Category Archives: Nutrition
WIC Expands to Offer More Options to 9 Million Poor Women and Children
Newly announced changes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children—also known as WIC—will expand access to fruits, vegetables and whole grains for approximately 9 million poor women and young children. The changes include an increase over 30 percent, or $2 per month, in the allowance for each child's fruit and vegetable purchases. They also allow fresh produce instead of jarred infant food for babies. The changes, which were recommended by the Institute of Medicine, mark the first comprehensive revisions to the voucher program allowances since 1980. Read more on nutrition.
Survey Finds Majority of Hispanic Adults Are Not Confident in Their Understanding of Key Insurance Terms
While the majority of white, non-Hispanic adults feel confident in their understanding of key insurance terms, the same cannot be said for Hispanics. According to the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS), only one in four Hispanic adults express confidence in their understanding of terms such as “premium,” “copayment” and “deductible.” This disparity is an impediment to Affordable Care Act marketplace and Medicaid enrollment. The findings demonstrate the need for culturally appropriate education campaigns and bilingual navigators to provide assistance in target communities. The quarterly HRMS is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Read more on health disparities.
New Program to Train Police Officers in Bleeding Control for Mass Casualty Victims
As part of ongoing efforts to increase the number of survivors of active shooter or mass casualty incidents, more than 36,000 police officers across the country will receive bleeding control kits and training this year. The goal is to train officers to slow or stop bleeding at the scene before other first responders arrive. The five-step “THREAT” approach:
- T - Threat suppression
- H – Hemorrhage control
- RE – Rapid Extrication to safety
- A – Assessment by medical providers
- T – Transport to definitive care.
The initiative is led by the Hartford Consensus, a collaborative group of trauma surgeons, federal law enforcement and emergency responders, and driven by the American College of Surgeons, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Prehospital Trauma Life Support program. “Controlling hemorrhage has to be a core law enforcement tactic,” said Alexander Eastman, MD, MPH, FACS, chief of trauma at UT Southwestern/Parkland Memorial Hospital and Dallas Police Department lieutenant, in a release. “We saw the dramatic impact of this tactic in the Tucson, Ariz. shooting in 2011. With training and tourniquets, law enforcement officers will save lives – many lives.” Read more on violence.
Much of the country is still facing at least a few more weeks of winter weather, so harbingers of spring are especially welcome. In Washington, D.C., one of those signs is an increase in the number of “TapIt” posters on the city’s metro system letting city dwellers and visitors know where they can get clean drinking water throughout the area for their reusable water bottles. TapIt is a six-year-old national network of cafes, coffee shops and some retail stores that offer free drinking water to anyone who asks and brings their own vessel to fill and drink from. Partners that have helped with costs often include local water utility companies.
"This network protects the environment, as well as people’s wallets," said TapIt Campaign Director Will Schwartz in a recent release. "In fact, users could save up to $700 per year if they were to use TapIt instead of buying a bottle of water each day."
Other reasons to actively look for easy access to water in the community include:
- A 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that replacing sugary drinks with water resulted in a 2 to 2.5 percent weight loss for study participants during a six month clinical trial.
- In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a parents advisory urging them to make water the primary form of hydration for kids.
- A 2013 survey published in the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease found that low drinking water intake is common and associated with known unhealthful behaviors such as insufficient physical activity and unhealthy eating.
Local TapIt apps, available via the internet or on Android and iPhone smartphone platforms, fix on a user’s location and display a map of nearby outlets that offer water. Users click on map markers for names of locations, addresses and distances. Information includes beverage specifics such as whether the offered water is filtered, chilled, self-serve, or needs to be requested. For example, at the Birchwood Café in Minneapolis, Minn. consumers help themselves to chilled, filtered tap water from the soda dispenser, while at the Village Bean Co. in Des Moines, Iowa, water drinkers must ask wait staff for water and will be offered room-temperature, non-filtered tap water.
National outlets welcoming TapIt users include REI outdoor clothing retail stores and Whole Food supermarkets.
Also, if you don’t have a computer or smartphone at the ready, many of the water partners post TapIt stickers on storefront windows or doors to let people know they’re invited in for a drink.
>>Bonus Link: Read an FAQ on the TapIt program.
FDA Proposes New ‘Nutrition Facts’ Food Labels
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put forth a new proposed Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The updated design would reflect scientific information not available when the current label was designed two decades ago. For example, it would replace out-of-date serving sizes and feature a design that highlights key parts of the label, such as calories and serving sizes. “For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.” Read more on nutrition.
