Category Archives: Public health

Sep 8 2014
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Recommended Reading: Helping First Timers Sign up for Health Insurance

Recommended Reading

A new Kaiser Health News (KHN) article describes the challenges of helping people who have never had health insurance sign up for coverage. The KHN profile looks at the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS) a nonprofit agency that is helping the large Arab-American population in Dearborn, Mich., sign up for coverage and access care.

 The group has found that many of the people they are helping are immigrants who know little to nothing about health insurance concepts such as enrollment, copays and deductibles—an issue that also applies to millions of other people new to health insurance across the country. Immigrant and uninsured populations all over the country face cultural and language barriers to understanding and adopting U.S. insurance practices.

Ten million non-citizens living legally in the U.S. are expected to gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to KHN. The navigators at ACCESS are also trained to teach immigrants about free public health screenings for conditions such as breast cancer, which requires specialized training and conversations because of cultural stigmas associated with cancer.. At the ACCESS center in Dearborn, for example, women coming for free mammograms enter through an unmarked door.

Read the Kaiser Health News article.

Bonus Links:

  • Kaiser Health News recently reported that, on average, premiums will decline in 16 major cities for the 2015 coverage year.
  • Advertising for health insurance plans has already started across the country. Sign up for the 2015 coverage year begins October 15, 2014 and ends February 15, 2015, a period that is roughly three months shorter than last year’s enrollment period. Find information at healthcare.gov.
Sep 8 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 8

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Mandatory Policies Increase Flu Shot Rates for Health Care Workers
Hospitals can improve their flu vaccination rate among health care workers by using a mandatory employee vaccination policy, according to a study by researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. At Henry Ford, getting the flu shot is a condition of employment and the health system now has a 99 percent compliance rate. Nationally, only 63 percent of health care workers were immunized against the flu in the past two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which poses a risk to patients. The study was presented this weekend at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Washington D.C.

Before making flu vaccination mandatory, the vaccination rate at Henry Ford was between 41 percent and 55 percent. An increasing number of health systems are making flu shots mandatory for employees. At Henry Ford, employees can opt out for religious or medical reasons so long as they have documentation from clergy or a physician and then must take other precautions against the flu, such as wearing a mask when caring for patients.

Many doctors’ offices, pharmacies and clinics already have the flu shot on hand for the upcoming flu season. The HealthMap flu shot locator has been updated for the 2014-2015 flu season.

Read more on the flu.

Study: Alcohol Ad Reminders to “Drink Responsibly” Promote Drinking
A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health finds that magazine ads from the alcohol industry that advise readers to “drink responsibly” or “enjoy in moderation” fail to convey important information about dangers associated with alcohol consumption.

The study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, analyzed all alcohol ads that appeared in U.S. magazines from 2008 to 2010 to determine whether messages about responsibility define responsible drinking or provide clear warnings about the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

According to the study, 87 percent of the ads analyzed included a responsibility message, but none actually defined responsible drinking or promoted abstinence at particular times or in certain situations. When responsibility messages were accompanied by a product tagline or slogan, the messages were displayed in smaller font than the company’s tagline or slogan 95 percent of the time.

Responsibility statements are voluntary and are also frequently included in ads appearing in other media including radio and online ads. The researchers say more effective ads would have prominently placed tested warning messages that directly address behaviors and that do not reinforce marketing messages. “We know from experience with tobacco that warning messages on product containers and in advertising can affect consumption of potentially dangerous products,” say Katherine Clegg Smith, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a lead author of the study. “We should apply that [tobacco ad] knowledge to alcohol ads and provide real warnings about the negative effects of excessive alcohol use.”

Read more on alcohol.

NYC Health Department Investigating Meningitis Outbreak among HIV Positive Men
The New York City Health Department is currently investigating a cluster of meningitis cases among HIV-positive men who have sex with men. Three cases of meningitis have occurred in Brooklyn and Queens since August 24, with the last two cases reported since early September.

Meningitis is a severe bacterial infection that has a high fatality rate. A previous outbreak of the disease among men who have sex with men ended in February 2013 after 22 cases were reported, including seven fatal cases.

The Health Department recommends meningitis vaccination for all HIV-positive men who have sex with men. Meningitis vaccinations are also recommended for men, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have intimate contact with other men met through a website, digital application (“app”), or at a bar or party.

People living with HIV are at a greater risk than the general population of acquiring meningitis and, if infected, dying from infection. This disease is spread by prolonged close contact with nose or throat discharges from an infected person.

Read more on sexual health.

 

 

Sep 5 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 5

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EBOLA UPDATE: Third U.S. Aid Workers Arrives for Treatment
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
A third U.S. medical missionary has arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for treatment for Ebola. Rick Sacra, MD, is a SIM USA missionary, as were Kent Brantly, MD, and Nancy Writebol, who were both treated successfully for Ebola at Emory Hospital. Approximately 1,900 people have died and 3,500 have been sickened in the ongoing outbreak. Approximately 400 deaths came in the past week alone. Read more on Ebola.

