Category Archives: Obesity

Sep 13 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: September 13

Higher Education Linked to Better Obesity Rates for Women in Poorer Areas
Higher education is a key factor that helps protect women in economically disadvantaged areas from obesity, according to a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion. “It is possible that education is a marker of an individual’s access to health information, capacity to assimilate health-related messages, and ability to retain knowledge-related assets, such as nutrition knowledge,” wrote the study’s authors. Previous studies have shown that women living in area with fewer economic resources have higher body mass index (BMI) than other women. The results indicate that both low education and personal income should be addressed by obesity prevention initiatives. Read more on obesity.

Regular Exercise May Help Decrease Depression
Increases in exercise may be linked to decreases in depression, according to a new review of existing research by The Cochrane Library. The researchers found people with depression who also exercised saw a “moderate” reduction in their symptoms when compared to people who did instead used relaxation techniques or received no treatment. Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy are the most common treatments for depression, which affects about 10 percent of Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More research is needed to better understand the relationship between exercise and depression symptoms. Still, Madhukar Trivedi, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who was not a part of the study, said one of the keys is making sure patients stick with the exercise regimen. "Once people are prescribed exercise or they choose exercise, the big challenge is to make the exercise real," he said. "If the recommendation from the treating clinician is that you should be exercising with some frequency and intensity…it's important that the patient follow that regimen week after week.” Read more on mental health.

Predominantly Black Nursing Homes Deliver Lower Levels of Care, Perform Worse Financially
Nursing homes that are predominantly populated by black residents deliver overall poorer care and are less successful financially than homes with few or not minority residents, according to a new study in Health Services Research. The study looked at issues such as the ratio of nursing staff to patients, success in preventing pressure ulcers, help with walking, help with getting out of bed, prevention of urinary tract infections, the incidence of medication errors and citations by governmental agencies. However, the study noted that black and white patients living in the same facilities received equal treatments, meaning the disparity is not due to any biases of health care workers. One factor leading to the disparity could be the fact that older black Americans are more likely to rely on Medicaid, which means lower reimbursement rates. Still, Latarsha Chisholm, assistant professor at the University of Central Florida and study author, believes something more must be at play. "It isn't only the financial performance [of nursing homes] that affects performance," she said. "There has to be something else affecting quality. I want to understand what management practices promote improved care in nursing homes with high proportions of minorities that don't have disparities in care.” Read more on health disparities.

Sep 12 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: September 12

Study: 60 Percent of Uterine Cancer Cases are Preventable
Approximately 60 percent of U.S. uterine cancer cases are preventable thorough regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, according to a new study from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and World Cancer Research Fund International. That comes out to nearly 30,000 cases per year; endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, ahead of both ovarian cancer and cervical cancer. "Body fat can produce hormones that promote cancer development," said Alice Bender, nutrition communications manager for AICR. "We also know that body fat is linked to chronic inflammation, which produces an environment that encourages cancer development." The study also found various dietary choices that influence cancer risk because of the way they influence hormones such as estrogen and insulin. For example, drinking one cup of coffee a day can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer by 7 percent, while eating sugary items and processed grains can increase it. Read more on cancer.

Overweight, Obese People More Likely to Suffer from Migraines
Migraines can now be added to the long list of medical conditions more likely in people who are overweight or obese, according to a new study in the journal Neurology. Researchers found the painful, often-debilitating headaches were twice as common for obese people as they were for people of normal weight. As many as 15 percent of people suffer from episodic migraines and approximately 32 percent of people with the migraines were obese. "This suggests patients and doctors need to be aware that obesity is associated with an increased risk of episodic migraine and not wait until a patient has chronic migraine to address healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, and to choose medications that impact weight with care," said lead researcher Lee Peterlin, MD, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, according to Reuters. While further research is needed to determine causation, the study results do provide yet one more reason to make healthy lifestyle changes. Read more on obesity.

Anger, Irritability May Be Signs of More Severe, Chronic Depression
Irritability and anger may indicate more complex, chronic and severe forms of major depression, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry. Symptoms of irritability and anger during a major depressive episode (MDE) appear to be clinical markers for a significantly more complex, chronic, and severe form of major depressive disorder, a new study indicates. Researchers found that people with MDEs who also exhibit anger and irritability were more likely to have increased severity of their depression, longer bouts of depression, lower impulse control and a more chronic long term course of illness. The findings indicate that people who exhibit these behaviors need closer clinical monitoring that "should include specific strategies to address anger management issues, as well as the frequently associated problems of comorbid anxiety disorder, substance abuse disorder, poor impulse control, and psychosocial impairment when these are present." Read more on mental health.