Study: One in Five U.S. Health Facilities Don’t Provide Hand Sanitizer Everywhere Needed
One in five U.S. health facilities don’t make hand sanitizer available everywhere necessary, needlessly increasing the risk for health-care associated infections, according to a new study in the American Journal of Infection Control. In addition, approximately half of the hospitals, ambulatory care facilities and long-term care facilities included in their budgets funds for proper hand hygiene training. The study examine compliance with the World Health Organization’s hand hygiene guidelines at 168 facilities in 42 states and Puerto Rico. "When hospitals don't focus heavily on hand hygiene, that puts patients at unnecessary risk for preventable health care-associated infections," said by Laurie Conway, RN, MS, CIC, PhD student at Columbia Nursing, in a release. "The tone for compliance with infection control guidelines is set at the highest levels of management, and our study also found that executives aren't always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority." Read more on infectious disease.
CDC Foundation Expands Safe Injection Campaign
The CDC Foundation and Eli Lilly are partnering to expand the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Safe Injection Practices Coalition—a safety awareness campaign that provides information for health providers and patients. According to CDC data, more than 150,000 patients have been notified of potential exposure to hepatitis and HIV because of unsafe injection practices in U.S. health care settings since 2001, and CDC researchers have found that medical injections are an overlooked source of infections and outbreaks. Planned actives of the partnership include:
- Expand the One & Only Campaign to new audiences such as individual and group-owned physician practices
- Educate health care providers through new and enhanced training and communication materials to address emerging issues
- Improve the Safe Injection Practices Coalition website and social media platforms to share resources and toolkits with new audiences
- Engage new and existing Safe Injection Practices Coalition partners
Read more on prevention.
Tips on a Healthy Super Bowl Sunday
Super Bowl Sunday usually also means super-sized portions of unhealthy foods. Knowing this side of the annual event, gastroenterology experts from NewYork-Presbyterian are offering advice on how to get through game day as healthy as possible. "Fats, spices and carbonated beverages are likely to wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal tract, if not at the time of ingestion, then in the hours that follow," said Christine Frissora, MD, a gastroenterologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. "Pass on the junk food at the Super Bowl party and your body will thank you later.” Among the “do” and “don’t” tips:
- Avoid spicy foods, which can trigger irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and acid reflux.
- Reduce dairy intake, or try cheeses that are low in lactose, including brie, parmesan and aged cheddar.
- Beans are challenging to digest, so limit intake.
- Avoid "high fiber" snacks, which can leave you feeling bloated.
- Reduce fat intake, which can lead to indigestion.
- Make sure you provide your guests with nutritional options, such as yogurt dip, nuts, fruits, multigrain or whole-grain crackers and chips, non-spicy guacamole, baked chicken or fish, salads, fresh vegetables, and water with lemon or citrus garnishes.
Read more on nutrition.
Study: One-third of Adults with Chronic Diseases Have Trouble Paying for Both Food and Medicine
One in three U.S. adults living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis or high blood pressure have difficulty paying for both food and their needed medications—and sometimes both—according to a new study in The American Journal of Medicine. Using data collected by the 2011 National Health Interview Survey, which covered almost 10,000 people ages 20 and older, researchers determined that people who had difficult affording food were also four times more likely to skip medications because of their cost. They also found that 23 percent took their medication less often than prescribed because of the cost, 19 percent reported difficulty affording food and 11 percent said they were having trouble paying for both food and medications. "This leads to an obvious tension between 'milk' or 'med,'" said Niteesh Choudhry, MD, who worked on the study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "If you have a fixed income, should you treat or should you eat?" The researchers recommend that patients speak to their doctors about difficulties affording medications and look food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as food banks, for help with food. Read more on access to health care.
Exercise Can Help Relieve Stress of Work/Home Conflict
Increased exercise can help relieve stress over the conflict between balancing work and family life, according to a new study in the journal Human Resource Management. Utilizing a survey of 476 working adults who were asked about their exercise behavior and their confidence in handling work-family conflicts, researchers determined that people who engaged in regular exercise were also more confident in both their home and work environments. "If, for example, you go for a two-mile jog or walk 10 flights of steps at work and feel good about yourself for doing that, it will translate and carry over into other areas of life," said study author Russell Clayton, an assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University in Florida. "We found that [participants] who exercised felt good about themselves, that they felt that they could accomplish tough tasks, and that carried over into work and family life," Clayton added. Read more on physical activity.
