Category Archives: Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health, is set to begin an early-stage clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against the Ebola virus. The trial should begin as early as September. The vaccine to be tested was developed by the NIAID’s Group Health Research Center in Seattle and does not contain infectious Ebola virus material. Instead, it’s what is known as an adenovirus vector vaccine containing an insert of two Ebola genes. The vaccine works by entering a cell and delivering the new genetic material, causing a protein expression that activates an immune response in the body. Researchers have seen success with studies in primates.
The vaccine being tested is not the experimental serum that was used on two Ebola-infected health workers recently evacuated from Liberia. In those cases, Samaritan’s Purse, the aid organization that sent the health workers to Africa, contacted officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Liberia to discuss the status of various experimental treatments they had identified through a medical literature search. CDC officials referred them to an NIH scientist in West Africa familiar with experimental treatment candidates who was then able to refer them to pharmaceutical companies working on experimental treatments. The serum being used is made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, Calif.
Read more on NIAID Ebola vaccine research.
>>Bonus Content: The CDC has released a new Ebola infographic.
Since March, several African countries have reported more than 1,000 cases of Ebola virus and more than 670 deaths. During a United Nations Foundation briefing in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, public health experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization raised concerns about airline passengers from these countries spreading Ebola well beyond Africa. This week that fear became a reality when a U.S. citizen, Paul Sawyer, who had been in Liberia very recently as a consultant to the country’s finance ministry, fell ill on a flight from Liberia to Nigeria. Sawyer was hospitalized in Lagos, Nigeria, and died there of Ebola.
Several West African nations have responded by planning to set up monitoring stations at airports to identify people with fevers before they board planes. On a CDC conference call this week with reporters, Martin Cetron, MD, the CDC's director for Global Migration and Quarantine, said it makes more sense to put checkpoints in West African countries than to scan incoming passengers in the United States because there are few direct flights from West Africa, and fevers found among passengers entering the United States are unlikely to be Ebola.
“Ebola is contagious only when symptomatic, so someone unknowingly harboring the virus would not pass it on, “ said Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, during the conference call, also adding that even passengers showing symptoms are unlikely to pass the disease on to fellow travelers because blood and stool carry the most viruses. Cetron also said that those at highest risk for Ebola infection are family members who care for sick loved ones and health care workers who treat patients or accidentally stick themselves with infected needles.
"We do not anticipate [Ebola] will spread in the U.S. if an infected person is hospitalized here," CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters. "We are taking action now by alerting health care workers in the U.S. and reminding them how to isolate and test suspected patients while following strict infection-control procedures."
The National Geographic recently took an in-depth look at the Ebola virus in Africa and the risk of it spreading to the United States. Read the full article.
This week, the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (National Prevention Council) submitted its annual status report to the President and designated Congressional committees describing national progress in meeting specific prevention, health promotion and public health goals defined in the National Prevention Strategy first released three years ago. The National Prevention Strategy is required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and has the overarching goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.
The goal of the annual report is to show how cabinet-level agencies are working across the federal government to incorporate health in diverse sectors—such as housing, transportation and education—to advance the National Prevention Strategy and influence the health of individuals, families and communities. The status report also highlights how private- and public-sector partners across the country are advancing the National Prevention Strategy in organizations ranging from health care systems to national foundations.
Federal agency highlights for the past twelve months include:
- Continued support for smoke-free housing by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Smoking cessation initiatives by the U.S. Department of Defense for its troops and their families
- Pedestrian safety promotion efforts from the U.S. Department of Transportation
- School-based healthy food initiatives from the U.S. Department of Education
The report also includes status updates from several partner organization promoting health and wellness, including the American Public Health Association; the Henry Ford Health System; the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The health promotion efforts of these organizations over the last year includes the fifth annual release of the County Health Rankings, which shows how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play.
Read interviews and listen to podcasts with federal agency leaders about the National Prevention Strategy on NewPublicHealth.
Public Health Campaign of the Month: National Crime Prevention Council, AAP Campaigns Urge Firearm Safety
NewPublicHealth continues a new series to highlight some of the best public health education and outreach campaigns every month. Submit your ideas for Public Health Campaign of the Month to email@example.com.
Two national multimedia campaigns are urging precautions and safe practices when it comes to firearms and children.
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC)—in partnership with the Ad Council and funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance—has launched the Safe Firearms Storage campaign to encourage owners to make safe firearms storage a priority. According to a study by the RAND Corporation, about 1.4 million homes have firearms stored in a way that makes them accessible to children, at–risk youth, potential thieves and people who could harm themselves or others.
“We teach all drivers to buckle up in case of accidents and to lock their cars,” said Ann M. Harkins, President and CEO of the NCPC. “The same logic applies to this campaign; we want owners to lock up their firearms to prevent accidents and keep them out of the wrong hands. Safe storage ensures that owners are doing their part to increase public safety.”