CDC Report Explores the Extent and Impact of Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new report examining the extent and impact of intimate partner and sexual violence. According to the report, almost 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner; almost 2 million women are raped each year; and more than 7 million women and men are victims of stalking each year. The report determined that since a “substantial portion” of this violence and stalking comes at a young age, primary prevention must also focus on people at young ages, accounting for the differences in victims, addressing risk factors and emphasizing health relationships. Read more on violence.

Study Links Breastfeeding, Lower Weight for Mothers
Mothers who were obese before pregnancy and who then go on to breastfeed may have an easier time losing their pregnancy weight and then keeping it off, according to a new study in journal Pediatrics. Researchers determined that previously obese mothers who breastfed weighed almost 18 pounds less than those who didn’t. "Breast-feeding not only burns extra calories but it also changes the metabolism through a series of hormonal effects required to lactate," said Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, a pediatrician and a professor of pediatrics at Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, N.J. "The full understanding of how breast-feeding leads to improvements in metabolism for both mother and her baby is incomplete, but there are multiple epidemiological studies showing the association." She also said that the healthier eating habits many mothers who breastfeed take up may also contribute to the lower weights. Read more on maternal and infant health.

Sep 4 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 4

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EBOLA UPDATE: WHO Says More than $600M Needed to Combat the Ebola Outbreak
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Approximately $600 million in supplies is needed to combat the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while Canadian health officials continue to work on a way to transport an experimental treatment to the affected area. "We are now working with the WHO to address complex regulatory, logistical and ethical issues so that the vaccine can be safely and ethically deployed as rapidly as possible," said Health Canada spokesman Sean Upton, in a statement. "For example, the logistics surrounding the safe delivery of the vaccine are complicated." More than 1,900 people have died in the outbreak. Read more on Ebola.

RWJF, TFAH Report Finds State Obesity Rates Continue to Remain High
Adult obesity rates continue to be high across the country, with rates increasing in six states and decreasing in none over the past year, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The report, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, found that rates climbed in Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming. Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest rates, at 35.1 percent, and no state has a rate below 21 percent. “Obesity in America is at a critical juncture. Obesity rates are unacceptably high, and the disparities in rates are profoundly troubling,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, in a release. “We need to intensify prevention efforts starting in early childhood, and do a better job of implementing effective policies and programs in all communities—so every American has the greatest opportunity to have a healthy weight and live a healthy life.” Read more on obesity.

Study: Women Are Underrepresented in Surgical Research
A review of more than 600 studies in five major surgical journals found that males are vastly overrepresented, calling into question how the findings will translate for female patients.  The journals— Annals of SurgeryAmerican Journal of Surgery, JAMA SurgeryJournal of Surgical Research and Surgery—responded by announcing they will now require study authors to report the sex of animals and cells in their research, or to explain why only one sex was analyzed. "Women make up half the population, but in surgical literature, 80 percent of the studies only use males," study senior author Melina Kibbe, MD, professor of surgical research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a release. "We need to do better and provide basic research on both sexes to ultimately improve treatments for male and female patients.” The study appeared in the journal Surgery. Read more on health disparities.

Sep 3 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 3

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EBOLA UPDATE: HHS Partners with Mapp Biopharmaceutical on Development of Ebola Treatments
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has contracted with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. for the development of an Ebola treatment. The funding will come through the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Under the 18-month, $24.9 million contract, Mapp will also continue the development and manufacture of its existing Ebola drug, ZMapp, which was used to successfully treat two Americans who were infected in the outbreak in West Africa. “While ZMapp has received a lot of attention, it is one of several treatments under development for Ebola, and we still have very limited data on its safety and efficacy,” said Nicole Lurie, MD, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, in a release. “Developing drugs and vaccines to protect against Ebola as a biological threat has been a long-term goal of the U.S. government, and today’s agreement represents an important step forward.” Read more on Ebola.

CVS Announces All Stores are Now Tobacco Free
Tobacco products are no longer sold at any of the approximately 7,700 CVS/pharmacy locations, the company announced today, almost a month ahead of its planned tobacco-free schedule. The company also announced that is has changed its corporate name to CVS Health. "Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs," said Helena B. Foulkes, President of CVS/pharmacy, in a release. "The removal of cigarette and other tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy." Read more on tobacco.

Study: Double Mastectomies and Lumpectomies Carry Similar Survival Rates
Double mastectomies for early stage breast cancer are no more effective than lumpectomies at improving survival rates, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Analyzing data on more than 189,000 patients in California, researchers found that while the percentage of women who opted for double mastectomies climbed from 2 percent in 1998 to 12.3 percent in 2011—and that in 2011 approximately one-third of patients younger than 40 chose to have a double mastectomy rather than the potentially breast-conserving lumpectomy—the death rates for the two treatments were similar. The researchers said their findings are especially significant for women at average risk. Read more on cancer.