FDA Looking to Revise Nutrition Fact Labels
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking to revise nutrition fact labels for the first time in more than two decades. The changes should reflect our improved understanding of nutrition, according to nutritionists. "The food environment has changed and our dietary guidance has changed," said Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. "It's important to keep this updated so what is iconic doesn't become a relic." For example, there is now more of a focus on calories and better understanding of the different types of fats. Nutrition experts also have called for more prominent calorie counts, as well as information on added sugar and the percentage of whole wheat in the food. The FDA has sent its proposed guidelines to the White House. Read more on nutrition.
Study: ERs Need to do More to Cut Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescriptions
Despite growing concerns over antibiotic resistance, emergency departments are not decreasing their inappropriate use of antibiotics, according to a new study in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Researchers analyzed data from 2001 to 2010, finding no decrease in emergency department use of antibiotics for adults with respiratory infections caused by viruses, which are not affected by antibiotics. There are approximately 126 million emergency department visits for acute respiratory infections each year in the United States. Halting excessive and unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions in emergency departments is especially critical because many uninsured people also look to them for primary care. "The observed lack of change...is concerning," study co-author Henry Wang, MD, vice chair for research in the department of emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "This may indicate that efforts to curtail inappropriate antibiotic use have not been effective or have not yet been implemented in all medical settings." Read more on prescription drugs.
CDC: Strategies on Reducing Sodium Levels in Restaurants
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes strategies on how health departments and restaurants can work together to lower the amount of sodium in foods. The report, “From Menu to Mouth: Opportunities for Sodium Reduction in Restaurants,” appears in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease. While the U. S. Dietary Guidelines recommend the general population limit sodium to under 2,300 mg a day, meals from fast food restaurants contain an average of 1,848 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories and foods from dine-in restaurants contain 2,090 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories. The strategies include:
- Health department dietitians help restaurants analyze the sodium content of their foods and recommend lower-sodium ingredients.
- Restaurants clearly post nutrition information, including sodium content, at the order counter and on menus or offer lower-sodium items at lower cost.
- Health departments and restaurants explain to food service staff why lower sodium foods are healthier and how to prepare them.
“The bottom line is that it’s both possible and life-saving to reduce sodium, and this can be done by reducing, replacing and reformulating,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “When restaurants rethink how they prepare food and the ingredients they choose to use, healthier options become routine for customers.” Read more on the CDC.
Arab Countries at Risk of Halting Progress in Life Expectancy, Child Mortality
If left unaddressed, the increasing problems of chronic disease, diet-related risk factors and road injury deaths could hamper the progress that countries in the Arab world have made in life expectancy and child mortality over the past two decades, according to a new study in The Lancet. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)-led study analyzed data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD), finding that all 22 nations of the Arab League saw life expectancy increase for women from 1990 to 2010, and all but one saw increases for men (Kuwait, which was already at 76.8 in 1990 and dipped to only 76.1). However, societal changes linked to income levels are also bringing with them new issues. For example, higher-income countries where food is more abundant are seeing poorer diets and decreased physical activity. “The Arab countries are in transition from places where infectious diseases are the main cause of concern to places where heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the main worries,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray, MD. “Right now, in the low-income countries, they are suffering from a double burden of non-communicable and infectious diseases. And that causes an incredible strain on their health systems.” Read more on global health.
Study: Cutting Fast Food Not Enough—Education Nutrition Also Needed to Combat Childhood Obesity
Cutting back or even cutting out fast food alone is not enough to combat the childhood obesity epidemic, with increased focus on the rest of diet also necessary, including proper education on nutrition, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, looking at information on nearly 4,500 U.S. kids ages 2 to 18 from 2007 to 2010. The study found that nearly 40 percent of kids consumed up to 30 percent of their total calories from fast food, with 10 percent consuming more than 30 percent. They also found that kids who ate more fast food also tended to make unhealthy eating choices outside of fast food restaurants. "The fact that fast-food diners—especially adolescents—tend to choose nutrient-poor foods outside of the fast-food meal demonstrates the need for better nutrition education and a focus on the whole diet to meet health needs," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. Read more on nutrition.
FDA Approves First Post-natal Test to Diagnose Development Delays, Intellectual Disabilities
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for the marketing of a first-of-its-kind test to help diagnose developmental delays and intellectual disabilities in children. The post-natal blood test analyzes the entire genome in search of chromosomal variations of different types, sizes, and genome locations; disabilities such as Down syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome are linked to chromosomal variations. “This new tool may help in the identification of possible causes of a child’s developmental delay or intellectual disability, allowing health care providers and parents to intervene with appropriate care and support for the child,” said Alberto Gutierrez, PhD, director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Read more on mental health.
