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Sep 30 2014
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Have a Story about Implementing the National Prevention Strategy? The Office of the Surgeon General Wants to Hear It

The National Prevention Strategy (NPS), a federal-level initiative coordinated by the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG), was launched three years ago with the goal of promoting prevention and improving the nation’s health by engaging all sectors, not just health care.

Communities across the country are hard at work integrating different sectors in the joint purpose. For example, transportation agencies and senior health agencies are working to improve travel logistics for seniors who have different needs and schedules than the average commuter. The benefits for seniors can be many and huge, including engaging in social activities, recreation, timely visits to doctors, access to food shopping and greater independence.

In its 2014 required annual status report to the president and Congress on the progress of implementing the National Prevention Strategy, the OSG shared for the first time stories—called Partner Implementation Models (PIMs)—about communities and organizations implementing the strategies. One PIM showcased the work of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), including:

  • In 2013, RWJF re-convened the Commission to Build a Healthier America—an interdisciplinary group of leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors originally brought together in 2008—to develop recommendations to reduce health disparities. The Commission’s January 2014 report references the National Prevention Strategy.
  • RWJF’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps show how health is influenced by where people live, learn, work and play. Counties are ranked using data on health behaviors; clinical care; the physical environment; and social and economic factors such as family and social support. In 2014, new measures related to housing, transit, access to mental health providers, injury-related deaths, food environment and exercise opportunities were added to the Rankings. All of these measures directly reinforce the priorities outlined in the National Prevention Strategy.

Another PIM was shared by the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) in Detroit, Mich., the fifth-largest employer in the city, which launched Henry Ford LiveWell (HF LiveWell) to improve the health of HFHS employees, patients, and surrounding communities. 

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Sep 30 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 30

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EBOLA UPDATE: UN Finds That Orphaned Children Risk Being Shunned Due to Ebola Deaths
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
With more than 3,000 people now dead in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, more than 3,700 children in the afflicted countries who lost one or both parents are now at risk of being shunned, according to the United Nations. UNICEF—which is taking donations to assist the children—says that people to care for the children are desperately needed, but many believe that taking care of the children has turned “into a potential death sentence.” Read more on Ebola.

HUD: $75M to Improve Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher Residents’ Access to Service Programs
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is awarding $75 million in grants to give public housing and Housing Choice Voucher residents increased access to programs to improve their education and employment status, with an ultimate goal of putting them on a path to self-sufficiency. The grants will enable public housing agencies (PHAs) to work with social service agencies, community colleges, businesses and other local partners. “These grants will link people to the computer access, financial literacy, job training, childcare and other tools they need to compete and succeed in the workplace,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “Every American deserves access to the skills and resources necessary to become self-sufficient.” Read more on housing.

AAP: IUDs the Most Effective Contraceptive Method for Teen Girls
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants are more reliable than birth control pills and condoms when it comes to preventing U.S. teen pregnancies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which now recommends the devices as the “first-line” choice of birth control for teenage girls who do not want to be abstinent. According to the AAP’s new policy statement, approximately 750,000 U.S. adolescents become pregnant each year, and more than 80 percent of the pregnancies are unplanned. Read more on sexual health.

Sep 29 2014
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Ebola Outbreak Prompts Concern for Impact of Other Infectious Diseases

As the number of cases and deaths soar, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is rightfully front and center in the news, both in terms of the disease’s progress and of the need for funds and manpower. However, infectious disease specialists are urging public health leaders to also stay vigilant in preventing and handling outbreaks of many other infectious diseases. Earlier this month, the White House issued the first ever executive order on antibiotic resistance to help prevent the 20,000 U.S. deaths that occur each year because of infections are resistant to available antibiotics.

Writer David Olsen reported last week in GlobalHealthHub that, based on figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS, at least three disease in West Africa are currently claiming more lives than Ebola: Malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. No one is suggesting a slow down in the Ebola efforts—in fact public health experts are urging ever greater ramping up—but as Olsen points out, “another of [Ebola’s] terrible legacies may be that it will distract attention and resources from other diseases that are killing far more people worldwide.”

Over the next few weeks NewPublicHealth will be doing a series of research and outbreak updates on several infectious diseases and their impact in both the United States and globally, starting today with HIV/AIDS.