In addition to a website, the NCPC campaign features television, radio, print, outdoor and online PSAs that call on firearms owners to use safety devices such as trigger locks, as well as to store ammunition in a separate locked container. A “Snapguide” illustrates options for properly storing a firearm in a household, and the website also offers resources to help firearm owners talk with their children about firearm safety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in partnership with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is also making a beginning-of-summer push as part of its ongoing ASK campaign—“Asking Saves Kids”—to remind parents to ask whether there is an unlocked, loaded gun in a home before a child goes on a play date. A response of “yes” should be followed with questions about where the gun is and whether the children will be supervised. Concerned parents should then not be afraid to suggest the children play somewhere else, such as a playground or another home without a gun.
A report from a White House Task Force on sexual assaults on campus several weeks ago found that one in five women have been attacked, but only about 12 percent of the attacks are ever reported, often because of a campus climate that places blame on women and sends messages to men that sexual attacks are manly. The task force is asking colleges and universities to survey their students about sexual assault and other “campus climate” issues, and to track assaults and enforcement of campus policies that govern such assaults.
One idea gaining traction for reducing sexual assaults is called bystander intervention, which not only trains individuals to find safe ways to help prevent assaults, but seeks to change the campus cultures that can condone attacks.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Dorothy Edwards, executive director of Green Dot etc., which provides training for high schools and colleges on bystander intervention.
NewPublicHealth: Where does the name Green Dot come from?
Dorothy Edwards: Well, two different ways. I started my career in the field in Texas and for whatever reason for Sexual Assault Awareness Month green was the color of the ribbons. What was more intentional was the “dots” piece. That came out of one of the challenges in mobilizing bystanders to prevention, which is that this issue feels so big. People have been hearing about it for decades and I think there’s a kind of resignation that has settled in. Because when you hear the same number over and over and programs come and programs go and it’s an issue this big, people can just feel that there’s nothing they can do about it. “I’m one person, I can’t change this.”
So, one of the original challenges when we were playing with this idea of bystander intervention and highlighting more the integral role of this kind of third character—apart from victim and perpetrator—was that we knew in order for it to be effective it wasn’t just about skill and knowledge, it was about giving people a sense of possibility, giving people a sense of manageability. And when you say the word dot, a dot is small. So instead of saying we’ve got to change the whole culture, we’ve got to change all college campuses, we’ve got to change sexual assault—which feels so big—we can say to people, gosh, all we need you to actually deal with is a single green dot, a single moment, a single choice. And suddenly something very big feels very small and manageable
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched three very pink infographics aimed at raising awareness about breast cancer among young women who may not realize they can be at risk for the disease—usually because of a gene mutation inherited from their mother or father.
The campaign, called “Know:BRCA” uses pink for all three of the new infographics because that color is widely identified with breast cancer awareness campaigns. The graphics focus on:
- Knowing about BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Knowing that everyone has BRCA genes
- Knowing your genetic risk factors
According to the CDC, most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older. However, each year in the United States about 9,000 women younger than 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. In this younger group the cancer is generally more aggressive, found at a later stage, has lower survival rates and can often be linked to a mutation in one or two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Usually the BRCA genes protect people from cancer, but mutations to the genes can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in general and especially in younger women. Discussions with physicians and genetics counselors about family history of breast and ovarian cancer can determine the need to test for the gene mutations. And if the tests are positive, health care experts may advise preventive treatment to help avoid breast and ovarian cancer, such as long-term medication or prophylactic mastectomy—the surgery actress Angelina Jolie chose last year because of her family history of breast cancer.
Without treatment, women with a BRCA gene mutation are seven times more likely to get breast cancer and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer before age 70 than other women.
The goal of the new infographics is to encourage women to learn their family history of cancer and then talk to their doctor if they have:
- Multiple relatives with breast cancer
- Any relatives with ovarian cancer
- Relatives who were diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50
The CDC also recently released a new physician tool to help doctors advise young patients about BRCA testing and prophylactic treatment.
>>Bonus Link: Read a new New York Times story on the evolution of breast cancer treatment
“Hypertension affects nearly one in three adults and kills more people around the world than anything else. It is both too common and too often poorly controlled.”
So said Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) this past weekend. The panel was convened by ASH, the American Heart Association and the CDC to launch a project supporting improved control of hypertension worldwide. According to the panel an estimated 970 million people have hypertension worldwide, and the disease is responsible for more than nine million deaths, as hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Data from the groups finds that rates of hypertension have increased in both developed and developing nations, due in part to an aging population and lifestyles that include high salt diets and low physical activity.
For the developing world, the CDC; the Pan American Health Organization; and other regional and global stakeholders are identifying both cost effective medicines and inexpensive delivery strategies for the drugs to help patients afford and receive them.