USDA: Americans Are Eating Healthier
A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that American diets improved between 2005 and 2010. The report, which relied on responses to the National Health Examination and Nutrition Survey, found that American adults are making better use of available nutrition information; consuming fewer calories coming from fat and saturated fat; consuming less cholesterol; and eating more fiber. Daily calorie intake declined by 78 calories per day between 2005 and 2010. The report also found declines in calories from total fat (3.3 percent), saturated fat (5.9 percent), and intake of cholesterol (7.9 percent). Overall fiber intake increased by 1.2 grams per day (7.5 percent). Read more on nutrition.
ACEP Emergency Care Report Card Gives Public Health a ‘C’
Public health and injury prevention received a “C” grade in the new "America's Emergency Care Environment: A State-by-State Report Card." The nation overall received a “D” in the American College of Emergency Physicians report, which looks at the conditions and policies under which emergency care is being delivered, not the quality of the care. Public health and prevention was one of five categories of 136 total measures used to grade the quality of emergency care, along with access to emergency care; quality and patient safety; medical liability and environment; and disaster preparedness. Read more on access to health care.
Mental Health Problems in Middle Aged and Older Adults May be Underreported
A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in JAMA Psychiatry finds than the number of people in middle and old age with mental health disorders may be higher than previously thought. The study was based on a survey of just over 1,000 adults who were part of a long-term longitudinal study. The participants were asked questions about mental health disorders and then were also given an assessment for the disorders by health professionals. The survey found that while the responders underreported mental health issues, they were fairly accurate when reporting physical health problems. Read more on mental health.
New Interventions Needed to Reduce Underage Drinking
Strategies recommended by the Surgeon General to reduce underage drinking have shown promise when put into practice, according to scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The approaches include nighttime restrictions on young drivers and strict license suspension policies; partnerships between college campuses and the community; and routine screening by doctors to identify and counsel underage drinkers. However, Ralph Hingson, SCD, director of NIAAA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research says that “while progress has been made in addressing underage drinking, the consequences still remain unacceptably high. We must continue research to develop new interventions and implement existing strategies that have been shown to be effective.” According to Hingson, new research areas could include more studies of the effects of alcohol on the developing brain, legal penalties for providing alcohol to minors and parent-family alcohol interventions. Preliminary NIAAA research also shows that interventions aimed at strengthening family relationships in the middle-school years can have a lasting effect on students’ drinking behavior. Underage drinking is linked to 5,000 injury deaths per year, poor academic performance, potential damage to the developing brain, and risky sexual behavior. Read more on alcohol.
North America Sees First Death from H5N1 Bird Flu
North America has seen its first fatal case of H5N1 bird flu after a passenger on a Dec. 27 flight from Beijing to Canada first became ill. Canada’s health minister has stated it was an isolated case and the general public is at little risk. The victim, who died in Alberta, had only visited Beijing while in China, and not been to any farms or markets, which raises additional concerns. "This is the first evidence of this particular virus circulating in Beijing. Chinese authorities are going to be very interested. We've contacted them already," said Gregory Taylor, MD. According to the World Health Organization, as of mid-December there were 648 laboratory-confirmed human cases of H5N1 flu, with 384 leading to death. Read more on infectious disease.
Study: Full-service Restaurants Need Standard Definitions for ‘Health Choice’ Tags
Full-service restaurants should adopt standard definitions for ''healthy choice'' tags and for entrees, especially those that target vulnerable age groups, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. The study found that despite popular belief, food from full-service restaurants is not always healthier and higher in quality than food from fast-food restaurants, and can ever have much higher calorie, fat and sodium levels. The push to adopt these standards is especially significant because about one-third of all calories purchased in the United States are from food prepared away from home. "The need to educate customers about the nutritional content of restaurant foods is acute because consumers increasingly eat away from home, restaurants serve large portions of energy-dense and high-sodium foods, and obesity and the prevalence of other diet-related diseases are high," said lead researcher Amy Auchincloss, PhD, MPH, of the Drexel University School of Public Health. Read more on nutrition.
Racial Disparities in Deaths After Heart Bypass Surgery Linked to Hospital Quality
Racial disparities in the death risk after heart bypass surgery are linked to hospital quality, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Surgery. Researchers analyzed the records of more than 170,000 Medicare patients who had heart bypass surgery and found that nonwhite patients had a 33 percent higher death rate after the surgery. In hospitals with the highest rates of nonwhite patients, the death rate was 4.8 percent for nonwhite patients and 3.8 percent for white patients. The disparity is explained in part because nonwhite patients have less access to high-quality hospitals with lower death rates, as well as by factors such as regional variations in hospital quality, how close patients live to high-quality hospitals and race-based referral decisions. Read more on health disparities.