Sep 2 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 2

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EBOLA UPDATE: NIH to Begin Human Trials of Experimental Vaccine
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Following an expedited review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health will this week begin human testing of an experimental Ebola vaccine. This will be the first safety trial for this type of vaccine, which was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The vaccine will first be given to three people to determine its safety, and then to 20 volunteers ages 18 to 50. “Today we know the best way to prevent the spread of Ebola infection is through public health measures, including good infection control practices, isolation, contact tracing, quarantine, and provision of personal protective equipment,” said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, MD. “However, a vaccine will ultimately be an important tool in the prevention effort. The launch of Phase 1 Ebola vaccine studies is the first step in a long process.” Read more on Ebola.

Study: Low-Carb Diets May Be Better than Low-Fat Diets for Losing Weight, Reducing Heart Disease Risk
Low-carbohydrate diets may be more effective than low-fat diets for both losing weight and reducing the risk of heart disease, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers assigned 148 patients either a low-carbohydrate or a low-fat diet, collected data at the start of the study, then again at three, six and 12 months. Of the people who completed the study—59 in the low-carbohydrate group and 60 in the low-fat group—researchers determined that the low-carbohydrate diet was the more effective of the two, concluding that “[r]estricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.” Read more on obesity.

Study: Many People Have Difficulty Understanding their Electronic Health Records
While electronic lab results are increasingly used to keep patients up to date on their health, a new study out of the University of Michigan’s schools of Public Health and Medicine found that many people have difficulty understanding the information. The researchers pointed to people with low comprehension of numerical concepts and low literacy skills as the most likely to have difficulty understand their results, make them less likely to use the data to decide whether a physician follow-up might be needed. "If we can design ways of presenting test results that make them intuitively meaningful, even for people with low numeracy and/or literacy skills, such data can help patients take active roles in managing their health care," said Brian Zikmund-Fisher, associate professor of health behavior and health education at the university’s School of Public Health, in a release. "In fact, improving how we show people their health data may be a simple but powerful way to improve health outcomes." Read more on access to health care.

Aug 29 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: August 29

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WHO: 20,000 Could Be Infected Before Ebola is Under Control
The World Health Organization (WHO) now estimates that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa could infect as many as 20,000 people before public health officials are able to get it under control. The latest numbers on the disease place the number of infected at 3,069, with 1,552 deaths. Also yesterday, an article in the journal Science reported that the virus has mutated repeatedly during the outbreak, making it even more difficult to manage. Five of the report’s 50 co-authors have died of Ebola. Read more on Ebola.

CDC: Majority of Parents Have their Children Vaccinated
The majority of parents have their children receive routinely recommended vaccinations, according to the latest Morbidity and Mortality Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report found that in 2013:

  • More than 90 percent of babies were vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); poliovirus; hepatitis B; and varicella
  • 73 percent were vaccinated against rotavirus
  • 83 percent were vaccinated against Hepatitis A
  • 74 percent were vaccinated against Hepatitis B
  • Less than 1 percent of children received no vaccines

“I want to personally recognize the hard work of doctors and nurses coping with many challenges in the course of clinical work, and commend parents who, despite competing responsibilities, continue to prioritize immunization to keep their children healthy and safe,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “These people are central in keeping young children healthy by ensuring they receive the recommended vaccines on schedule.” Read more on vaccines.

Study: Conflict Between Parents Also Causes Conflict with Children
Conflict between parents in a marriage also has a negative impact on parents’ relationships with their children, according to a new study in the Journal of Family Psychology. Researchers had parents in more than 200 families write daily diary entries for 15 days, then had each parent rate the quality of both their marriage and their relationships with their kids. They found that days with conflict between parents also had increased cases of problems between the parents and their children. "We see from the findings that the marriage is a hub relationship for the family. The quality of that relationship spills over into each parent's interactions with the child. So if mom and dad are fighting, it will show up initially—and in some cases on the second day—in a poorer quality relationship with their kids,” said study author Chrystyna Kouros, an assistant professor in the psychology department at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, in a university news release. Read more on pediatrics.

Aug 28 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: August 28

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EBOLA UPDATE: Death Toll Passes 1,500 as Outbreak Accelerates
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The West African Ebola outbreak continues to accelerate, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which today announced there have so far been 3,069 probable and confirmed cases; 1,552 people have died. While most cases remain concentrated in only a few localities, WHO estimates that more than 40 percent of the total cases have occurred within the past 21 days.