Sep 10 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: September 10

CDC’s ‘Tips From Former Smokers’ Campaign Helped 200,000 Quit
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) three-month “Tips From Former Smokers” national ad campaign helped more than 200,000 Americans quit smoking immediately, with an estimated 100,000 expected to quit permanently, according to a new CDC study in The Lancet. About 1.6 million smokers attempted to quit because of the campaign, which featured powerful—and real—stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities, which encouraging people to call the toll-free 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The results far exceeded CDC’s initial goals. “Quitting can be hard and I congratulate and celebrate with former smokers—this is the most important step you can take to a longer, healthier life,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “I encourage anyone who tried to quit to keep trying—it may take several attempts to succeed.’’ Read more on tobacco.

White House Honors ‘Champions of Change’ in Public Health, Prevention
The White House this week is honoring eight “Champions of Change” in the world of prevention and public health. The weekly event is meant to highlight and honor Americans who “are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” This week focuses on people who are working in the field of public health on everything from childhood obesity to reducing health disparities to fighting healthcare-acquired infections. “These leaders are taking innovative approaches to improve the health of people in their communities—and showing real results,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America’s Health. “Prevention is one of the most common-sense ways we can save lives and reduce healthcare costs, and the efforts of these champions show how to put prevention to work in effective ways.” Read more on faces of public health.

Small Changes to Kids’ Routines Can Reduce Childhood Obesity
Small changes in the home environment, such as limiting the time spent in front of the television and increasing the time spent sleeping, can help reduce childhood obesity, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The simple routine changes led to a slower rate of weight gain in children ages 2 to 5 (the children obviously still gaining weight overall because they were growing). After six months on the new routine, participants saw their body mass index (BMI) drop, for a healthier rate of weight gain. About 17 percent of U.S. youth are obese, with lower-income kids at highest risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thomas Robinson, MD, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, who was not involved in the study, said the findings were significant for the fight against childhood obesity. "These behaviors and BMI have not been easy to change in a world where junk food and screen time are so heavily marketed, and families are dealing with tremendous financial and social challenges," he said. "I think it is exciting to see studies like this one showing positive results." Read more on obesity.

Aug 27 2013
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Chicago Public Health: Q&A with Bechara Choucair

Bechara Choucair, MD, MS, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Bechara Choucair, MD, MS, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health

Last week the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) awarded five-year national accreditation status to five public health departments, bringing the number of health departments now accredited to 19 since the credential was launched two years ago. Hundreds more health departments are currently preparing to apply for accreditation, which includes a peer-reviewed assessment process to ensure it meets or exceeds a set of public health quality standards and measures. Among the newly accredited is the Chicago Department of Public Health.

"This is an important achievement and recognition that highlights the city of Chicago’s ongoing commitment to health and wellness on the part of all of our residents,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement issued by PHAB.  "We are focused on policies that will help all Chicagoans and their families enjoy the highest quality of life, [and w]e will continue to strive to make Chicago one of the healthiest cities in the world."

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Bechara Choucair, MD, MS, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, about the value of accreditation for improving the health of the community—and about how this effort supports Healthy Chicago, the city’s public health agenda.

>>Read more about Healthy Chicago in a previous NewPublicHealth Q&A with Choucair.

NewPublicHealth: You’re one of the first public health departments to be accredited. How did that happen so quickly?

Bechara Choucair: When we released Healthy Chicago in 2011, one of the strategies we identified was to obtain accreditation. We wanted to be the first big city to earn the credential. It took us 18 months and we are excited that we are the first big city to be accredited and the first in Illinois. And one of the added bonuses of accreditation is a sense of pride. It says a lot to our staff, residents and our mayor.

NPH: A community health assessment is required as part of the accreditation application. What did Chicago’s community health assessments entail?

