Category Archives: Safety

Jun 6 2013

Public Health News Roundup: June 6

Smoking Cessation, Three Other Simple Lifestyle Behaviors Dramatically Improve Overall Health
Utilizing four simple lifestyle behaviors can reduce the risk of both heart disease in particular and death in general, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine identified regular exercise, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and—in particular—quitting smoking as the four keys. "Of all the lifestyle factors, we found that smoking avoidance played the largest role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality," said study senior author Roger Blumenthal, MD, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Hopkins and director of the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins. "In fact, smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviors still had lower survival rates after 7.6 years than did nonsmokers who were sedentary and obese." The researchers said the findings support American Heart Association recommendations regarding health and illustrate that there are many health factors that people can control. Read more on tobacco.

TSA Abandons Plans to Allow Small Knives, Sports Equipment on Planes
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has dropped its plans to allow passengers to carry knives and certain sports equipment on planes amid loud protests from lawmakers, the airline industry, labor unions and law enforcement, according to the Associated Press. TSA first announced its intentions back in March; 145 members of the U.S. Congress recently signed a letter requesting the prohibitions to stay in place and the House was nearing passage of legislation that would counter TSA’s plans to loosen regulations. "After getting the input from all these different constituents, I realized there was not across-the-board support that would serve us well in moving forward," TSA Administrator John Pistole. "It is a recognition that, yes, these items could be used as weapons, but I want our folks to focus on those things that, again, are the most concern given the current intelligence.” Read more on safety.

California Law Reduces Payments for Millions of Uninsured Patients
California’s Hospital Fair Pricing Act is successfully helping low-income populations by limiting exactly how much hospitals can collect from uninsured patients and can serve as a diagram for how other states can address the public health issue, according to a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation appearing in the journal Health Affairs. The law was passed in 2006. There are more than 6.8 million people in the state without insurance; 97 percent of California hospitals offered free care to such patients with incomes at or below the federal poverty level. Read more on access to health care.

May 23 2013

Preventing Traumatic Brain Injuries in Youth Sports: A Q&A with Robert Faherty

As we learn more about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), the public health focus is increasingly on prevention in youth sports. A recent study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the American Journal of Public Health found that while 44 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted youth sport TBI laws, they all deal with identifying and responding to the injuries—not preventing them.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Robert Faherty, VP and Commissioner of the Babe Ruth League Inc., about what the baseball league in particular—and youth sports in general—are doing to improve the prevention of and response to traumatic brain injuries. The league includes about 1 million players across its Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth divisions.

>>Read more in a related Q&A with the author of the youth sports TBI law study.

NewPublicHealth: How is the Babe Ruth League working to prevent primary traumatic brain injuries in youth baseball?

Robert Faherty: One of the things that we really pride ourselves on— and, first of all, our organizations are entirely made up of volunteers, from the league administration level right down to the coach—is providing that league with the best insurance program we possibly can. Through Babe Ruth League, you have the opportunity to buy accident, or liability insurance. That's because we wanted to make sure that there would be no reason that a player wouldn’t go get checked out or a league wouldn’t send a player to a doctor or to an emergency room. We weren’t worried about the parents having insurance, we weren’t worried about somebody’s liability being in question—you can go to the doctor and have it covered.

The second part of that would be our ongoing attempt to educate and prevent injuries right down to the simplest practices. In our coaching certification and coaching education courses, which are mandated, not only are there safety issues that we include that in our score books that we provide to the teams, but it’s also the smallest things about how to run a practice. One of the most common injuries is being hit by a baseball, but it’s not the batter being hit by a baseball or a fielder being hit by a baseball—it’s an overthrow by kids warming up improperly, and not throwing all in the same direction.

Read more

May 23 2013

Public Health News Roundup: May 23

USDA and HUD Offer Housing Help for People Affected by the Tornadoes in Oklahoma
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have announced efforts to help find housing for Oklahoma residents displaced by the recent tornadoes. The USDA is offering help through its Rural Development portfolio, which has programs designed to help improve life in rural communities. HUD is offering help through foreclosure assistance, temporary housing, and federally guaranteed loans for repair. Click here for more information on HUD assistance following a disaster. Read more on disasters.