This Saturday was HIV/AIDS awareness day for U.S. gay and bisexual men. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five gay men in 20 major cities is estimated to be HIV positive, with about one third not knowing they are positive. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimates that, based on CDC data, 12-13 percent of gay men are HIV positive and that there is evidence that the situation is worsening. Between 2008 and 2010, the CDC reported new infections rose 12 percent overall among gay men, and 22 percent among younger gay men, with the highest increases among men of color.

A new survey released late last week by KFF found that at a time when infections among gay and bisexual men are on the rise, more than half of gay and bisexual men say they are not personally concerned about becoming infected; only three in ten say they were tested for HIV within the last year, despite CDC recommendations for at least annual testing, with even more frequent testing recommended by many health departments. 

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Sep 29 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 29

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EBOLA UPDATE: NIH Admits Ebola-Exposed U.S. Physician for Treatment
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) yesterday admitted an Ebola-exposed U.S. physician for treatment at the NIH’s Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md. The unidentified physician became exposed to the virus while volunteering in Sierra Leone; the NIH declined to comment on whether the physician had been infected. "When someone is exposed, you want to put them into the best possible situation so if something happens you can take care of them," said NIH infectious disease chief Anthony Fauci, MD, according to the Associated Press. Read more on Ebola.

Electronic Devices Can Keep Kids Up at Night, Should Be Out of Bedrooms
Almost three out of four U.S. children ages 6 to 17 sleep in a bedroom with at least one electronic device—and such children sleep an average of one fewer hour per night, according to Jill Creighton, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. According to Creighton, backlit electronic devices such as tablets, smartphones and video games can interrupt sleep and keep people awake, making it important for parents to get their kids in electronics-free bedtime routines. “The hour before bed should be a no-electronics zone,” she said in a release. “The burst of light from a phone (even if it’s just to check the time) can break a sleep cycle. A regular alarm clock is best.” Read more on pediatrics.

Study: Kids as Young as 6 Can Already See Academic and Social Issues Due to ADHD
Children as young as 6 to 8 years old can experience academic problems and difficulty with social skills due to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is exacerbated by the fact that approximately 80 percent of kids with ADHD symptoms have not been diagnosed with the disorder, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers tested approximately 400 kids at 43 Australian schools, finding 179 with ADHD and 212 without; by following their academic careers, the researchers determined that by the second grade the kids with ADHD were more likely to be below-average in reading and mathematics, and to experience more difficulty connecting with their peers, indicating the need to identify and treat ADHD earlier. "Already at this stage, which is relatively young, it's very clear the children have important functional problems in every domain we registered," said study lead author Daryl Efron, MD, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician with the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, according to HealthDay. "On every measure, we found the kids with ADHD were performing far poorer than the control children." Read more on mental health.

Sep 26 2014
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The Ever-Evolving Traffic Light Could See More Changes Ahead

A one-of-its-kind pedestrian traffic walk signal recently turned heads in Portugal with a dancing figure that entertained people as they waited for him to tell them when it was safe to cross the street.

The signal—not planned for mass circulation anytime soon—was developed by the manufacturer Smart to advertise its cars’ safety features. And if it saves lives along the way, it’s in sync with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that 4,432 pedestrians died in traffic crashes in 2011, up 3 percent from 2010. More than a quarter of the accidents resulting in death happened at traffic intersections, both at marked crosswalks and intersections with traffic lights. Andrea Gielen, PhD, head of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins University, says the school’s research shows that many of these accidents occur because pedestrians are distracted by music in their earphones or by speaking or texting on cellphones.

NHTSA began a campaign to keep pedestrians safer last year and highlights community projects that improve pedestrian safety in a stories section on its website on pedestrian safety. One project, developed at University of California, San Diego, was a presentation at a low-income elementary public school in San Diego, Calif. The English- and Spanish-language presentation demonstrated dangerous scenarios and how to prevent them, such as kids dressed in only dark clothing, which makes them difficult to see at night. NHTSA is updating the site regularly to help communities develop their own safe walking programs.

As for traffic lights themselves, makeovers could be ahead. The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences has a traffic light subcommittee that presents new research on traffic signal safety at the board’s annual meeting each January. Upcoming topics of interest are likely to include computerized traffic signals that can respond to traffic flow by switching to green sooner when there’s no congestion ahead, as well as a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that found that traffic lights are easily hacked, which could lead to traffic jams and collisions. Preventing some of the hacking could be as simple as strengthening the passwords of the engineers who control the traffic signals, according to computer engineers at MIT.

