Category Archives: Safety
Study: Chickenpox Vaccine Provides Long-Term Protection
A new study published online in the journal Pediatrics confirmed that the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is effective at preventing chicken pox, and that the effectiveness does not wane over a 14-year period. One dose provided excellent protection against moderate to severe disease. Consistent protection was important because chickenpox infection in older teens and adults can be much more serious than it generally is in childhood, according to the study author, in an interview with HealthDay. The study data also suggest that the vaccine may also reduce the risks of shingles, another type of infection caused by the chickenpox virus that tends to affect people later in life. The study followed a total of 7,585 children vaccinated with varicella vaccine in their second year of life in 1995 for 14 years to see if they developed either chickenpox or shingles. Read more on vaccination.
EPA Proposes Measures to Cut Air Pollution, Improve Population Health
Based on input from auto manufacturers, refiners, and states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards for cars and gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses. Once fully in place, experts say the standards will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children. The measures will also prevent 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.8 million lost school days, work days and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution. Total health-related benefits in 2030 are expected to be between $8 and $23 billion annually. The new standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent, which will also enable vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. Read more on environmental health.
New Jersey Bans Children from Tanning Beds
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law on Monday banning children under 17 from using commercial tanning beds. Tanning before age 35 has been shown to increase the risk for melanoma by 75 percent. The new law also bans children under 14 from getting spray tans in tanning salons, which could impact social norms around young teens wanting to look tan if their friends look tan. Read more on safety.
CDC: Distracted Driving a Major Danger in U.S., Younger Populations
About 69 percent of U.S. drivers talk on their phone while behind the wheel and approximately one in three use text messaging or email, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The rates were higher than those seen in several European countries. The study also found that younger men and women were, on average, more likely to engage in the risky behavior. No significant difference in behavior between men and women was found. “Everyone, of every age and generation, has the ability to make a decision to drive distraction-free,” said Linda C. Degutis, DrPH, MSN, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “It’s especially risky for young, inexperienced drivers—who are already extremely vulnerable to crashes—to be distracted when they are behind the wheel. Answering a call or reading a text is never worth a loss of life.” Read more on safety.
High-fat Dairy Foods Increase Breast Cancer Survivors Change of Death
Breast cancer survivors who consume high-fat dairy foods are at higher risk of dying of cancer than those who consumer little or none of the food type, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers found that they were at a 49 percent higher risk of death. High-fat dairy foods include ice cream, butter and certain kinds of cheeses. While the risk in absolute terms is a 12 percent risk of dying of breast cancer, researchers said this “modest” increase justifies the relatively easy lifestyle change of cutting out high-fat dairy foods. Read more on cancer.
National Salmonella Outbreak in Kids Linked to Type of Frog
A 2008-2011 outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium in kids has been linked to African dwarf frogs kept as pets, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. There were 376 cases in 44 states and 29 percent of the cases led to hospitalizations, though no one died. Most victims were less than 10 years old. The researchers said too few parents are aware of the salmonella risk from reptiles and amphibians, which require diligent handwashing and careful maintenance of their habitats. Children under age 5 are at especially high risk and should have no contact with African dwarf frogs or their environments. Read more on infectious disease.
Obese Drivers at Greater Risk of Dying in a Car Crash
Obese drivers are up to 78 percent more likely to die in a car crash than normal-weight drivers, according to a recent study by researchers at the UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation and Research Education Center. Researchers reviewed data on accidents recorded in the managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and found that drivers with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the obesity range (over 30) were more likely than other drivers to die in a car crash even if they were wearing a seat belt and an airbag deployed. The researchers say that other health problems the obese drivers had could have been a factor in their deaths, but say that cars may not be designed people who are overweight. The study was published in the Emergency Medicine Journal. Read more on injury prevention.
AHRQ Releases Patient Safety Strategies
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently released 10 patient safety strategies for hospital and other health care facilities that the agency says can save lives:
- Preoperative checklists and anesthesia checklists to prevent operative and postoperative events
- Checklists to prevent central line-associated bloodstream infections
- Interventions to reduce urinary catheter use, including catheter reminders, stop orders, or nurse-initiated removal protocols
- Interventions including head-of-bed elevation, to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia
- Hand hygiene
- The do-not-use list for hazardous abbreviations
- Interventions to reduce pressure ulcers
- Barrier precautions to prevent healthcare-associated infections
- Use of real-time ultrasonography for central line placement
- Interventions to improve prevention of blood clots
Read more on safety.