In the United States, the Affordable Care Act is expected to increase the number of people on hypertension medications, but despite the availability of coverage for hypertension diagnosis and treatment there remains concern over disparities. A study of more than 16,000 members of the Hispanic community published in the American Journal of Hypertension earlier this year found that while the prevalence of hypertension among Hispanics is nearly equal to that of non-Hispanic whites, diagnosis of the disease is much lower, as is general awareness of its symptoms and treatment options.
"Given the relative ease of identifying hypertension and the availability of low-cost medications, enabling better access to diagnostic and treatment services should be prioritized to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease on Hispanic populations,” said Paul Sorlie, MD, the lead author of the study and an epidemiologist with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “This study gives us the information needed to support the development of policies that can improve this access and, subsequently, the overall health of countless US citizens.”
- A new infographic from the Measure Up/Pressure Down initiative of the American Medical Group Association provides some key patient information about hypertension, including normal and dangerous ranges of blood pressure—numbers patients should be familiar with.
- A map from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington shows hypertension levels for 2001 to 2009 by race and gender.
May is stroke awareness month and a new infographic from the American Stroke Association wants everyone to know minutes count when a stroke hits. The campaign uses research published by the Association this year in the campaign infographic to let people know that for each minute shaved off stroke response in a hospital, patients get back days of healthy living.
The infographic includes the FAST warning signs and symptoms for stroke:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911
>>Bonus Content: The American Stroke Association has a site full of patient education resources on stroke awareness and prevention, including a very effective PSA on body language to help teach the FAST warning signs of stroke. The association also previously created another infographic on the FAST warning signs.
This week Maryland became one of more than a dozen states to ban sales of grain alcohol, also known as extreme-strength alcohol. The drink, which includes the brand name Everclear, is 95 percent pure alcohol. It has no color, taste or smell and so easily mixes—without detection—into juices, soda and punch, making it an effective date rape tool, according to college health officials. And it’s cheap. A whole bottle can cost $15, which is a price easily shared among college or younger students.
Banning extreme-strength alcohol is among several initiatives a growing number of states are taking to try to reduce college student deaths, injuries and assaults linked to campus alcohol use. A report published in September by The Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, which was formed in 2013 to address problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption on ten college campuses across the state, found that alcohol use of any kind on campuses across the country each year results in 1,800 deaths; 600,000 injuries; 700,000 assaults by someone under the influence; and nearly 1 million rapes and sexual assaults.
Many states, including Maryland, have declared college campus drinking to be a public health emergency that goes well beyond the campus because of the noise, vandalism, car crashes and community injuries and deaths linked to campus drinking each year. Banning grain alcohol was the Maryland Collaborative’s first initiative because college students who are binge drinkers—a serious and dangerous issue on campuses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—are 36 times more likely to drink grain alcohol than are non-binge drinkers, according to David H. Jernigan, the director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md.
But some research shows that banning extreme strength alcohol can actually exacerbate the problem by raising awareness of the drink to students who may not have been aware of it before. This can push students in search of grain alcohol to find other high-octane sources, such as privately made moonshine, which can be even more highly concentrated than commercially available grain alcohol and can contain other contaminants, said Laura Forbes, an associate professor of health education at the University of Alabama/Birmingham and chair of the American College Health Association’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Coalition.
According to Forbes, what is desperately needed is a campus culture change on alcohol just like the culture change that has reduced smoking on campus; many campuses bans tobacco use outright. Forbes said reaching that goal requires collaborations—such as the one in Maryland—that bring together campus administrators, businesses, student leaders, law enforcement, public health and the community.
“The way to change the culture,” she said, “is to start to have a conversation that with students about why they’re drinking and to include administrations, faculty, alumni and others in the talks.”
Forbes said the culture change won’t be a suddenly dry campus. “It will be incremental over time, but each campus has to start the change to where they want to move.”
- The Maryland Collaborative has released a best practices guide for reducing campus drinking that includes both individual and campus-wide interventions.
- The CDC recently updated its Alcohol and Public Health website, which now includes new infographics and links to videos, webinars, e-cards and podcasts, as well as a fact sheet on preventing excessive alcohol use, which highlights evidence-based strategies such as those recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force.
If you’re planning on foreign travel then the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to help you find foods that won’t bite you back. Can I Eat This? is a free app from the agency that lets users search country-by-country for what’s safe to eat and drink. Once you choose the country you’ll be eating in—or where you already are, perhaps standing in line deciding what to order—simply tap the food or drink icon and wait for questions specific to that country.
For example, tapping “eating” in Argentina prompts the app to ask whether you’ll be buying from a street vendor or a store, and your answers prompt even more questions about the food ‘s storage and handling. In Bulgaria, tap “drinking” and you’ll be asked if there’s ice in the drink. Tap “yes” and a scary X will pop up with a warning of “probably not,” because the ice is likely made with tap water, which the CDC has identified as a poor safety choice in that country.
>>Bonus Link: Find more travel health information from the CDC here.