Read More

Aug 19 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 19

Chemicals in Plastic Food Containers Could be Adding to Childhood Obesity Problem
Unhealthy foods kept in plastic food wraps and containers may be even more unhealthy for kids because of the chemicals in the plastic, according to two new studies in the journal Pediatrics. The studies linked phthalates to increased insulin resistance in children and bisphenol A (BPA) with high body-mass index (BMI). Leonardo Trasande, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and author of the phthalates study, said certain chemicals can affect how the body reacts to glucose influence the release of insulin. "There is increasing concern that environmental chemicals might be independent contributors to childhood diseases related to the obesity epidemic," he said. "Our research adds to these growing concerns." He recommends against using certain types of plastic containers and against microwaving any plastic containers. He also says parents should wash plastic containers by hand instead of putting them in the dishwasher, and should throw them out when they’ve been damaged. Hugh Taylor, MD, chair of the Yale School of Medicine's department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said that while the two studies "point out the vulnerability of children to environmental chemicals,” parents should also be working to move their kids’ diets to healthier and natural food. Read more on obesity.

CDC: As Many as 300,000 Infected with Lyme Disease Annually
The actual number of U.S. cases of Lyme disease is as much as ten times higher than the reported figure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three ongoing CDC studies put the number of cases of the tick-borne illness at around 300,000 annually. This major difference between reported and actual cases emphasizes the need for greater and more diverse prevention efforts. Traditional preventive measures at the personal level include wearing repellent, checking for ticks daily, showering soon after being outdoors and alerting a doctor if you get a fever or rash. “We know people can prevent tick bites through steps like using repellents and tick checks. Although these measures are effective, they aren’t fail-proof and people don’t always use them,” said Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. “We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem.” Read more on infectious disease.

Study Links Kids’ Trouble Sleeping, Poor School Performance
Trouble sleeping is tied to trouble in the classroom for kids, according to a new study in the journal Sleep Medicine. Researchers analyzed kids age seven to 10 in Sao Paulo, Brazil schools, finding that 13 percent with difficulty sleeping were failing Portuguese, compared to 9 percent for kids who did not have sleep problems. They also found that 25 percent of kids with trouble sleeping were failing math, compared to eight percent for kids who have no trouble sleeping. U.S. experts estimate that approximately 25 percent of U.S. kids have trouble sleeping, either due to sleep disorders such as insomnia and nightmares, or from other factors such as erratic bedtime hours and anxiety. While noting that the study was "far from perfect," Carl Bazil, MD, a neurologist and director of the division of epilepsy and sleep at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said “It's a first step in emphasizing that sleep in children is something that's important, not only to prevent them from being sleepy but to make sure that they learn. I think this study will help raise awareness that sleep is particularly important in children." Read more on pediatrics.

Aug 16 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 16

TFAH: U.S. Adult Obesity Rates Relatively Level, But Still Extremely High
Though adult obesity rates are level in all states except Arkansas, the rates are still far too high, according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2013, a new report from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The plateau comes after mostly 30 years of rising rates. No state had higher than a 15 percent obesity rate in 1980; today every state is about 20 percent and 13 states have rates higher than 30 percent. “While stable rates of adult obesity may signal prevention efforts are starting to yield some results, the rates remain extremely high,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “Even if the nation holds steady at the current rates, Baby Boomers—who are aging into obesity-related illnesses—and the rapidly rising numbers of extremely obese Americans are already translating into a cost crisis for the healthcare system and Medicare. In order to decrease obesity and related costs, we must ensure that policies at every level support healthy choices, and we must focus investments on prevention.” Read more on obesity.

Soda Consumption Tied to Higher Aggressive Behavior in Kids
Soda consumption is tied to higher aggressive behavior in kids, according to a new study in The Journal of Pediatrics. Study authors cautioned that the increase may not be apparent in individuals and the study does not show causation. However, previous studies have demonstrated a link between soda consumption and violent behavior. The researchers analyzed data of mothers’ assessment of their children’s aggressiveness, including acts such as destroying their belongings or the belongings of others. On an aggression scale of 0-100, kids who drank no soda scored an average of 56, kids who drank one scored 57, who drank two scored 58, who drank three scored 59 and who drank at least four scored 62. Janet Fischel, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics in the department of pediatrics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study, believes it represents a strong first step. "I think it's really important and a giant first step in gathering an evidence base for what's becoming a very widespread dietary habit. I think that's really important.” Read more on pediatrics.