Study Finds Soccer Programs Increase Exercise among Low-Income Kids
A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health finds that an after-school soccer program and literacy program has been successful in increasing physical activity among elementary school children. The researchers found that the program increased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by an average of 3.4 minutes per weekday and 18.5 minutes on Saturdays among students with a body mass index at or above the 85th percentile, when compared with students at control schools who did not host the program. The program did not significantly increase physical activity among children who were not overweight or obese. Read more on obesity.
Several federal agencies have teamed up for a joint initiative, Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action, to reduce home-based injury and illness. Agencies at the table include the Office of the Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Energy.
People spend up to 70 percent of their time in a home, according to the group, and millions of homes each year are the source of serious health problems including asthma, lung cancer, unintentional injuries and lead poisoning. Home health hazards can include structural problems, damaged roofs, heating, plumbing and electrical deficiencies, leaks, pests, peeling walls that exposing children to lead-based paint and high levels of radon gas.
The initiative has five goals:
- Establish healthy home recommendations.
- Encourage adoption of healthy home recommendations.
- Create and support training and workforce development to address health hazards in housing.
- Educate the public about healthy homes.
- Support research that informs and advances healthy housing in a cost-effective manner.
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin spoke at a press conference to launch the new Action Plan and in 2009 released a healthy homes strategy that the new initiative builds on. This Action Plan dovetails with the National Prevention Strategy, launched two years ago to improve the health of all Americans. Dr. Benjamin told NewPublicHealth, “Health is in everything we do. We need to make it a part of our lives. Our home should be a place you feel safe.”
Restaurant Chains Serving More Lower-Calorie Choices Do Better Financially
Restaurant chains that serve more lower-calorie foods and beverages have better business performance, according to a study released today by the Hudson Institute. Over five years, chains that increased the amount of lower-calorie options they served had better sales growth, larger increases in customer traffic, and stronger gains in total food and beverage servings than chains whose offerings of lower-calorie options declined.
The report, Lower-Calorie Foods: It’s Just Good Business, analyzed 21 of the nation’s largest restaurant chains, including quick-service chains such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell, and sit-down chains such as Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Chili’s, and Outback Steakhouse.
“Consumers are hungry for restaurant meals that won’t expand their waist lines, and the chains that recognize this are doing better than those that don’t,” said Hank Cardello, lead author of the report, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and director of the Institute’s Obesity Solutions Initiative.
Read more on obesity.
New AMA Report Outlines Physician Responsibilities for Newly Discharged Hospital Patients
The American Medical Association (AMA) has released a new report, “There And Home Again, Safely” that outlines a list of five responsibilities for outpatient physicians to consider when caring for patients who have recently left the hospital. Developed by a panel of experts to improve safety and reduce the rate of hospital readmissions, responsibilities include:
- assessment of the patient’s health;
- goal-setting to determine desired outcomes;
- supporting self-management to ensure access to resources patients need;
- medication management; and
- care coordination to bring together all members of the health care team.
Read more on safety.
An Active Lifestyle May be Just as Beneficial as Structured Exercise
A new study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Science suggests that small amounts of activity that adds up to 30 minutes per day can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of physical activity at the gym. More than 6,000 American adults participated in the study by wearing accelerometers on a daily basis. Those who participated in the short bouts of activity could be moving as few as one or two minutes at a time by engaging in activities – such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking while talking on the phone. The researchers found that more than 40 percent of adults in the study reach their 30 minutes of daily exercise by making movement a part of their everyday life. The researchers say such an active lifestyle approach may be just as beneficial as structured exercise to improve health, including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Read more on physical activity.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced the nominees for its 2012 Year in Research campaign — a look at the most influential Foundation-supported research that has changed the field of health and health care in a valuable way. There are 20 finalists, selected for being the most popular research articles among RWJF.org readers. Now it’s time to choose the “Final 5.”
UPDATE: The winner has been chosen! Congratulations to the research team behind the Graduated Driver Licensing Decal Law. Go here to see the full rankings and read interviews with all five finalists.
Graduated Driver Licensing Decal Law: Effect on Young Probationary Drivers
Teen drivers may not like it, but New Jersey's pioneering graduated driving license decal law is estimated to have prevented more than 1,600 crashes. New Jersey, which already had rigorous graduated driving laws (GDLs), enacted in April 2009 the nation’s first law to require probationary drivers to display small decals on their license plates, which allowed for more rigorous enforcement of restrictions on young drivers, such as bans on cell phone use. Researchers analyzed the success of the law by linking information from two databases: one for licensing and registration, and one for crash records. The law appears to have enhanced police officers’ ability to enforce GDLs, as well as probationary driver’s willingness to comply with them. Read more about the research and its effects in “Keeping Teen Drivers Safe Through Public Health Law: Allison Curry Q&A.”
CNN: President Will Call for Wider Gun Control
CNN is reporting that when President Obama releases his list of gun control proposals later today, they will include a ban on assault weapons, restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, stronger background checks for people purchasing guns and increased funding for U.S. mental health services and school safety efforts. Read more on violence.