New CDC Campaign Encourages Smokers to Talk with their Doctor about Quitting
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has launched a new campaign to urge smokers to speak with their doctors about strategies for quitting. CDC research finds that getting help from a physician can double the odds of quitting smoking. To help promote the campaign, CDC is partnering with five physician groups: the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The campaign also encourages clinicians to ask patients if they smoke and offer assistance in helping them to quit. Almost 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Through the physician group partnerships, doctors will be offered training on cessation interventions. Read more on tobacco.

DOT 2013 ‘Click It or Ticket’ Campaign Focuses on Night Time Driving
The annual Click It or Ticket Campaign to increase seat belt use from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) takes place around Memorial Day weekend and this year will focus attention especially on night time driving—although police officers will be on the lookout for unbuckled drivers during the day and night this weekend. While DOT data shows that daytime seat belt use is up to 86 percent, night time use of seat belts continues to be lower. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risk of being involved in a serious crash is greater at night than during the day. In 2011, 62 percent of motorists who died in a crash that occurred at night did not have their seat belts on, buckled compared to 43 percent of those who died in a crash during the day. Read more on safety.

May 17 2013

Study: Many Laws on Detecting Youth TBIs, But None on Preventing Them

file Hosea Harvey, Temple University’s Beasley School of Law

While a growing number of major league sports teams have policies on concussion assessment and return to play, many youth and school sports leagues and teams do not have similar rules, despite thousands of sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) reported in children and adolescents every year.

Hosea H. Harvey, PhD, JD, Assistant Professor of Law in Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, has just published an article in the American Journal of Public Health analyzing how this health issue is being addressed across the country. He found that there are laws dealing with concussions in youth sports in 44 states and D.C.—but none are focused on preventing the injuries. The laws only address detecting the injuries or preventing an additional injury after one has already occurred.

The study also revealed that many laws don’t draw on evidence around what works. For example, most state laws establish a minimum 24-hour period of youth athlete removal, but there is no scientific agreement about the optimal minimal time someone who has suffered a sports-related TBI should be removed from play. The study utilized an open source dataset from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantee Public Health Law Research called LawAtlas.

>>Read the full study.

NewPublicHealth previously spoke with Harvey and Kerri McGowan Lowrey, JD, MPH, Senior Staff Attorney with the Network for Public Health Law — Eastern Region, about legal and legislative approaches to addressing concussions in youth sports. The previous interview is included below:

Read more

May 7 2013

Bringing Health Into Decisions Across Sectors: HIA on Potential Coal Plant Closure

file The Rise of HIAs in the United States infographic courtesy of the Health Impact Project. View the full infographic below.

The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, recently announced eight new grant recipients that will receive funding to conduct health impact assessments (HIAs). The projects will bring health considerations into upcoming decisions on topics including education, sanitation infrastructure, and energy.

“Our new grantees will use health impact assessments to uncover opportunities to improve health in a wide range of policy decisions, as well as to identify and avoid potential unintended consequences,” said Aaron Wernham, MD, director of the Health Impact Project. “These eight HIAs are the latest in a fast-growing field, as more cities and states find them a useful way to bring health into decisions in other sectors.”

By the end of 2007, there were 27 completed HIAs in the United States. There are now more than 225 completed or in progress, according to the Health Impact Project map of HIA activity in the United States.

Funding for some of the new proposals was also provided by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation and The California Endowment.

