellow/orange, citrus and cruciferous items. Chinese cabbage, chard, beet green and spinach rounded out the top five. The full list is available here. Read more on nutrition.
Application Problems Mean 2.2M People Risk Losing ACA Coverage
Inconsistencies in their application data means that approximately 2.2 million people who enrolled for coverage under the Affordable Care Act could risk losing their coverage in isolated cases. A report from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that 1.2 million people filed health insurance enrollment applications with questionable income data, 461,000 had issues with citizenship and another 505,000 had issues with immigration. However, CMS also noted that 59 percent of the applications were within a 90-day window allowing them to resolve the problems. “Consumers experience regular changes in income and various life circumstances and the law accounts for these kinds of situations," said CMS, according to Reuters. "It is not surprising that there are income discrepancies given that this is a brand new process." As of mid-April more than 8 million people had enrolled for health coverage. Read more on the Affordable Care Act.
Study: Skipping Breakfast Doesn’t Hurt Efforts to Lose Weight
Common wisdom holds that people who skip breakfast actually increase their risk of obesity. However, a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that passing up on the first meal of the day neither helps nor hurts a person’s efforts to lose weight. The study involved 309 overweight and obese adults between the ages of 20 and 65—who were told to either eat or skip breakfast—and a control group provided with health nutrition information. Researchers found no difference when it came to efforts to lose weight. "The field of obesity and weight loss is full of commonly held beliefs that have not been subjected to rigorous testing; we have now found that one such belief does not seem to hold up when tested," senior investigator David Allison, director of the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center, said in a university news release. "This should be a wake-up call for all of us to always ask for evidence about the recommendations we hear so widely offered." Read more on obesity.
HHS: $300M Available to Expand Services at Community Health Centers
An additional $300 million in funding is available to community health centers as part of the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this week. The funds will go toward expanding service hours and the hiring of more medical providers, as well as the expansion or addition of oral health, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services. There are approximately 1,300 health centers operating more than 9,000 service delivery sites and providing care for more than 21 million U.S. patients. Read more on community health.
FDA Initiative Gives Developers Easy Access to Public Health Data
A new online initiative from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), openFDA, will give mobile application creators, web developers, data visualization artists and researchers access to the agency’s vast public health datasets in order to streamline the creation of their own applications. The structured, computer-readable format allows researchers to determine what types of data they want to search and how they want to present that data to end-users. “The openFDA initiative leverages new technologies and methods to unlock the tremendous public data and resources available from the FDA in a user-friendly way,” said Walter S. Harris, the FDA’s chief operating officer and acting chief information officer. “OpenFDA is a valuable resource that will help those in the private and public sectors use FDA public data to spur innovation, advance academic research, educate the public, and protect public health.” Read more on technology.
Study: 24 Million U.S. Youth Exposed to E-cigarette Advertisements
Unlike with traditional cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the marketing of e-cigarettes unless they are advertised as a smoking cessation aid. As a result, e-cigarette companies currently market their products to an audience that includes 24 million youth, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers determined that, from 2011 to 2013, youth exposure to e-cigarette advertisements climbed 256 percent and young adult exposure climbed 321 percent. They also determined that approximately 76 percent of the youth exposure came from advertisements on cable networks. Read more on tobacco.
Study: Global Investment in Midwives Needed to Save the Lives of Mothers, Newborns
Investments in midwifery could save the lives of millions of mothers and newborns, according to a new report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The report determined that 73 African, Asian and Latin American countries experienced 96 percent of the world’s maternal deaths, 91 percent of stillbirths and 93 percent of newborn deaths, with lack of access to midwives a significant contributing factor. Those countries have only 42 percent of the world’s midwives, nurses and doctors.
- Among the report’s recommendations:
- Increased access to preventive and supportive care from a collaborative midwifery team
- Immediate access to emergency services when needed
- Completing post-secondary education
- And, from a broader perspective, women should delay marriage, have access to healthy nutrition and receive four pre-birth care visits
"Midwives make enormous contributions to the health of mothers and newborns and the well-being of entire communities. Access to quality health care is a basic human right. Greater investment in midwifery is key to making this right a reality for women everywhere," said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, in a release. Read more on maternal and infant health.
Study: Medicaid Patients Receive Poorer Cancer Care
People on Medicaid receive poorer cancer care than people with private insurance, according to three new studies presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. Researchers determined that Medicaid patients are less likely to have their cancer caught at an earlier, more treatable phase, as well as far more likely to die from cancer. One of the factors contributing to this disparity is the fact that Medicaid patients have less experience navigating the health care system. "Research has shown that we can screen more patients, but that they get dropped along the way to treatment. We don't give them full access into curative therapy," said Jyoti Patel, MD, an oncologist at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, who's also a spokeswoman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology. "We need to do a better job to make sure that people who aren't savvy or can't advocate for themselves have that helping hand." Read more on health disparities.