People with Insomnia Need Regular Exercise, Not a Quick Trip to the Gym
It takes time for exercise to help cure insomnia, so people shouldn’t expect one trip to the gym to do the trick, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. "The message here is that exercise is not a quick fix, which I don't really think is discouraging at all," said study author Kelly Baron, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program with the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. "Our previous work found that exercise over a 16-week period is very effective in promoting sleep, on par with any kind of medication. But like with weight loss or any sort of behavioral change, it doesn't happen immediately. You have to measure progress over months, not day-to-day." Baron said it is important for people with insomnia to make exercise a part of their routine, planning ahead and being sure to make it a regular endeavor. She also noted that a poor night of sleep makes it less likely for someone to exercise the next day, further emphasizing the need for routine. Approximately 14 percent of the population experiences chronic insomnia. Read more on physical activity.

Aug 7 2013
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Recommended Reading: The Intersection of Transportation and Public Health

Almost everything touches public health. From understanding care options to access to nutritious food to being able to breathe clean air—it all works together to prevent disease and promote healthy living. That includes the types of available transportation.

>>View NewPublicHealth’s infographic exploring the role of transportation in the health of our communities, “Better Transportation Options = Healthier Lives.”

The Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Health and Transportation (H+T) was formed in the Summer of 2011 to provide a variety of disciplines the opportunity to share and compare transportation-related health research in an academic environment. It’s a place where engineers, public health professionals, planners, epidemiologists, advocates and others can identify, advance and publish research that advances our understanding of transportation infrastructure and policies affect public health. [Editor’s Note: Read NewPublicHealth’s coverage of last year’s Transportation Research Board conference.]

The H+T Subcommittee’s areas of interest and study include sustainable and active transportation modes (e.g., walking, biking, transit); mobility and accessibility; safety; transportation-related air pollution and noise impacts; and social cohesion and other social, physical and mental health impacts.

State and local government across the country are already utilizing engineering and design solutions to improve public health in their communities, according to The Network for Public Health Law, which provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“In Massachusetts and Minnesota, transportation officials are exploring infrastructures that allow for ‘active transportation’—like walking and bicycling—which can help prevent weight gain and lower the risks of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In Washington and California, programs are incorporating transit-oriented development strategies to improve environmental health and access to healthy foods.”

>>Read the full story, “Two Worlds, One Goal,” and follow H+T on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

>>Read more on how transportation can impact health.

Aug 7 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 7

Conflicts of Interest in Determination of Food Additive Safety
Who determines whether a food additive is safe? Often it’s people with ties to the food additive industry, according to a new conflict-of-interest study from The Pew Charitable Trusts in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. From 1997 to 2012, about 20 percent of safety determinations submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were authored by employees of food additive manufacturers, and 13 percent were authored by someone working a consultant selected by the manufacturer. Researchers also found that the expert panels tasked with conducting most of the safety assessments rely on many of the same experts over and over again. "There's a cadre of 10 people that serve on almost all of these expert panels," said study author Thomas Neltner, director of Pew's food additives project. "Three-quarters of the panels contained at least one of these people. One person served on 44 percent of the panels, which tells us there's not only conflicts of interest, but there's a very small group of people making these decisions." Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sees these results as a clear problem that needs to be addressed. "These committees give a very superficial, one-sided review," he said. "They want to please the sponsor, and then maybe they will get more business because they've proven themselves trustworthy, but it's no way to run a food safety review process." Read more on food safety.

CDC: 1 in 8 Preschoolers Obese, Raising their Risk for Adult Obesity
About one in eight—or 12 percent—of preschoolers are obese. However, after decades spent watching that number climb, nineteen states and territories are seeing drops in obesity among low-income preschoolers, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overweight and obese children are five times more likely to grow up to be obese adults, so early intervention by state and local health officials is critical. The report provides a number of ways they can help, including the creation of partnerships with community members to make community changes that promote healthy eating and active living, as well as making it easier for families with children to buy healthy, affordable foods and beverages in their neighborhoods. Read more on obesity.

Hospitals’ Exchange of Electronic Health Records Climbed 41 Percent from 2008 to 2012
Health information exchange (HIE) between hospitals and providers outside their organizations climbed 41 percent from 2008 to 2012, with six in 10 hospitals exchanging electronic health records (EHR) in 2012, according to a new study in the journal Health Affairs. The researchers say this illustrates how EHRs have become complementary tools that improve health care quality and safety. “We know that the exchange of health information is integral to the ongoing efforts to transform the nation’s health care system and we will continue to see that grow as more hospitals and other providers adopt and use health IT to improve patient health and care,” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Our new research is crystal clear: health information exchange is happening and it is growing. But we still have a long road ahead toward universal interoperability.” Read more on technology.