Some of the new HIAs that have received funding include:

  • Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc. will undertake an HIA to inform decisions about a proposed casino in western Massachusetts. Decision-makers—including the state gaming commission, local government officials, and voters—will consider siting options as well as licensing, regulation, design and development of the casino. The HIA will examine health risks that might be linked to gambling—including substance abuse, mental health, and injury—and potential health benefits related to employment opportunity, access to health insurance, and community revenues. 
  • The University of Texas at El Paso, will conduct an HIA on the impacts of proposed water and sanitation improvement projects on the town of Vinton, Texas. Vinton primarily relies on failing septic tanks and cesspools for wastewater removal and domestic wells with poor water quality. Poor water and sanitation are associated with gastrointestinal illnesses and other serious health conditions such as hepatitis, dysentery, and dehydration. Improved systems could not only improve public health but also support economic development and long-term sustainability of local businesses and industry. 
  • An HIA by the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, in collaboration with the Purchase District Health Department, will examine the potential health benefits and risks of the retrofit or retirement of the Shawnee coal plant in Paducah, KY, operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The HIA will analyze environmental health concerns associated with air and water pollution from the plant and the effects of its closure on the community including employment, individual income, and revenue for local services important to health.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with two of the researchers conducting the Shawnee coal plant HIA, Elizabeth Crowe, executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, and Deborah Payne, energy and health coordinator for the Foundation.

NewPublicHealth: What is the scope of the HIA you’re conducting? 

Read more

May 7 2013

Caffeine in Your Jelly Beans?

file Image courtesy of FDA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will investigate the safety of caffeine in food products, especially the effects of caffeine on children and teens. The FDA’s announcement comes as an increasing number of food companies have introduced food products that contain caffeine—including gum, jelly beans, hot sauce, marshmallows and Cracker Jacks.

Caffeine can be addictive, and can lead to high blood pressure and insomnia, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). AAP discourages the use of caffeine by kids and teens. Caffeine levels vary in the new foods on the market. According to the FDA, a caffeinated version of Wrigley’s gum contains as much caffeine as four ounces of coffee, per piece. The new caffeinated gum packs each contain eight pieces of gum.

Read more

May 6 2013

Philadelphia Lead Court ‘Gets the Lead Out’ of Older Homes

file Carla Campbell, School of Public Health at Drexel University

While residential use of lead-based paint has been banned in the U.S. since 1978, millions of homes still have the paint, and the health dangers it brings with it, on their walls. Lead paint has been linked to cognitive and behavior issues as well as anemia and even death, especially in young children because their brains are still developing. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half a million children ages 1 through 5 have potentially dangerous blood lead levels.

In Philadelphia, according to the 2009 American Housing Survey data, 91.6 percent of the housing units were built before 1978. Exacerbating the issue, close to 30 percent of families live in poverty, which can delay household maintenance and lead to peeling paint—a major lead risk to children in older homes. Studies also show that the number of children in Philadelphia with elevated blood levels is higher than the national average.

“This problem requires a public health solution since [preventing childhood] lead exposure…involves multiple stakeholders, including the child and parents, the property owner, and the local authorities who make and enforce laws, ordinances and codes,” says Carla Campbell an associate teaching professor in the School of Public Health at Drexel University. Campbell is the author of a new study on a lead court established in Philadelphia in 2003. The lead court is designed to speed the cleanup of lead hazards in apartments and rented homes. Campbell’s research was funded by the Public Health Law Research, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based at the Temple University School of Law. Campbell’s study appears in a special issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law focused on public health law research.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Carla Campbell about Philadelphia’s lead court and the implications of its success for other public health issues.

NewPublicHealth: What did your study find?

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May 6 2013

Public Health News Roundup: May 6

HUD Grants $72M to Improve Local Homeless Programs, Services
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced $72 million in grants to strengthen more than 500 homeless housing and service programs. The grants, which are part of HUD’s Continuum of Care Program, will go toward local programs such as street outreach, client assessment and directing housing assistance. This is the second round of HUD funding this year; the agency gave more than $1.5 billion in grants in March and intends to give a third round later in the year. “We know these modest investments in housing and serving our homeless neighbors not only saves money, but saves lives,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Read more on housing.