DOT Proposes Minimum Sound Rules for Hybrid, Electric Cars
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing minimum sound standards for electric and hybrid cars to help make pedestrians and bicyclists more aware of the cars when the vehicles are approaching.
According to DOT, electric and hybrid vehicles do not rely on traditional gas or diesel-powered engines at low speeds, making them much quieter and more difficult to hear when they approach people walking or biking. DOT estimates that the proposals could result in 2,800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans and low speed vehicles, compared to vehicles without sound.
New sounds for the cars created by car manufacturers would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour. A sixty day comment period on the new proposals begins today. Read more on safety.
New NIH-Supported Alzheimer's Studies to Focus on Prevention and Innovative Treatments
With a goal of effectively treating and preventing new cases of Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced funding for four major studies: drug and exercise interventions for people in the early stages of the disease, a new drug to reduce agitation in people with the disease, and a new approach to faster testing of drugs in clinical trials. Read more on aging.
New York Declares Public Health Emergency for Flu
The state of New York has declared a public health emergency due to the increasingly severe flu season, which has reached epidemic levels. The declaration allows pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to patients between six months and 18 years of age and suspends for the next 30 days the state’s law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer vaccinations only to people 18 and older. "We are experiencing the worst flu season since at least 2009, and influenza activity in New York state is widespread, with cases reported in all 57 counties and all five boroughs of New York City," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to Reuters. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine of the ten regions of the United States have “elevated” flu activity. Last week the city of Boston, Ma., declared a public health emergency in response to the flu. Read more on influenza.
High Noise Levels in Sports Stadiums Hurts Workers, Spectators
High noise levels in the workplace—especially in nontraditional workplaces such as sports stadiums—are often unappreciated and can lead to permanent hearing loss, according to two new studies in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH). The can also be damaging to spectators. “While severe traumatic injuries and degenerative brain disorders due to concussive blows are recognized as severe hazards among athletes, exposure to high noise likely affects far more individuals (spectators and referees), and the resulting permanent hearing loss decreases the quality of life of those affected,” said JOEH Editor in Chief Mark Nicas, PhD, CIH. Read more on business.
Simple Traffic Changes Make Streets Safer, Save Pedestrian Lives
Traffic changes around schools in New York City helped cut child pedestrian injuries by 44 percent during “school travel” hours, according to the results of the National Safe Routes to School program published in the journal Pediatrics. "The study shows that safety programs really do work," said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, according to HealthDay. "Making common sense improvements around schools by adding sidewalks and speed bumps, improving signage, and creating more visible crosswalks prevents injuries and saves lives." Safer streets also encourage kids and their parents to get more physical activity. Read more on safety.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday announced it is requiring the manufacturers of widely used sleeping pills that contain the active ingredient zolpidem, to lower current recommended doses. Recommended doses will be required to be lowered on drug labels that doctors use to prescribe medicines and on medication guides given to patients, for the following drugs: Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist. FDA is also urging physicians to prescribe the drugs at the lowest dose capable of treating the patient’s insomnia.
The FDA announcement is based on driving simulation and laboratory studies showing that, in some individuals, zolpidem blood levels the morning after use appear capable of impairing driving to a degree that increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident. Reducing deaths from motor vehicle accidents is a priority for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While these deaths declined between 2000 and 2009, car crashes are still among the top ten causes of death for all Americans.
New data is driving the announcement, according to the FDA. “Over the years FDA has received spontaneous adverse event reports of driving impairment and motor vehicle accidents associated with zolpidem, but these reports lacked the information necessary to fully understand whether and how zolpidem affected people’s mental alertness and ability to drive,” said Dr. Unger. “Recently, data from clinical trials and other types of studies have become available, which allowed FDA to better characterize the risk of next-morning impairment.”
U.S. Department of Transportation research shows that traffic deaths fell out of the top ten causes of death in 2008 and 2009, the last year for which there is available data. But tens of thousands of car-related deaths still occur in the United States each year. Researchers are in constant pursuit of new car features and driver/pedestrian education that would drop that number considerably.
A recent issue of New York Magazine looked at traffic deaths in the city, as well as U.S. and worldwide innovations that could significantly bring down the numbers of people hurt and killed in traffic-related collisions.
Among the interesting ideas:
- More sidewalk cafes. Researchers say activity on streets reminds drivers that people are present and they need to slow down.
- Sensors in traffic lights that keep them from turning red until the person who started in the intersection when it was green has safely crossed the street.
NewPublicHealth has written extensively about the intersection of traffic safety and public health, including a talk with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood as part of our National Prevention Strategy Series.