Aug 5 2013
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Breaking Down Barriers for Access to Healthy Food Options

Tackling the problem of obesity in the United States cannot be done with a single step solution. There are many factors that need to be addressed at the family, school and community levels in order for obesity rates to continue to decline across the country. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to the education and options that allow us to make healthier food choices. Higher prices and lack of accessibility to fresh produce serve as barriers for lower income communities in the battle against obesity and improving public health.

In urban areas across the country, groups focused on healthy living and eating are working to develop programs to create more healthy options for everyone. Programs in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia—to name just a few—have caught on with local food vendors, store owners, public health departments and the general public as we start to see rates of obesity drop in those targeted areas.

>>Read more about the fight against childhood obesity and the signs of progress in different areas across the country.

We have found some great examples of programs across the country that are proving successful in their attempts to increase the number of healthy options available to at-risk children and the greater community.

  • In New York City, pediatricians at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital have started prescribing fruits and vegetables for children. The prescriptions allow them to use coupons for produce at local farmers markets and city green carts. Medical professionals see this as a longer-term solution to the issues they are seeing children come in with, rather than simply prescribing them medicine.
  • With Philadelphia weighing in as the most obese city in the nation, The Food Trust’s Brianna Almaguer Sandoval has enlisted the help of corner store owners to start providing healthier options on their shelves. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative provides store owners with free marketing materials such as labels and recipe cards; trainings on how to select, price and display the healthier offerings; and for some even funding for new shelves and refrigerator cases to help better stock fresh food.
  • Groups in Athens, Ohio, are joining together to host an event called “Bounty on the Bricks,” to raise money to create a new grant program to enhance the capacity for local food pantries to provide more healthy options for their visitors in need. Those who bought tickets to the event will enjoy a meal celebrating local farmers and fresh produce along one of the main streets in Athens. The dinner will be held August 10 and organizers have already surpassed expected ticket sales.
Aug 5 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 5

Six States to Split $89.2M for Early Learning Programs
Six states will split approximately $89.2 million in federal funding as supplemental awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), which works to expand and improve early learning programs. The six states are California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin. Each must now submit detailed budgets, budget narratives, revised performance measures and signed assurances. The funds will go toward developing new programs and strengthening existing programs that help close the “opportunity gap,” according to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Added U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “Kids who attend high-quality early learning and pre-school programs are more likely to do well in school. They're more likely to secure a good job down the road; and they're more likely to maintain successful careers long-term.” Read more on education.

A Single Fight-related Injury Can Reduce Adolescent IQ by Equivalent of One Lost School Year
A single fight-related injury can reduce an adolescent or teen girl’s IQ by about 3.02 points, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. For a boy it can mean a loss of 1.62 points. Studies have measured the effect of missing a year of school as about a 2-4 point decrease in IQ. IQ loss is generally associated with poorer school and work performance; mental disorders; behavioral problems; and longevity, according to the researchers from the Florida State University researchers noted. About 4 percent of U.S. high school students suffer from fight-related injuries annually. "We tend to focus on factors that may result in increases in intelligence over time, but examining the factors that result in decreases may be just as important," said study co-author Joseph Schwartz, a doctoral student in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, in a release. "The first step in correcting a problem is understanding its underlying causes. By knowing that fighting-related injuries result in a significant decrease in intelligence, we can begin to develop programs and protocols aimed at effective intervention.” Read more on violence.

Study Links Sugary Drinks, Obesity in Preschoolers
Even though the percentage as a calorie source is relatively minor, preschoolers who drink sugar-sweetened soda, sports drinks or juices every day are at greater risk for obesity, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The findings parallel studies on teens and adults, which show a link between sugary drinks and extra weight. Kids who consumed at least one of the drinks each day were 43 percent more likely to be obese than their counterparts. They were also more likely to have an overweight mother and to watch at least two hours of television daily from ages four to five; researchers adjusted for these factors, as well as socioeconomic status. Potential reasons include the possibility that the sugary drinks were not filling, so did not replace other calories in the children’s diets. The study did not account for other eating habits or physical activity. Read more on nutrition.