CDC: Norovirus is the Leading Cause of Disease Outbreaks from Contaminated Food
Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 20 million people in the United States are sickened by norovirus annually. According to the CDC, because infected workers are often the source of these outbreaks, the food service industry can help prevent outbreaks by enforcing safety practices, including:
- Making sure food service workers practice proper hand washing and use utensils and single-use disposable gloves to avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands
- Certifying kitchen managers and training food service workers in food safety practices
- Establishing policies that require food service workers to stay home when sick with vomiting and diarrhea and for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop
Read more on food safety.
N.C. Program Successful in Expanding Dental Care to Young, Low-income Children
A North Carolina program to reduce cavities in young, low-income children, has significantly increased the number of children under the age of four receiving preventive dental care since the program began in 2000, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The program works to train physicians in basic dental screening and preventive techniques that can be provided quickly and effectively during regular office visits. “Evaluation studies conducted since the initiation of the program in 2000 have found it to substantially increase access to preventive dental services for young, high-risk children who otherwise would be unlikely to use these services in dental offices, reduce caries-related treatments and costs, avert hospitalizations and improve oral health status,” said study was co-author R. Gary Rozier, DDS, MPH, professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, in a release. Read more on pediatrics.
EPA Plans to Cut Carbon Emissions 30 Percent by 2030
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans today to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The new Clean Power Plant proposal would be the first to cut emissions from existing power plants, which produce approximately one-third of the country’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA estimates the proposed changes will help the United States avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children and up to 490,000 missed work or school days. "Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, adding “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.” Read more on air and water quality.
Study: Tax on Total Calories in Sugary Drinks the Most Effective Way to Reduce Consumption
Tying a sugary drink tax to the amount of calories in a drink rather than its serving size would be more effective at reducing their consumption, according to a new study in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. The study, which was financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, determined that such a tax of four-hundredths of a penny for every calorie would reduce calorie consumption by 9.3 percent; a tax of half a cent for each ounce in a can or bottle would reduce consumption by only 8.6 percent. “It provides a better incentive to the consumer to switch to lower-calorie drinks, which would be taxed at a lower rate than higher-calorie drinks,” said Chen Zhen, MD, a research economist at the food and nutrition policy research program at Research Triangle Institute and the lead author of the study, according to The New York Times. “One of the concerns about taxing ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages is that consumers are paying the same tax whether they buy 12 ounces of a drink with 150 calories or 12 ounces of a drink with 50 calories.” Read more on nutrition.
CDC: $19.5M for Innovative Public Health Prevention Research
Late last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $19.5 million to 26 academic institutions for innovative public health prevention research to reduce health disparities. The grants will help the communities develop new methods to avoid or counter risks for chronic health care issues such as heart disease, obesity and cancer. “Prevention Research Centers have reached up to 31 million people in 103 partner communities, some of which are the most underserved in the country,” said Ursula E. Bauer, PhD, MPH., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in a release. “By involving communities in conducting and disseminating research, this network of centers ensures that effective and innovative health strategies can be readily shared and applied where most needed.” Read more on prevention.
FDA: Sunlamps to Require Health Warnings
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final order that requires sunlamp products and ultraviolent (UV) lamps for use in sunlamp products to carry warnings stating that they should not be used by people under the age of 18. The order reclassifies the products from low-risk (class I) to moderate-risk (II). “The FDA has taken an important step today to address the risk to public health from sunlamp products,” said Jeffrey Shuren, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a release. “Repeated UV exposure from sunlamp products poses a risk of skin cancer for all users—but the highest risk for skin cancer is in young persons under the age of 18 and people with a family history of skin cancer.” People who are exposed to UV radiation as a result of indoor tanning increase their risk of melanoma by 59 percent, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Read more on cancer.
CDC: U.S. Measles Cases at a 20-year High
Cases of measles in the United States are at a 20-year high, with international travel by unvaccinated people a major contributor, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports that there were 288 U.S. cases between January 1 and May 23 this year—and 97 percent were associated with importation by travelers from at least 18 countries. Approximately 90 percent of the cases were in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown. “The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, in a release. “Many of the clusters in the U.S. began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013.” Read more on vaccines.
Type of Increased Heart Risk Depends on Which Blood Pressure Number is High
The type of increased heart risk a person with high blood pressure faces depends on which number in their blood pressure—the top, which is systolic, or the bottom, which is diastolic—is high, according to a new study in The Lancet. Researchers analyzed health care date on more than 1 million people ages 30 and older in England, finding that people with higher systolic blood pressure had a greater risk of bleeding strokes and stable angina, while people with higher diastolic blood pressure were more likely to be diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. In addition, they found that a 30-year-old with high blood pressure has a 63 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease, compared with 46 percent for a person with normal blood pressure. "With lifetime risks this high, the need for new blood pressure-lowering strategies is paramount," said lead investigator Eleni Rapsomaniki, MD, from The Farr Institute for Health Informatics Research in London, England, in release. Read more on heart health.