Wendy Landman, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group Walk Boston, says intersections could be safer if city agencies talked more. She said the deciding factor for how long a traffic signal should be green for pedestrians is often based on how quickly traffic experts think drivers want to be back on the gas pedal—but that may be too short for many pedestrians, especially at intersections on main roads.

>>Bonus Content: Read a previous NewPublicHealth interview with Andrea Gielen.

Sep 26 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 26

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EBOLA UPDATE: American Physician Declared Ebola-Free, Released From Hospital
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Rick Sacra, MD, an American physician who was working in an obstetrics clinic in Liberia when he became infected with the Ebola virus, has been cleared as disease-free by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and released from The Nebraska Medical Center. He entered the facility, which includes one of the United States’ few biocontainment units, three weeks ago. Kenty Brantly, MD, who was previously and successfully treated for Ebola at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, had donated two pints of his blood for Sacra’s treatment. Read more on Ebola.

UTHealth to Use $1.3M Grant to Study Asthma Risk for Health Care Workers
As asthma prevalence continues to rise across the country, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health will utilize a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study how the risk of asthma has changed for Texas health care workers over the past decade. The health care field is one of the population groups that see a higher risk for the breathing disorder. For the study, researchers will repeat a 2003 survey which found that, after entering the field, 7.3 percent of nurses and 4.2 to 5.6 percent of doctors, respiratory therapists and occupational therapists developed asthma. “Practices in hospitals have changed in 10 years. There are new cleaning chemicals, including many environmentally friendly ones, but are those products without risk? We want to find out,” said George Delclos, MD, PhD, co-principal investigator and professor in the Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences at the UTHealth School of Public Health. Read more on health disparities.

HHS: $212M to Strengthen State, Local Programs Designed to Prevent Chronic Diseases
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced yesterday that it will award nearly $212 million in grants to help all 50 states and the District of Columbia strengthen efforts to prevent chronic diseases. A total of 193 awards will go to state and local programs, and are funded in part through the Affordable Care Act. “Tobacco use, high blood pressure, and obesity are leading preventable causes of death in the United States,” said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a release. “These grants will enable state and local health departments, national and community organizations, and other partners from all sectors of society to help us prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other leading chronic diseases, and help Americans to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.” Read more on prevention.

Sep 25 2014
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Preparing for Ebola in the U.S. Makes Good Public Health Sense

U.S. public health officials have continually said that it is highly unlikely that the Ebola virus will spread in the United States, even if infected travelers land here. Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that the disease is most contagious when people come into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is ill—and someone that ill would be very likely be identified by border and airline personnel quickly. If hospital admission became necessary, U.S. infection control procedures could stem an outbreak, according to Tom Frieden, MD, the CDC’s director and the point person for the U.S. government on the current Ebola outbreak. Frieden has discussed the issue repeatedly during several news conferences in the last few weeks.

Of course, that changes if the virus becomes transmissible through the air, rather than just via bodily fluids, as Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, suggested in the New York Times last week. While Osterholm often addresses the direst potential outcomes of infectious disease outbreaks, it’s prudent to at least know what to do, which is why agencies such as the CDC and the Network for Public Health Law say what’s needed is information and procedures...but not panic.

Last month, the Network held an online webinar on preparedness measures and Ebola which was watched by more than 1,200 public health officials. Following the webinar, Network experts posted answers to follow-up questions, including one about the right of public health or hospital workers to refuse to care for/help with someone suspected of having Ebola.

The Network also recently created an online primer on preparedness and legal issues surrounding the Ebola outbreak, both for public health officials engaged in the response overseas and for those with current or future responsibility for handling Ebola-related issues in the United States.