Survey: 90 Percent of Parents Admit to Driving Distracted with Kids in the Car
Approximately 90 percent of parents who drove a child between the ages of 1 and 12 in the past month admit they were distracted by some sort of technology while they were behind the wheel, according to survey findings discussed at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, D.C. The most common distraction was phone calls, with 70 percent. The survey also found that about that same percentage was distracted by either feeding or dealing with the child, or with self-grooming. "A lot of the attention on the distracted-driving issue has focused on teens and new drivers," said author Michelle Macy, MD, a clinical lecturer in the departments of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the University of Michigan. "But our study is showing that most parents say they were distracted an average of four times when driving their child in the last month, which is more frequent than I had expected.” Read more on safety.

Kids Routinely Injured, Killed by Gun Violence; Easy Access a Serious Issue
While it is often the biggest and scariest incidents that garner media coverage, youth are “routinely” injured or killed by gun violence, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers looked at trauma admissions in two Colorado emergency departments over nine years, finding that 129 of the 6,920 children sought treatment for gunshot wounds. “In 14 percent of these cases children managed to get access to unlocked, loaded guns,” said author Angela Sauaia, MD, associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “In an area with so much disagreement, I think we can all agree that children should not have unsupervised access to unlocked, loaded guns.” Sauaia noted that as this only includes kids who went to emergency rooms, the actual totals are likely much higher. Read more on violence.

May 3 2013

Do you know 911’s cousin, 811?


Did you know that consumers are supposed to call a three-digit number, 811, before starting any digging on residential property? Many would-be diggers don’t, which is why the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) began an 811 public education campaign last month.

PHMSA has good reason for getting the word out. Striking buried lines is a leading cause of pipeline-related death and injury and can lead to service outages in whole neighborhoods. Over the last 20 years, property damage costs were over $500 million nationwide from such strikes.

PHMSA estimated that three out of ten households will begin residential construction or renovation projects this spring. A call to 811, which connects would-be diggers to a local utility’s call center, a few days before planned digging generates a visit from a local representative who will mark the approximate location of nearby underground lines, pipes and cables, so workers can dig safely.

 “We want 811 to become as well-known as 911, because digging without getting your utilities marked is not only dangerous, it can also cut off services to an entire neighborhood and cost you money[in fines],” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman.

Since 811 debuted six years ago, serious pipeline incidents from unsafe digging have decreased by more than 45 percent, according to PHMSA.

Read more

May 1 2013

Public Health News Roundup: May 1

FDA Approves Plan B One-Step for Women 15 and Older
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved over-the-counter use of the Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive for women age 15 years or older. The single dose pill previously required a prescription. “Research has shown that access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD “The data reviewed by the agency demonstrated that women 15 years of age and older were able to understand how Plan B One-Step works, how to use it properly, and that it does not prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease.” Last month a federal judge in New York ordered the FDA to make Plan B available to all women and/or make Plan B One-Step available “without age or point of sale restrictions,” according to an FDA release. Read more on teen pregnancy.

Study: Amusement Rides Injure 4,000 U.S. Kids Annually
As the weather warms and families start to plan summer vacations, it’s important for parents to remember to use caution when selecting amusement park rides. More than 4,000 kids are injured on an amusement ride each year in the United States, according to researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Injuries sent about 93,000 children to emergency rooms between 1990 and 2010, with about 70 percent of those coming May through September. Researchers say the numbers demonstrate the need for standardized safety regulations. "Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over mobile rides, regulation of fixed-site rides is currently left to state or local governments, leading to a fragmented system," said senior author Gary Smith, MD, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, in a release. "A coordinated national system would help us prevent amusement-ride-related injuries through better injury surveillance and more consistent enforcement of standards." The study includes safety tips for parents. Read more on safety.

Prevention App Wins HHS Challenge
The winner of the a recent mobile app challenge from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion is the myfamily app developed by Lyfechannel, a company that translates evidence-based health behavior and adherence studies into mobile applications. App users can find prevention information and tips for each member of their family; create personal health alerts; and keep track of medical check-ups and vaccinations. HHS research shows that patients who are better engaged in their own health care have better health outcomes and that electronic tools can help them be better health consumers. Read more on prevention.