In other Ebola news:

  • Earlier this week, IDV Solutions released an infographic showing how this Ebola outbreak—the largest in history—compares to previous outbreaks of the disease.
  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, will begin initial human testing of an Ebola investigational vaccine next week.

Read more on Ebola.

Teens Who Don’t Get Enough Sleep Are at Increased Risk of Obesity
Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep are at increased risk of being obese by age 21, according to a new study in Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health analyzed health information on more than 10,000 teens and young adults at the ages of 16 and 21, finding that the 16-year-olds who reported less than six hours of sleep per night were 20 percent more likely to be obese by age 21. Potential reasons for the link include appetite changes and cravings due to daytime sleepiness and fatigue. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends nine to ten hours of sleep per night for teenagers. Read more on pediatrics.

Study: ‘Rules of Thumb’ on Pouring Help Reduce Excessive Drinking
Curbing a person’s excessive drinking may be as simple as thinking about how much is poured into each glass, according to a new study in the International Journal of Drug Policy. Researchers from Iowa State University and Cornell University had 74 college students pour red or white wine in a variety of settings, finding that those students who use a “rule of thumb” to dictate their pours—such as only filling half the glass or leaving space equivalent to two fingers at the top—poured less, regardless of their BMI or gender. “About 70 percent of the people in the sample used the half-glass rule, and they poured significantly less by about 20 percent,” said Laura Smarandescu, lead author and an assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State, in a release. “It’s a big difference. We would suggest using a rule of thumb with pouring because it makes a big difference in how much people pour and prevents them from overdrinking.” Read more on alcohol.

Aug 27 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: August 27

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EBOLA UPDATE: Roundup of the Latest News Out of West Africa
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
As the death toll continues to rise, here’s a look at some of the latest news on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Read more on Ebola.

Study: Significant Time Spent Playing Violent Video Games Increases the Risk for Depression in Kids
Significant time spent playing violent video games is linked to a greater risk for depression in preadolescent youth, according to a new study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) examined 5,147 fifth grade students in three major cities and found that kids who play such games for more than two hours per day showed significantly more depression symptoms, including lack of pleasure, lack of interest in activities, concentration difficulties, low energy, low self-worth and suicidal ideation over the past year. “Previous studies have observed how aggression relates to video games, but this is the first to examine the relationship between daily violent video game exposure and depression,” said Susan Tortolero, PhD, principal investigator and director of the Prevention Research Center at the UTHealth School of Public Health, in a release. Read more on mental health.

WHO Calls for Stronger Regulation of E-Cigarettes
The World Health Organization (WHO) has joined the American Heart Association and other organizations in calling for stronger regulation of e-cigarettes, which are a $3 billion worldwide industry. WHO is now recommending that their indoor use be banned until they are proven harmless to bystanders; the international health organization is also calling for its 194 member states to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, as well as to ban or minimize their advertising. According to the agency, regulation "is a necessary precondition for establishing a scientific basis on which to judge the effects of their use, and for ensuring that adequate research is conducted and the public health is protected and people made aware of the potential risks and benefits." Read more on tobacco.

Aug 26 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: August 26

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EBOLA Update: RWJF Gives $1M to the CDC Foundation’s Global Disaster Response Fund
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
In order to assist the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) ongoing efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has given a $1 million grant to the CDC Foundation’s Global Disaster Response Fund. The CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center and deployed more than 70 public health experts in response to the outbreak, which so far has killed more than 1,400 people. “The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa represents a global public health crisis,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in a release. “We are privileged to assist CDC in its heroic efforts to contain this outbreak, and we are confident of their ability to control this scourge—provided they have the support required to do the job. Additional resources are urgently needed, and we encourage other funders to respond as well.” Read more on Ebola.

CDC: More than a Quarter-Million Youth Who Never Smoked Used E-Cigarettes in 2013
More than a quarter-million middle school and high school students who had never smoked regular cigarettes used electronic cigarettes—or e-cigarettes—in 2013, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study appearing in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The study found that youth who had never smoked traditional cigarettes, but had tried e-cigarettes, were twice as likely to intend to smoke traditional cigarettes than were youth who had never used e-cigarettes. “We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products. Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development.” said Tim McAfee, MD, MPH, Director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, in a release. Read more on tobacco.

U.S. Veteran Homelessness Down 33 Percent Since 2010
There has been a 33 percent decline in U.S. veteran homelessness and a 40 percent decline in the number of veterans who sleep on the street since 2010, according to new national estimates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The agencies credited evidenced-based practices such as Housing First and other federal programs for the declines. There were an estimated 49,933 homeless veterans in American in January 2014. “We have an obligation to ensure that every veteran has a place to call home,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “In just a few years, we have made incredible progress reducing homelessness among veterans, but we have more work to do. HUD will continue collaborating with our federal and local partners to ensure that all of the men and women who have served our country have a stable home and an opportunity to succeed.” Read more on the military.