>>Bonus Link: Richard Besser, MD, now the chief health editor for ABC News, was formerly the CDC’s head of disaster response and led the early response to the H1N1 outbreak in the United States several years ago. In a recent opinion piece for the Washington Post, Besser laid out what’s being accomplished and what still needs to be done to stem the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Sep 25 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 25

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EBOLA UPDATE: Public Health Experts Worried About a ‘New Normal’ For Ebola
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
With the World Health Organization announcing that the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now surpassed 2,900 people, public health experts are increasingly resigning themselves to the very real possibility that the outbreak will go on for a very long time. Previous human outbreaks were either stopped quickly or in no more than a few months. However, this outbreak is taking hold in urban areas—previous outbreaks were found in rural areas with smaller, more spread out populations—making it unlike any of the others. “What’s always worked before—contact tracing, isolation and quarantine—is not going to work, and it’s not working now,” said Daniel Lucey, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center, according to The Washington Post. Read more on Ebola.

Common Painkillers Linked to Increased Risk of Blood Clots
Common painkillers including aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen may be linked to an increased risk of developing dangerous blog clots known as venous thromboembolisms (VTE), according to a new study in the journal Rheumatology. The painkillers are all types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Researchers analyzed the results of six studies that included 21,401 VTE events, finding that patients who used NSAIDs were almost twice as likely to develop the clots. "Our results show a statistically significant increased VTE risk among NSAIDs users. Why NSAIDs may increase the risk of VTE is unclear,” said study lead author Patompong Ungprasert, in a release. “It is possibly related to COX-2 inhibition leading to thromboxane-prostacyclin imbalance. Physicians should be aware of this association and NSAIDs should be prescribed with caution, especially in patients already at a higher risk of VTE." Read more on heart and vascular health.

U.S. Lags Behind Much of Europe in Infant Mortality Rates
The United States continues to lag behind much of Europe and several other developed nations when it comes to infant mortality rates, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 6.1 U.S. infants died per every 1,000 live births in 2010. While that was down from the rate of 6.87 in 2005, it was still double the rates of Finland, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway. "I think we've known for a long time that the U.S. has a higher preterm birth rate, but this higher infant mortality rate for full-term, big babies who should have really good survival prospects is not what we expected," said lead author Marian MacDorman, a senior statistician and researcher in the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, according to HealthDay. Reasons for the United States’ high rate include prenatal care that leads to the birth of more at-risk preemies, as well as disparities in prenatal care. Read more on maternal and infant health.

Sep 24 2014
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Football: Concussion Watch—Season Three

Frontline, the Public Broadcasting Service documentary series, has a unique football stats blog, Concussion Watch, which is now in its third year. The blog tallies—game by game—the number of National Football League (NFL) players sidelined by a possible concussion and how soon they return to play.

Based on tracking for the last two years, the blog predicts that 150 players will suffer concussions during the current season, which in many cases could lead to lifetime debilitating problems. This is despite new playing rules and ever-evolving helmets.

The impact of concussions on the players’ heath and lives is startling. Based on Concussion Watch data, 306 players have suffered a combined 323 concussions over the past two seasons. In half of the cases where a concussion occurs, players return to the field without having missed a single game. According to the blog, although there’s no standard recovery time for a diagnosed concussion, guidelines developed by the American Academy of Neurology and endorsed by the NFL Players Association indicate that athletes are at the greatest risk for repeat injury in the first 10 days after a concussion. And the more head injuries a person suffers, the more likely they may be to develop complications later on.

In fact, the NFL is due a decision by mid-October from thousands of league retirees on whether they will accept a proposed settlement in a class-action concussion case brought by more than 4,500 former players. Papers filed in the case show that the NFL expects more than thirty percent of all retired players to develop some form of long-term cognitive problem—such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia—in their lifetime as a result of head injuries suffered during games. During the preseason and the first week of official play, 15 players suffered head injuries and 12 have already returned to their positions.

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Sep 24 2014
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Webinar Today, 2-3 p.m.: CEOs of RWJF and PepsiCo to Discuss Calorie-Cutting Efforts

Sixteen major food and beverage companies acting together as part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in the United States in 2012 than they did in 2007, according to a study published last week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The companies collectively pledged to remove 1 trillion calories from the marketplace by 2012, and 1.5 trillion by 2015.

An independent evaluation funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that the companies have already exceeded their 2015 pledge by more than 400 percent.

Today, at 2 p.m. ET, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of RWJF, and Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo and chair of the HWCF, will discuss the findings and efforts in an online event. PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff will moderate.

You can watch the livecast of the event here and join the online conversation using the hashtag #caloriecutback.