Survey: Half of U.S. Adult Smokers Plan to Quit for New Year
More than half of adult smokers in the United States made quitting tobacco a New Year’s resolution for 2014, according to a new survey from Legacy, a national public health nonprofit. These findings are especially significant today, on the eighth day of the new year, as the eighth day of a quit attempt is when a smoker is most vulnerable to a relapse. This month also marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on tobacco. Among the survey’s other findings:
- 41 percent planned to quit smoking "cold turkey" for New Years, which is largely ineffective for the majority of smokers
- 12 percent planned to switch to electronic cigarettes, an unregulated product whose safety risks remain unknown
- 37 percent plan to quit to save money
- 31.7 percent want to quit because they don’t want their clothes and hair to smell
Read more on tobacco.
ACS: Cancer Death Rates Fell 20 Percent Over Two Decades
The combined cancer death rate for men and women fell 20 percent in the two decades from 1991 to 2010, with better prevention, screening and treatment critical to continuing this positive trend, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. The drop translates to approximately 1,350,400 fewer deaths. The report estimates that the United States will see a total of 1,665,540 new cancer cases and 585,720 deaths from cancer in 2014. From 2006 to 2010, cancer death rates decreased by 1.8 percent annually in men and by 1.4 percent in women. Lung, colon, prostate and breast cancers are the most common causes of cancer death, with lung cancer accounting for approximately one in four deaths. Read more on cancer.
‘Green’ Labels for Healthy, ‘Red’ for Unhealthy Foods Improve Nutritional Selections
The “stop” and “go” colors of traffic signals may be able to improve healthy eating choices in cafeterias, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. A redesign of the cafeteria at Massachusetts General Hospital combined better locations for health food items with red, yellow and green labels marking the nutritional quality of different foods, with junk foods being red. Over two years, green-labeled items sold at a 12 percent higher rate and sales of red-labeled items dropped by 20 percent. "Our current results show that the significant changes in the purchase patterns...did not fade away as cafeteria patrons became used to them," said study lead author Anne Thorndike, MD, of the division of general medicine at the Boston hospital. "This is good evidence that these changes in healthy choices persist over time." To learn more about the study and concept, go to "Traffic-Light Labels and Choice Architecture: Promoting Healthy Food Choices" at RWJF.org. Read more on nutrition.
Study: Newly Insured Visit Emergency Departments More Often
While some experts have speculated that expanded insurance under the Affordable Care Act would decrease the rate of emergency department visits, a new study in the journal Science indicates that newly insured people actually visit the departments significantly more than people who were uninsured. The study of 25,000 Medicaid lottery participants in Oregon in 2008 found that people who received expanded coverage increased their visits by 40 percent—or 0.41 visits—over a period of 18 months. The visits encompassed all manner of health issues, included issues that could have been treated by a primary care physician and would have been covered by the insurance. Read more on access to health care.
Electronic Media Use During Family Meals Tied to Poorer Nutrition and Communication
The use of electronic devices—including television, music with headphones and texting—by teens during meals is linked to less nutritious food and poorer family communication, according to a new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In a survey of more than 1,800 parents, researchers asked how often adolescent children used a variety of electronics during family meals, whether they had any rules regarding their use and whether they felt family meals were important; the children were asked questions about family communication, such as how often they discussed their problems with their parents. The study found that two thirds of the teens watched television or movies some of the time, with one quarter watching frequently. Other electronic activities were less common, occurring 18 to 28 percent of the time. About 75 percent of the families had limits on mealtime media. "There is no magic number of how many (family meals) to have, not all food at meals has to be 100% healthy and having electronic media at meals is not all bad (e.g., an occasional movie night with dinner) if it facilitates family time," said lead author Jayne A. Fulkerson. "But, parents can take small steps to have quality time with their children by reducing media use at mealtimes." Read more on nutrition.
Smoking Adds $17 Billion to Post-Surgery Costs Each Year
Smoking-related complications following surgery—for both current and former smokers—add an estimated $17 billion in direct U.S. medical costs each year, according to a new study in JAMA Surgery. The study, led by David Warner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, looked at surgical patients between April 2008 and December 2009. While the costs for initial hospitalizations was relatively consistent for current smokers, former smokers and people who never smoked, post-surgery costs were an estimated $400 higher for current smokers and $273 higher for former smokers. Read more on tobacco.